When Your Baby Decides She's Done Breastfeeding

by Alessandra Macaluso
Originally Published: 

My daughter quit breastfeeding.

“Nobody likes a quitter,” I told her, but she didn’t seem to care. She just flipped me the bird. Literally, she scurried away from me onto her play mat and flipped her little bird toy right at me. For the third night in a row.

I’ve made it 32 years on this planet and this was the first time someone has run from my rack. I’d be lying if I told you that my ego wasn’t hurt just a little bit. Sure, they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t that bad, you know?

And wasn’t this supposed to be my choice, this whole weaning business? It didn’t matter, because her message was clear: girlfriend was ready to call it quits. And if she was ready, well then, I was, too. Seventeen months is a long time. Coming to this realization, my first thought was of course:


The dependency was over! My boobs are mine again, all MINE!! I could run free, leaving my house for an entire Saturday without a care in the world, joyously yelling behind over my shoulder at my husband: “She’s yours for the day! You figure it out!” Mooohooohahahahaha! Nursing tops and declined day-drinking invitations, be gone!

But, just so I’m clear – when babies are done breastfeeding, they are usually like, done DONE, right? Like no chance she’d go back? I’m just checking so I, you know, don’t get any unwelcome surprises. Because I certainly wouldn’t want that, and I won’t miss it, not one bit – so don’t get the wrong idea, OK? I’m just asking for a friend.

I don’t bring it up in conversation that we are – correction, I mean, were – still breastfeeding, because I really don’t really think it matters how we choose to feed our babies, and that so long as we get them fed, we win. I’m simply doing – excuse me, that is, I was simply doing – what worked for us. But when asked (because a lot of people do ask), I always answered honestly: yes, we were still breastfeeding.

And my answer was met with one of two strong reactions: “Oh wow, good for you! That’s amazing!” or the look of, “Oh my god, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU, YOU FREAK,” followed by, “You poor thing, when are you going to stop?” Well, the time has come: she’s STOPPED!

And I can’t find any reason at all to be upset about this. I mean, that would be insanity! Right?!

I never knew the answer to when we would stop breastfeeding, to the dismay of those who asked, because I never really had a plan. Well, I had a tiny plan, I guess, and that was the goal I set for myself in the beginning, before we actually had our daughter: to make it to six months. When I thought about it then, especially during the time in the beginning when my nipples pretty much caught fire, six months sounded like I was taking crazy pills. Who the hell does this for that long?! I was sure they were either insane, or had entered sainthood, or both. I slowly learned they were neither; they were simply doing what worked for them when it came to feeding their babies.

I used to question it, but now I am certain that the phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn” was written as an ode to my nipples, because once I got past the “oh my god kill me now this is the worst pain I’ve ever experienced!” it suddenly became … easy. Convenient. So much so that I started to feel lazy about the fact that I was breastfeeding.

But I’m totally fine with it being over. Seventeen months! I mean seriously. I should throw myself a freaking party because I am so happy. Yes, I am happy. I have my body back!

But … couldn’t she have told me beforehand, so I could have been a bit more present through what I know now was our last feeding? Or maybe let me make the decision, and shed at least a single tear in protest?

Oh, but I’m so happy! And don’t get me started on the dreaded chore of pumping. About a year ago I finally put the pump away because, to put it simply, pumping sucks. I decided the “WEE-wer, WEE-wer” noise coming from the pump was far from a sex call. I also realized that, since I was my daughter’s primary caregiver and could just nurse her throughout the day, I was pumping solely so that my husband or visiting family member could occasionally have the honor of feeding her. Which was nice, but also kind of ridiculous on my part to lock myself away and hook myself up to a machine à la Bessie the Cow for an hour a day if I didn’t need to. It was just easier for me to nurse her. No bottles to wash, nothing to sanitize, no having to lug extra stuff around with me. Once I put the pump away, it almost felt like I was cheating. When people would ask, How are you still breast feeding? The question to me, was really: How could I not?

This is a breeze to give up! She doesn’t even miss it. I’m so lucky! I should take this luck and run with it! She’s not acting out, or even attempting to nurse again. Not a tear in sight. Well, for her, at least. What? Who else is crying? Not me! Because I couldn’t be more pleased with this transition. Can I borrow that tissue? And did I tell you how I’m so glad that I am totally OK with this?

She was never an emotional drinker, either, so it’s not like I couldn’t see this coming. She made it clear from the beginning that nursing, to her, was a business deal: she would get in, get her milk, and get on with her playing. No lingering, reaching for me when she got hurt or needed some form of security. Her detachment from the whole thing of course makes it easier for me to feel less attached, too; I mean, how could it not? I was simply holding up my end of the business deal.

And our business deal has come to an end. She made it clear she will not be renewing her contract with my milk delivery service. She has every right! It’s right there in the fine print!

The interesting thing about it all is that I just found out I’m pregnant. I’ve heard that this changes the taste of a mother’s milk, and that sounds about right because maybe she doesn’t like the taste of another little baby coming along. Giving up nursing was perhaps her first motion of protest. But it doesn’t matter; all that matters is that it was her choice.

And I am FINE with it! Seriously, I appreciate your concern. I know you didn’t ask, but I just figured I’d tell you. I’m OK! What’s that? Oh, that’s just my crappy new mascara. It runs a lot for no reason. It must be related to the pregnancy. Yes, I read that somewhere, so it must be true.

Over the past few nights we settled into our new nightly routine: bath, book, bed. She’s a big girl now! And her giving up nursing was her signal to me that she’s growing, making her own choices, a little independent woman. And I’m totally OK with it!

Did I say that already?

Oh, I’m so grateful, I could just lie here in the fetal position and BAWL! These are tears of joy, really. It’s the best for the both of us, I know it. But one thing is for sure: breaking up is hard to do.

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