Weaning Levi: The Grief and the Relief

I wanted to wait at least a week to write about this, just to make sure Levi was done breastfeeding, but my heart is so full, I need to let it out.

I want to start by saying nursing my almost 21 month old son has been such an enlightening and beautiful journey! I have learned so much from him and from my peers during this time. It would be difficult to include all of it in one post. But I wanted to compile what I documented of our nursing relationship and what I have learned.

I had Levi late November 2011. The first couple days were rough, as he was in the NICU and he was hooked to several cords and wires. I hand expressed colostrum to syringe feed him the first day and the 2nd and 3rd days were spent ensuring he got a wide enough latch. We were discharged on the 3rd day, right after my milk came in, in full force.

My milk came in so strongly that I developed clogged ducts over the next week. It was so painful, I, even as a strong breastfeeding advocate, almost decided to call it quits to avoid the pain of breastfeeding with a clogged duct.

We made it through, of course, and he never had a bottle or drop of formula.

When he was almost 6 weeks old, we helped organize and participated in our local Target Nurse-In.

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My daughter, Casey, at the Target Nurse-In. Levi and I are in the top left corner.

I continued breastfeeding Levi, and advocating women’s rights, working with Michelle Hickman and many many other wonderful women, including Bettina Forbes and Danielle Rigg from Best For Babes, Jennifer from Family Friendly Business and Paala from her wonderful blog Paa.la and so many more!

This will be a bit pic-heavy, but this is all that I’ve documented of my breastfeeding relationship with Levi.

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This was a little ad campaign that I did around the time of the Target Nurse-In. I think Levi was about 7 weeks here.

Levi at 7 weeks, right before Naturo-Mommy blog/page was born!

Levi at 9 weeks. We struggled with a lazy latch for a time, because he liked to sleep while nursing and my supply was large, but we got over it.

Levi at 3 months. All that chunk was from my breast milk!
Levi at 3 months. All that chunk was from my breast milk!

He loved nursing so much that he would fall asleep with his face buried in my cleavage…

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I loved when he would gaze into my eyes as he’d nurse. Such a deep and powerful connection there.

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Four months old, looking into my eyes
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Eight months old, taking a nursing break from a camping road trip.

While we were pulled over at the gas station, I was almost accosted by a stranger who “didn’t want to see that” but my husband stepped up to the door and started talking to me. So the threw me a dirty look instead.

Nine months old and playing while nursing. I actually got banned from Facebook for a few days for this video.

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Eleven months old, support for a call to action by Breastfeeding Peaches of Georgia to help change legislation.

As soon as Levi turned 11 months, I started to become very nervous about breastfeeding and the holidays. Even more so, because Levi would just be turning one around Thanksgiving and my family is squeamish about full-term breastfeeding. So I wrote about breastfeeding during the holidays, in hopes that it would quell my fears and anxieties and help others that were feeling the same way I was feeling.

Sure enough, when I started nursing Levi after I ate Thanksgiving Dinner, my sister threw a jacket over Levi. To which he threw a fit and then everyone turned to see, when before they didn’t even take notice.

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Christmas marked just over 13 months of us breastfeeding & I was amazed at how far we’d come.

Although I was proud of our accomplishment, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head, egging me on to wean. See, Levi liked both breasts out so he could nurse on one side and twiddle the other. The twiddling drove me so mad that it made me not want to nurse. I tried for 6 solid months to get him to stop. A few months ago, I came to a place where the twiddling hardly bothered me anymore and I enjoyed nursing him again. It was almost as though my body was trying to tell me that this wasn’t going to last much longer, so I needed to embrace what was left of it.

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And since my daughter only saw me feeding a baby with a breast, she would nurse her baby dolls. This made me so proud!

When Levi was almost 15 months, I found a photographer to that would do portraits of me nursing. And I am so glad to have had that opportunity to capture him still as a small child and still breastfeeding.

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There was another call to action in March, when Facebook started going on the fritz with deleting breastfeeding photos again. Several people were banned anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days for these violations. So FB vs. Breastfeeding was created and a nurse-in ensued and at the time, I could only show my support through photos:

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At 16 months, he was most comfortable sitting up and nursing.
At 16 months, he was most comfortable sitting up and nursing.

This is around the time that the twiddling started to not bother me anymore. I’m not sure what happened, but I was very glad because I didn’t want to be done nursing but I didn’t want to feel like I was enduring the sound of nails on a chalkboard, either.

This is also around the time that my camera broke and my cell phone got turned off, so I really didn’t take any pictures after that.

This is the last photo I took of us nursing in late July. He’d just woken up from a nap and needed a little snuggle-milk.

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It’s hard to believe he hasn’t nursed in 3 days. He used to not be able to go more than 5 hours without breastfeeding. I imagined that I would need to help him along with weaning around 2.5-3 years old. He tugged at my shirt and whined and cried whenever I would try to disctract him from the breast if I didn’t want to nurse him at that time. This was happening just a week ago.

My breasts got extremely engorged for the first two days. He was nursing a couple times throughout the day and I always nursed him to sleep for nap time and nighttime, so I still had a considerably large supply at almost 21 months.

The first day, I continued to try to offer the breast in hopes to curb the fullness in my breasts. But he did the same thing every time. Biting and crying. He seemed to be in pain whenever he tried to nurse. He wasn’t the only one crying, though. I was so full that the stretchmarks on my breasts were no longer faded and it was painful to touch my breasts at all. I wouldn’t be able to encourage a letdown until the 2nd day and I started to accept that he may not want to nurse anymore. I put cabbage leaves in my bra to start the drying up process.

Today, I’m not swollen and sore, but I’m struggling with not having that closeness with him anymore. It was so sudden, so painful. While I’m sad, and missing the connection and chemical bond, I am finding relief in his independence. This mix in emotions is so confusing and I wish I had prepared myself more for this. I would like to just be content in his choice to be finished. I am, however, happy with the memories and the knowledge breastfeeding him has given me.

I made it past many milestones and overcame things I didn’t think I could overcome and helped to make a difference in my advocacy work. If it had not been for Levi, I wouldn’t have all of that and I feel so blessed and honored to have had that connection with a little person so special as him.

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3 thoughts on “Weaning Levi: The Grief and the Relief

  1. What a beautiful story, my Friend! Thank you so much for sharing your story about nursing your Little Man Levi, Each child’s history with nursing is different, even within the same family.
    I nursed my first child until he wanted to stop, at around two years old, though up until he turned four, if he was sick, injured or upset he would come to me for comfort by way of nursing. Our babies, as well as our mother’s instincts, let us know differently, that Mamma’s Milk reigns supreme as a necessity in bringing healing and comfort for our little one’s daily traumas.
    How sad to hear that a doctor told you to stop providing not only nourishment and sustenance of the highest quality to your beloved child, but also in doing that, he was telling you to end your bonding relationship with your baby too. That is so sad. Nursing is God’s perfect plan for mother’s to feed their children, for parents to bond with their children, and the child to bond with their mother, as well as with those close to her during those precious nursing moments, such as their daddy, siblings, and even grandparents… When my daughters nursed I would play games with my grandbabies and talk with them. Thebabies loved it! I still do it to this day, with my newest grandbaby. I feel we have a closer bond because I bonded with them from the time of their birth.
    Thankfully I did not have a milk supply problem, or suffer with mastitis or thrush (mother and baby suffer with this together) which can occur while nursing. But my daughter, Nichole and her baby did suffer for weeks with thrush. Instead of giving up on nursing out of pain and frustration, she determined to find and formulate her own homeopathic remedy to treat it and it was gone within a day or two!

  2. My little one is fifteen months old, and nurses a lot still. He nurses down for naps and bedtime. So, how did Levi transition from nursing down? Not that I am trying to go that direction yet, but I am curious what it will look like.

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