By Celeste Schoen
Sinking Spring PA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 156-157
I think that becoming a mother is the biggest life-changing experience a woman can have. When I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted a natural labor, just as I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. I never thought about for how long, I just followed my heart and responded to my newborn son's every cry and need day and night.
Magee was always with me. When I needed to water the grass, clean, or run errands, he was in a sling relaxing, sleeping, or nursing. When we were in the car I sang songs if he started to cry. If that didn't work, I'd pull over and nurse him in parking lots. He always nursed about every three hours. It was such a huge part of who we were. We nursed everywhere: whether I was signing a receipt in front of a line of people, pushing a cart through the last aisle in the store, or at the park.
When Magee was a toddler, I went to my first LLL meeting. The mothers were supportive and some of them seemed to have so much more experience because their children were older. I felt comfortable with them. They understood the value and gift of nursing a child. I was sad when we had to move, but because of the women in the LLL Toddler Group in Matthews, North Carolina, USA, my breastfeeding and parenting beliefs were affirmed and grew stronger.
After moving to Pennsylvania, we decided to get a full size bed for Magee's bedroom. After all, no toddler bed would hold us both and he still liked to nurse every few hours throughout the night. As Magee approached his third birthday, the time in between nursings started to increase. My husband and I knew that he could wean himself at any moment. We were saddened by this thought, but wanted him to wean on his own terms. When he was three-and-a-half, I became pregnant. The nighttime nursings were exhausting. I couldn't function well during the day. I told my son this and he didn't ask to nurse at night again. I had a miscarriage three months later. My son nursed when we heard the news at the midwives birthing center. This comforted me.
Four months later, I became pregnant again. By this time, most of the nighttime nursings had been replaced with rituals such as singing, patting, and rocking. He held on to his 5 am nursing session and I relished this time with him as I was reminded of his babyhood.
When he was a little over four-and-a-half years old, Magee weaned (two weeks before his brother's birth). I'm so grateful and proud of the profound breastfeeding journey that we shared. Some people have asked me what has been gained by letting Magee self wean. The answer is simple. Besides the overwhelming evidence on the health benefits of extended nursing, my hope is that my son will remember the feelings of comfort, love, and security that came from breastfeeding.