My baby turned 1 not too long ago. She’s one more stumble away from walking. She arches her back in toddler protest. She eats smoked salmon. She likes to breastfeed when she wakes up in the morning and still nurses before falling asleep at night, but I can tell she no longer really needs it.
Government studies show that only a fifth of babies are breastfed at age 1, and lots of people think that’s too long – although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends it, along with a healthy diet of solids, for at least a year. But as any mother knows, nursing is hard work. I almost didn’t make it the first time around, mostly because of a lack of information paired with some mastitis, staph and a stubborn nursing strike I’d just as soon forget. What I won’t ever forget is the night, 5 days after Punkernoodle One arrived, when I sat in the bathtub crying hysterically, the picture of postpartum hormonal implosion, as my milk came in. I was engorged but, because I had never known anyone who breastfed, I had no idea why I hurt so much and why my boobs looked like footballs.
Thanks to a few amazing Seattle lactation experts and the unmatched support group First Weeks – http://www.communitybirth.org/classes&events.html – I found a community of mothers learning to nurse their babies as I was. We laughed, we cried, we looked the other way when someone accidentally sprayed milk through the air. I nursed through illness, through teeth, on the beach, in the bath, on airplanes, in probably a million Starbucks. And by the second round, it was cake.
Now my baby is old enough to eat cake, and suddenly a boob is not to her the treat it once was. She’s growing up. So one day soon, after a quiet and bittersweet last moment cradling my daughter’s babyhood in my arms, I will have to let it go.