Thursday, May 7, 2015

What to expect when you wean your child at the age of 4.2 years

When I had my baby, I didn't quite expect that I'd be breastfeeding her for longer than 12 months. If you'd suggested to me that the duration of our nursing "relationship" might be reckoned in years rather than months, I'd have laughed and told you to stop talking nonsense.

And yet it wasn't until a few months ago that I nursed my child for the last time. She was just past her 4th birthday--actually, not so far from the famous "4.2 years" which is sometimes bandied about as the global average for the duration of breastfeeding (not true, as I pointed out in another post). Well, it may not be the global average, but it was the average for my children--or child, rather, since I have just the one child and there probably won't be any more of them.

I carried on nursing for this long mostly because I was simply taking the path of least resistance--I didn't mind nursing her and had no particular reason to stop. I stopped nursing her for pretty much the  same reason. She had been losing interest for the last year or so, and I have other ways to relate to my child. She's old enough to do fun things with, now--we can chuck a ball around, we draw together and sound out simple words, she is developing a keen interest in baking and crafts, especially trying to "make" dresses for her dolls out of tissues and play-dough. I can see she will be into knitting and needlework in a few years' time.

After I had realized that she had basically stopped nursing, I was happy enough but felt slightly bothered, somehow, that I couldn't remember when the "last time" was. So when (a couple of weeks later, shortly after her 4th birthday) she asked to nurse again, I agreed and let her, simply because I wanted that sense of closure. I said to her "This is the last time, though, because you're a big girl now." She said "Yes, Mummy," very calmly and demurely. And we nursed that one last time. And that was it.

That was now several weeks ago. No weird hormonal changes or breast oddities so far. In fact, not-nursing-a-preschooler is pretty much exactly the same as nursing-a-preschooler (it had been so sporadic for that last year, after all). I haven't even stopped producing milk. I can still squeeze a drop or two out, even now--a couple of months later. Sometimes I wonder if that will ever go away.

And I'm still interested in infant feeding politics, and I can't see that changing any time in the future either. That interest has to compete with other sources of interest these days, of course--education-related stuff is the new obsession, and my interest in politics has picked up a lot as well in the past year. But I'll still be keeping the blog going, and in fact I'm aiming to get my act together and start posting a bit more regularly. Some time in the next couple of weeks or so, I will be putting a post together on "the real advantage of nursing a child past 12 months." Watch this space.