On October 12th, two days after he turned 12 months old, my little boy stopped nursing. He went on a nursing strike.
Like he was completely done. Full-on nursing strike.
After nursing him his normal four or five feedings that day, and then putting him down for bed at 7pm, he woke up screaming bloody murder (a different cry, not an “I’m waking up to say hello” cry) at 11pm and refused to nurse ever since.
For those keeping a count (read: my boobs) that would be 23 days ago.
Happily nursing in August.
What Does A Nursing Strike Look Like?
For the first two days he latched for a second and then stopped because he was hysterical. Then he just turned away absolutely hysterical. Then he wouldn’t even try. Good times. The more hysterical he became the more hysterical I became. I feel like I’m running around like a chicken without a head.
He also refused the pacifier that night and has since hysterically cried himself to sleep for every bedtime and naptime because all of his soothing methods flew out the window. According to the doctors (I took him to three pediatricians and a dentist) he is in no pain and should just be left hysterical so I don’t start a pattern. It’s been awesome.
Why do I think this is a “nursing strike” and not that he is actually done nursing? Because I think he was teething, or in pain, or saw a ghost, I don’t freaking know.
But according to lactation specialists and every webpage on the interwebs, this is not how a baby stops nursing.
Is it Self Weaning?
Weaning happens gradually and usually begins around 18-24 months. I experienced this first hand when my daughter weaned herself a few years ago. That was the perfect wean and my grand idea was to do it again the same way. But as my father once said – Man plans and G-d laughs.
Yes, yes, I am so completely happy that I successfully breastfed these last twelve months and am not saying there is anything wrong with stopping breastfeeding after a year. What I am saying is I am not ready to stop and it is extremely upsetting that I don’t know why this happened and I can’t figure out how to fix it. No one asked me! I’m not done. I am not ready! Plus, is something going on with him that I am missing causing him to stop?
A seaside suckle in July.
I have been a wreck, constantly living in a state of limbo where I don’t know what to do with myself. In addition, I am sure my hormones are also going crazy. No doubt they are partly to blame for me not knowing which way is up the last three weeks. My packed away pump came out again because if he does plan to cross the picket line at some point I want my milk to be there for him. Alternately, I have not been pumping more than once or twice a day because I’m afraid I will have too much of a supply if he is, in fact, just not that into me anymore.
This Is Nursing Strike Hell
Either way, I am in hell. I miss nursing. I miss the quiet intimacy and sweet snuggling. At first he wouldn’t even snuggle with me which was excruciating, but now I am getting my snuggles back. In fact, he just fell asleep on me for the first time in months. It was absolutely delicious. Folded in half, his little head on my chest, his little hand on my tummy. I could have stayed there like that for hours. But I got cold, because I was trying to do skin to skin with him to lure him back to my milk jugs. I try this suggested method all day long. If you have twenty five cents and like peep shows, drive by my house. It’s like Vegas in here.
Loss of Control
As I was sitting there in the kangaroo cuddle position, I was thinking about a concept in my friend Donna Ellenbogen’s Family Wellness Solutions model called “loss of control”. In a nutshell experiencing any type of loss of control – sucks because you lose control. You cannot control the situation. And this freaking sucks. You feel helpless.
I was thinking how twelve months ago in true “loss of control” fashion this little folded boy came into the world breech, breaking my water & resulting in an emergency C-section. If you knew me then you would know I would have done anything not to have had a C-section (a view I still hold especially after having one!). But he had other ideas. In fact I did everything to avoid it – from lying upside down on an ironing board at night, to flipping in the pool for hours while my daughter was at school, to making my mom burn moxibustion next to my toes. But he had his own convictions and wouldn’t flip. Of course later we learned the cord was around his neck, so good thing he didn’t flip.
Loss Of Control Nursing Strike Or He Is In Control?
Now here we are once again. My little hoodlum is dictating something I can’t do anything about and I hate hate hate it. I feel so rejected. But also, I don’t understand how something so loved by him can be cut off so abruptly. Doesn’t he miss it as much as I do?
I have been thinking a lot about other women who wanted to nurse but couldn’t, and how they must feel. It is horrible! This little person who you just made, grew, and hatched – whether via a painful method or a really painful method, basically tells you to go F yourself. It is not a nice feeling but one of rejection. One I can’t imagine feels any different at day one or day 367. It just sucks. Or I guess – it doesn’t suck…
So Where Does This Nursing Strike Leave Me?
Besides doing all the stuff I find on the internet and following all the advice I’m given, I’ve decided my only choice is to give myself a deadline and then call it. I’ve decided on waiting 40 days and 40 nights in the spirit of my ancestors. So on November 21st, 2014 I will pull the plug (of my pump) and reward myself for giving 150% in this effort.
Sadly, the only thing I have in the books to celebrate this occasion is the Retin-A cream for my stretch marks – which I couldn’t use while nursing. Couldn’t suck more than that (or not suck – geez, salt in my wounds!). If you see me that day, give me a hug. I will be a sniveling, hysterical ball of mess.
For the love of G-d, cross the picket line!