When it came to breastfeeding, my mantra throughout the years was that I would stop nursing when it stopped being good for myself or one of my nurslings. I stopped nursing my older daughter, Zahava, when she was 22-months-old and I was two months pregnant with Dahlia. Ending this special relationship with her was bittersweet—however, I knew I was going to have the opportunity for this intimacy again soon.
Our daughter Dahlia was born and I enjoyed our closeness through nursing, as I had with my older daughter. Two years later, following our summer travels and my husband being away for three weeks, I decided I was ready to take the plunge to wean Dahlia upon his return.
My girls are strong-willed and spirited, and neither weaning process has been easy for child or mother. I found little support and few resources for this tricky and challenging experience that all breastfeeding mothers will eventually encounter. I referenced nursing books and websites, spoke with our pediatrician, and reached out to a friend who is a lactation consultant—but few of my questions were answered so I entered this stage feeling worried and alone. How long after I wean will my body stop producing milk? What about my diet and caloric intake? Should I change the vitamins that I am taking? How will I soothe my daughter when she is sick?
Ultimately, having their Abba involved with alternative activities during the typical nursing times was key. But it was still beyond challenging. Distraction with books and toys did not work, but finally, morning nursing sessions were replaced with the girls’ favorite show, “Sofia The First.” (Thank you Disney and Netflix!)
While preparing to stop nursing Dahlia, I thought a lot about how I wanted to celebrate this milestone. I asked many friends about their experiences and browsed online, but found few ideas that resonated with me. I wondered why this wasn’t a more common celebratory experience.
The Torah even relates the story of a celebratory occasion after the conclusion of Sarah breastfeeding Isaac. In Beresheit 21:8, it is written, “And the child grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.”
Rashi’s commentary states that Isaac was 24 months at this time, and the celebration was for the prominent people of that generation. I’m not requesting that my husband cook up a feast and invite everyone we know to celebrate this very personal milestone; however, I do feel it is very worthy of a celebration, even if just a private event.
There are many times in Jewish life, when families and community celebrate milestones of their child—some law and some tradition—whether a simchat bat or brit milah shortly after birth, an upsherin haircut for a 3rd birthday, hagigat siddur for receiving your first prayerbook in elementary school, a 10th grade confirmation, an auf ruf before a wedding, and many others. So, why is weaning not commonly celebrated?
Like for many other moms, breastfeeding was not easy for me. I encountered challenges with both of my daughters including thrush and mastitis, low supply, oversupply, reflux, and severe milk and soy protein intolerance. This led to many doctor visits and a complete overhaul of my diet, and weeks of pumping milk donated to our local Mother’s Milk Bank. Later on, it led to countless conversations educating my friends, family, strangers, and even my daughter’s dentist as to why breastfeeding a 2-year-old is normal.
I learned a lot about myself and feel blessed to be part of this sisterhood. I’m proud of my journey and this accomplishment, and yet it’s been a challenge to pinpoint what would be a meaningful way to mark this unique time in my life.
Some friends suggested a getaway weekend, and I do like this idea because I have never been away from both girls at the same time—but logistically this one will have to hold off for a bit. Others suggested a trip to the mikveh, and for some women this is a spiritual monthly experience—but for me it is not. A big party with crushed ice margaritas, surrounded by the friends who have been supportive to me over these five-plus years of pregnancy and nursing is what really sounds great. However, trying to schedule anything with a group of moms can be more difficult than scoring seats to the Super Bowl.
As the weeks have passed since Dahlia enjoyed her last taste of breastmilk and my body has listened to the cues to stop producing it, I have noticed my breasts evening out and doing what they are going to do in my post-pregnancy and nursing phase. It was a longer journey—five and a half years—than I ever could have expected, but I am ready to have my body back.
So with further thought, I have decided to celebrate weaning and mark this occasion with some much-needed bra shopping, and that feels just right!