A Womb of One’s Own: The End of the Boob

As the end of June creeps up on me, something else is creeping up as well: Gabe’s first birthday and the point where we discus weaning. While I adore my son and the benefits of breastfeeding, I am also looking forward to regaining my body as my own.

When we started, breastfeeding was hard. It was painful, there were shields and ibuprofen and lactation consultants and hundreds of dollars out of pocket to help my son learn to latch correctly. Instead of taking to it easily and skillfully as I’d always assumed he would do, he took to it quickly, but inexpertly (which for me meant painfully). I wanted this commitment, so I pursued it. Through luck and the fear of the cost of formula, we’ve made it this far. While I’ve relaxed on formula, his primary source is still the boob, and I plan for it to continue that way until at least his first birthday.

This is the part where it gets tricky. In almost a year of breastfeeding, I feel like my breasts are now the least sexy/sexual part of me. They don’t have to look good, they just have to get things done, namely make my baby happy and well-fed. And they do so, in spades. But in the process of becoming the nutritional powerhouses they are, they (at least in my mind) have lost any sexual or personal value to me. When I look at my boobs, I don’t think about how awesome they look, I think about which side I fed on last, and if it’s noticeable (sometimes it is). I don’t dress to emphasize them, I chose my clothing based on, “Can I breastfeed in this?”

When I think about reclaiming my body and my space, I get excited, but I’m also sad. It’s rare now that I don’t put “mother” as the primary cause of my body in my mind – what I ingest or smear on myself or wear all serves the cause of my child. How do I go back to my body serving myself?

There are times when Gabe is in my arms and I’m feeding him, and I can’t imagine anything but this, the quiet moments that punctuate my days and nights when we relax into each other. And there are the times where I’m running late out the door, or he bites my nipples, or he chooses to act out an elaborate acrobatic set on my lap while remaining latched (okay, this is funny, but it’s also five minutes of wondering if this is the time he falls and bites my nipple off). I love being able to soothe my baby, but I’d also like it if he could be soothed by people who weren’t lactating for him (or be soothed by me while my shirt is tucked in).

Some of my friends have already weaned their babies (or switched to formula), or are on a firm weaning schedule, substituting sippy cups with scientific precision at exact times of the day instead of breastfeeding. I think maybe it’s a little ridiculous on my part, but I worry about how I’ll relate to my kid without the universal language of boob. I think our weaning will be slower, losing feedings piecemeal until one day I wake up and realize that this could be it, this could be the last day I wear a bra that unsnaps at the cups, the last day that I look longingly at a high-necked dress, the last day I count the minutes between finishing my wine and feeding my child, the last day that he looks up at me through his lashes and sighs against my flesh.

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Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to jessica.werner@gmail.com

10 thoughts on “A Womb of One’s Own: The End of the Boob”

  1. Also, a small word of warning:

    I think our weaning will be slower, losing feedings piecemeal until one day I wake up and realize that this could be it, this could be the last day I wear a bra that unsnaps at the cups, the last day that I look longingly at a high-necked dress, the last day I count the minutes between finishing my wine and feeding my child, the last day that he looks up at me through his lashes and sighs against my flesh.

    I thought this, too.  I thought she would just stop at 13 months or so.  I was very, very wrong.  I wouldn’t have done it differently now that it’s done, but – you might consider a backup plan if it’s important to you to stop soon.

  2. Pretty sure this is no secret, but Sofia did not take to weaning (if I’m going to be honest, even now, two months after the last feeding, she often can’t get to sleep without having one hand on my breast). Even so, things got much easier after a year. Once you can offer them other things in public, you don’t have to pump, and there are few times when you MUST BREASTFEED NOW! As he cuts back, you don’t get engorged, and your breasts no longer feel like that is their sole purpose. I am the poster child for weaning not going well, and even so, your boobs become your own(ish) after kiddo turns one.

  3. I think maybe it’s a little ridiculous on my part, but I worry about how I’ll relate to my kid without the universal language of boob.

    It’s not ridiculous. Not in the slightest. Remember too, it’s not about what your friends have done, it’s about what’s the right decision (and method) for you. For me, I stopped feeding Juniper Junior when he turned one, and stopped immediately, too. But that’s because it what the best decision for us.

          1. Lactation is a strange thing, and not at all like what you expect. For one thing, milk does not come out in a single straight line. It comes out of multiple pores, in multiple directions all at once, so it is possible to hit someone standing five feet to your left – not that I ever did this on purpose, but sometimes when things are full, they are on a hair trigger, so to speak.

  4. I gave Lexie her first cow’s milk on her birthday and since she seemed to like it, we took 2-3 weeks to taper her off the boob and use up the pumped milk and we were DONE. She’d gotten way too fidgety to nurse at about 9 months, so aside from the first meal of the day when she was a bit calmer, I was having to pump for every meal and she didn’t care at all about losing the last bit of boob time. And the first Saturday that she woke up early and I was able to just point Neil at the fridge and go back to sleep was the greatest morning ever. I was a little sad that she was getting so big and didn’t need me in the same way, but it made my life SO much easier. And no more washing the $#@%!*& breast pump!!

  5. Go you Ipo! It seems to be really common here to wean at 6 months old but my cousin’s 8 month old is not really that interested in solids just yet so he’s still mostly breast fed. We were hanging out with him and his 9 month old friend just before they moved away. Baby A just pulled Mr. Cesy’s hair while the 9 month old made a good effort to eat my carrot cake and then had some fig. So we saw the difference between 2 babies pretty close in age. Again, it’s a situation that what works for you works. My mother weaned my sister right as she hit 6 months as she had a conference to go to. My sister being a right royal pain in the arse might also have had something to do with that.

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