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.