Weaning is complicated. That’s just about all I can say as I explore my complex feelings about breastfeeding. I never expected weaning my first daughter Willow to be as painful as it ended up being, and because we made it through that experience alive, I assumed I’d have it all figured out by the time Iris and I were ready to wean. Alas, I was wrong and I find myself being pulled strongly in two directions. Breastfeeding has become ever-so-draining, but weaning means taking something ever-so-important from my child. Exploring these murky waters has me reflecting on the wonderful parts of breastfeeding too, because even though it isn’t entirely enjoyable at the moment, I anticipate looking back and missing it at some point.
Below I’ve compiled a list of ways to commemorate a breastfeeding relationship, ways to celebrate the ups and downs, your hard work and dedication. I borrowed a few ideas from 12 Weaning Ceremonies over at The Leaky Boob and share some of my own.
- Write your breastfeeding story. This can be a great way to explore the many complicated emotions associated with an entire breastfeeding relationship, whether it be two weeks, four years or somewhere in between. If you’re comfortable with sharing your story, share it– here if you’d like! Your journey matters.
- Celebrate with a party or ceremony. Weaning Willow happened to coincide with her third birthday, so she received a special, weaning gift which marked the end of our breastfeeding relationship. A weaning party can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like.
- Similar to a party, celebrate with a blessingway. Surround yourself with the friends and family members who have supported you in your feeding goals. This is a time to honor yourself for your hard work and dedication. While I weaned Willow, surrounding myself with other breastfeeding friends was vital. They reminded me that weaning didn’t have to be all about mourning; it could be about celebrating how far we made it.
- Frame your favorite breastfeeding picture. Take a breastfeeding photo if you haven’t already. You can find inspiration all over the internet.
- Creating a quilt, blanket or pillow can be a great way to commemorate your journey. A huge part of breastfeeding is about comfort for both child and mother. The quilt, blanket or pillow may serve as a bridge between the days that nursing fixed everything and the days where simple cuddling will provide that comfort. If your child is older, you may choose to have him or her help decorate your creation.
- Preserving your breast milk in jewelry is a unique way to commemorate your journey. You can find kits online to preserve your milk on your own, or there are several artists who will complete the process for you. The jewelry can be worn yourself and saved for your child as he or she gets older.
- Some mothers choose to remember their breastfeeding journey with body art. If you are looking for something less permanent, you may find a henna artist to decorate your body in beautiful, maternal art. This could be incorporated into a blessingway.
- Bronze your pump. Yes, you read that right. Most mothers pump at some point in their breastfeeding relationship. For many, pumping while away from their babies is the only way they can continue to breastfeed while they’re together. If this is your experience, bronze your pump, a piece of your pump, or something that reminds you of your journey. This idea comes from Meredith W. Gonçalves, a photographer based in New Jersey who documents working mothers’ pumping experiences and mentioned in an Our Milky Way interview that she wanted to bronze her pump to celebrate “the marathon she just ran.”
If you’re looking for general information on weaning, Sara McCall, MPH, CHES, IBCLC at Breastfeeding USA wrote a lovely post called Weaning: Every Mother’s Journey worth checking out.