I thought I wanted the freedom, to have my body back to myself and be able to leave you with your dad or nana for a few hours without worry. I still do want those things but I didn't expect the sadness that would come as I gradually end breastfeeding you. My heart melts as you root around, looking for the comfort milk you are used to, while I offer a cup instead. On occasion I give in and we cuddle as you happily feed, and my sadness returns as I know that this cannot go on. Now is the time to stop. You are nearly one year old and due to start nursery soon. I will go back to work and have to leave on overnight trips. You have started drinking milk hungrily from a cup - most likely my own milk supply has diminished to the point of being insufficient for my little nearly-toddler. You mildly accept it when I insist you take a cup instead of my breast, whereas before a cup would never do. In fact, you reach for your milk cup eagerly as soon as it is prepared. This is the right time for us to stop.
And now, with both my freedom and your first tiny bit of independence from me almost in reach, I find that I'm crying. This is the first time I have really seen my baby grow a little older and it's the first of many bittersweet moments to come as you grow into your own person.
I will so miss our hours of cuddle time as you feed and then sleep in my lap. I will miss your little satisfied, muffled hums as you happily drink your breastmilk (I may make it but it's yours). I will miss seeing your tiny body relax and your cherub mouth gape as you drop off during a feed, then continue to drink mid-air even after I have gently pulled my breast away. I will miss watching you smiling in your dreams while you sleepily drink your milk. I will even miss those long, exhausted night time cuddles when you needed milk in the dark early hours. My breast could comfort you no matter how upset you were, no matter how poorly you felt after your vaccinations or distressed by a sudden start. I will miss being your ultimate comfort and hope I can continue to do just as well as your mummy, even without offering pacifying milk.
Before I breastfed my own baby I never understood the sheer perfect beauty of it. The comforting happiness it can bring to a child and to a mother. The start wasn't without its struggles but we both came to love breastfeeding (well, you always did and I quickly caught up) and now that my baby is becoming my little boy, I find that I am struggling to let it go. Even though I know it's right for us both now. Even though you don't really need it any more. I wish it could have gone on longer. You will forget all those long, loving cuddles but for me they will remain precious memories of our first year together. For me breastfeeding you meant long happy times of bonding and pure love, even though it came with restrictions and bouts of mastitis. It meant more to me than the freedom I thought I wanted. And I would give up my freedom once more if I could have your babyhood to enjoy all over again from the start.