the beginning of the end

here we go - the beginning of the end. 

'lou has been nursing once every day or every other day for weeks now. he just went 3 days w/out asking and then wanted to nurse tonight. for the 1st time, he told me he can't get any milk.

he's 5 yrs and 24 days. after 12 3/4 years of non-stop breastfeeding, i'm almost done. if you spaced out how many years each kid nursed for consecutively instead of con
currently (due to tandem and triandem nursing), i normal- fed my small children 23 1/2 years of human milk.
out of 5 kids, my youngest weaner was 3.5 and my oldest was 5 yrs and 7 mos.

it was hard. it was uncomfortable. it was not always approved of or understood. but it was my duty and privilege to provide for my babies and i can look at the end of the road with fierce pride that i did it for as long as they needed it. i will never ever regret not giving them their best, most essentially necessary start in life.

i especially love knowing they nursed to an age that they will always remember it. i hope it is one of their most enduring memories of me all of their lives. never were we all as in sync, bonded, content and still enough to look into each other's souls as when they were nursing.

tandem nursing jovie -5 and 'lou - 3 1/2

'lou, 4

tandem nursing jovie, 2 1/2 & jonah, 3 3/4 while pregnant with 'lou. they always held hands. :-)

nursing 'lou in his hospital bed in denver at 4 3/4.

little lactation consultant in the making - lilmama (22 mos) gives up her own booby to help make sure new baby 'lou latches on and nurses well right after his home breech birth. one of my fave nursing photos ever. 
professional photo by

tandemstacking jonah, 3 and jovie, 18 months. 
biggest one goes on the bottom!

1st time ever tandem nursing - almost 13 years ago! jake, 17 mos and bo, about 2 hours.

jovie held 'lou's hand while tandem nursing the same way jonah use to hold hers before he weaned.

tandem nursing a preschooler and toddler in public "discreetly" - this is what it looks like.

nothing else helped reduce sibling rivalry and promote bonding and contentment with more than one child at once better than nursing multiples. best parenting and health tool ever invented, bar none! 

one of the last photos of my last child nursing. 'lou, 5.

like climbing mt kilamanjaro, but he wasn't about to give up!
professional photo by

putting two and two together...'lou, 10 minutes old. 
professional photo by

an experienced breastfeeding dad teaching his new son how to latch. 
professional photo by

tandemstacking newborn bo and 18 month old jake.

3 yr old nursing bo helping to induce labor after the spontaneous rupture of jonah's membranes at 37 weeks pregnant. professional photo by New Life Photography » Photos by Lesley Mason

5 kids at LAX, baby is hungry and w are rushing to meet planes and problem! pop him in the mei tai carrier and he nursed until he fell asleep, through all the frantic hustle and bustle.

she knows how to feed her babies the basics to get an optimal start in their dolly lives!

a boob's eye view of tandem stacking! i love how they always hold hands or rub each other's heads when tandem nursing.  jovie and 'lou, about 2 and 4 here.

thousand of people, crowded, hot lines, standing and walking for 8 hours, but he never so much as whimpered or complained! 'lou's day at disney at 11 months old. 

attending the global nurse-in at facebook offices at our local one in michigan. i nursed 4 year old 'lou while jovie nursed her own baby shortly after just weaning her herself at 5 1/2.

4 yo compliments to the chef. :-)

nursing #1 while 8 months pregnant with #2. bo was born a few days after this picture was taken. 
jake was 17 months old here.

jovie's 1st time ever nursing at about 15 minutes old after her home water birth. 

one of jovie's last times nursing, at 5 1/2 years, alongside her baby brother at almost 3 1/2 years 
(as he rubs her hair affectionately)

another devout lactivisto, giving up his own breast to make sure the  justborn baby learns how to latch and nurse well first. jonah, 15 months and jovie, 30 minutes old. 

what triandem nursing looks like. i needed a ticket dispenser to hand out tickets for the oldest to wait in line!  newborn, 15 month old and 4 year old, waiting his turn as he pets, snuggles and smells the new baby. 


Jenny said...

Lovely, lovely photos. I will share this link on the Adoptive Breastfeeding Facebook group! I'd love to read a post from you on how to cope emotionally when your last child has weaned, and how to create other special times that you used to spend nursing the children, but now will have to come up with something to take its place. My daughter is 3.5 and I am dreaded the day she weans.

5 dudes, a diva and total chaos said...

I just found your blog tonight and I am so glad I did!! I am a mom of 6, breastfeeding counselor, and new to the food allergy game! I am feeling overwhelmed at how I am going to feed 8 mouths on restricted diets but you give me hope. I absolutely love all your bf photos!!!

jack said...

that's the beauty of child-led weaning. there's never really anything to dread or even real grief or loss when they wean, b/c it's so gradual and easy that nobody is left feeling bereft. i've already been down this road 4 times before this last guy. i know the ropes. once they find the milk is waning, if it bothers them at all, they start nursing more again. which he did, right after i wrote about him not being able to get milk. so for the next 3 days, he nursed several times a day again. then when he happily exclaimed that he was getting milk again, he was content that his needs would be met and the milk he'd thought he might have lost forever was really still there if he worked at it...and then he didn't nurse even once for the next 2 days! then he nursed twice the next day...and he asked this morning, but i bet he won't ask again until tmrw or the day after...and the next time he finds 'no milk', it won't be traumatic or upsetting at all b/c he will know, he can either nurse a lot more to make more milk, or keep going as he is and be truly done soon.

i explain how the process works along the way. there's a lot of back and forth, on again-off again in the child led weaning process. it's never sudden, it's never abrupt. it's so gradual that everybody sees it coming and can prepare for it or backpedal if they aren't ready (tho if mom isn't ready, it's pretty hard to make a child keep nursing when they're done! and after several years, mom is usually ready! LOL)

i want to feel sad to honor the occasion of my last child weaning and this long and rich chapter of my life coming to an end, but honestly, the best i can muster is a faint tug. there's just nothing to regret, there's been no real sense of loss or failure or incompletion. :-) don't dread this day, look to it with pride and a sense of accomplishment beyond almost anything else you could have done with this time in your life.

jack said...

3 dudes, welcome! did you find my menu yet? free of the top 8 food allergens and corn - it's in the links on my home page, i think on the right side. 7 days, 3 meals a day - all kid friendly and big-family compatible recipes. contact me any time i can be of help, sounds like you are starting down the path i've been walking for over 5 years now! my best thoughts accompany you!

Sarah Slette said...

You have me bawling with this one... it is so sweet and so nice to read about someone else's journey with nursing... My 6 year old still remembers and we nursed until he was almost five. I treasure those memories and am so glad he carries them with him. Wonderful post. Thank you.

Mythical Mama said...

Thank you for sharing these photos. How beautiful and moving. And fantastic to show what normal looks like. :)
-Suz, LLLL, nursing my 3+ yo, and nursed my older to 4.3

jack said...

thank you! i think spit-up as hair product may very well be the best kept mama secret of all. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled upon this post and I had to leave a comment - this is beautiful, especially how your children interacted with each other while nursing. I'm tandem nursing my 2.5 yr old and 4 month old and sometimes the pressure from society to wean my oldest is so much that I doubt myself. I only 'allow' him to nurse twice a day (if it were up to him, he would probably nurse 5-6 times a day and not eat much food), but when the time comes for him to nurse he is so excited about it that I can't bring myself to make him stop. I keep saying 3 yrs old, but I'm not sure if I can take away something he obviously loves and cherishes as much as I do. Reading about your nursing adventure and seeing your beautiful pictures makes me feel less alone in the decision to not force him to wean before he's ready.
I am curious though - now that your children are done nursing, how is their bond/rivalry? Did the connection they formed while breastfeeding together endure later in their lives?

jack said...

thank you for your reply! i r/m being exactly where you are with our 1st. i kept saying "when he's 2, i'm sure i'll feel it's time to wean him", and then "when he's 3", and then "definitely when he's 4!" LOL.

but with a younger sibling nursing, it just seemed cruel to take away something he still needed and enjoyed so much - and then to flaunt it in front of him by continuing to nurse his baby brother just seemed like a no-brainer that i would be begging for some resentment toward his sibling if i did that!

to answer your question: yes, all of my children are extremely close. they definitely squabble and live to torment each other at times, but we've had nowhere near the level of physical altercations that "mainstream" close-in-age sibs around us seem to have.

it could be a function of all the tandem and triandem nursing, or it could be a 'big family' dynamic - or both . my 2 oldest are like best friends. they do everything together. our second son skipped a grade in school and they are in the same grade. they have very different personalities (jock and geek, if i can save time and use stereotypes), but they walk their dogs together every evening, play together, watch the same shows, even hang out in the bathroom and chat while one is on the toilet (no, i will never understand that one, either - but all my kids seem to do it for each other!) they are inseparable and they discuss things constantly, non-stop. it's very rare that they are seriously at odds with each other, at 13 and 14 years old.

the 9 and 8 year olds also act like twins - and look like them , too! being a girl and boy this time, there was some occasional strife where our 3rd son felt she shouldn't be able to do some of the things he wanted to do b/c she was a girl. she trounced him utterly in every conceivable thing you could possibly turn into any kind of competition and now he is resigned to being bested by his tomboy sister at every turn. they still play together constantly and do homework together and read books aloud to each other at bedtime, so yes - i'd have to say they definitely seem closer and have less rivalry than most kids i know at their age, too.

everyone takes turns helping out with the youngest one and he takes turns sleeping with each of his siblings. most teens aren't interested in being so nurturing, but i'm incredibly proud that my teen boys adore babies and love to chat and wave and act like clowns around babies and toddlers to make them laugh. i really do think that the memories of the nurturing and tangible love they feel when breastfeeding is something they will always associate with each other and with babies in general. :-)

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