weaning in wien

by erinohsays

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so here i am, laying on a patch of grass across from the united nations building in vienna, next to the danube river while topless women casually sunbathe. and i am thinking about how i came to vienna partly as a way to wean my son.

when i first learned how to breastfeed him it felt like a really painful burden. i didn´t feel particularly committed to doing it but i felt obligated to try. i wanted to give up so many times during that first month but because i gave birth to him in canada, i received a lot of free support from lactation consultants and home visiting nurses who all encouraged me to keep going. my goal was to make it to six months and then stop. i never thought i´d make it that long. it seemed like a totally unrealistic goal. but after the first month it got so much easier. my supply regulated itself and it was no longer painful.

when six months came, i saw no reason to stop breastfeeding. it was so easy and i had a great supply. my son was exclusively breastfed until that point and i figured since it was going so well we would just continue.

then one year came and that´s when i started getting questions, from my doctor, from my family, from my friends about when i was planning to wean. my new answer was “when he turns 2.”

on july 8th my son turned 2 years old and i was still nursing him at naptime and bedtime. i joked, only partly, with my partner that the only way i would be able to wean our son is if i left the country for a few weeks. so when the opportunity came up to take a paid trip to vienna for two weeks at the end of july, i took it. partly as a way to wean, partly as a way to engage in a cross cultural exchange, and partly as a way to reconnect with my non-mom identity.

now twelve days into my stay in vienna – or wien as the austrians call it – my child is fully weaned and i have stopped producing milk. it´s a strange thing, to miss something that i resented so much in the beginning, but it also gives me hope and serves as a reminder that things get better.

when i was nursing i had the feeling that i was capable of so much. after all, i had nourished a brand new human entirely on a substance that i alone produced! then later when nursing became more of an emotional need than a physical one i felt like i had the magical ability to soothe our son when no one else could.

i feel a little sad, losing this magical power of mine, but breastfeeding for two years has given me strength and resolve i didn´t know i had. these are my thoughts so far on weaning. all it took was a few weeks in another country to make it happen.

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