I’ve been meaning to write a post about this particular topic for quite a while now. Months, even.
But I just haven’t been able to get it down on the page. Every time I try to write anything about what the early stages of weaning look like in our house, I get about 2 lines in and my mind starts to race. Trying to put my thoughts down in a linear perspective frazzles my brain, and I end up putting my laptop to sleep and zoning out on DVRed Top Chef.
Why the struggle? I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s because I know that good information about weaning is important, and there are lots of mamas out there who need a seasoned perspective (hard to believe I’m a “been there, done that” mom now on some topics!) but it’s very difficult to put into a box. I’d love to write a post chock full of helpful tips and witty observations, all tied up with a bow and some kind of enlightening conclusion at the end. But for us, this process is so fluid and ever-changing that the best I can do is relay my experience and save the definitive answers for another time.
First, a little history:
My son was exclusively breastfed until 6 months, when we began to introduce solids. He is now closing in on 18 months, still nursing and eating lots of real, whole foods (mostly fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains; no cow’s milk (some yogurt), very little meat and very, very little sugar.) I work away from home about 50 hours a week, and he spends 4 days a week with my Mom and Dad, who have been very supportive since day 1. We are hoping to add to our family ASAP!
So, why wean?
This is where it gets complicated, because I can’t answer this question! Here’s the jumble in my head:
I would like to start initiating weaning because we really, really want another baby SOON and at 17 months I still had no return of my cycle (except for a random 2 days in December that didn’t amount to much) so I think I may be one of those moms who has to fully wean to concieve, but I know that my son is still reaping great health benefits from nursing past infancy, plus I work more than full-time, so nursing still provides a huge chance for us to reconnect each night. But it’s hard – I’ve been pumping for over a year now, and it’s draining, and I am ALWAYS hungry and unable to lose any weight, and frankly, toddler nursing is a whole different beast than infant nursing. He tugs, he pulls, occasionally bites, and never sits still. The mysterious “full night’s sleep” still eludes us, as he nurses on average twice a night, but I know that’s totally normal, so how can I complain? Frankly, I’m a little scared. I feel like I’m playing with fire by cutting out pumping sessions and letting my supply drop, trying to jumpstart my cycle, because I could wake up one day with no supply and a sad, feeling-rejected baby and I don’t want to know what that kind of guilt and regret feels like. BF has been his biggest source of nourishment and nurturing since the night he was born, so I could never just take it away unless he was ready. But IS he ready? He’s off the bottle, and down to about 6 ounces per day from a cup at my mom’s house, and he might get another 6 throughout the night, so would it be that big a deal if he didn’t get it anymore? On the other hand, it’s been such a comfort knowing that he’s getting such quality nourishment, tailored perfectly to his little self, while I get used to preparing table foods for a toddler. It’s like a backup plan for nutrition that doubles as a remedy for pinkeye, ear infections, diaper rash, and boo boos, while also providing a great way to calm an overstimulated or crying toddler. Who in their right mind would stop producing milk when it’s so multi-purpose and valuable? Oh yeah, maybe a haggard, exhausted mom who really wants another baby before the clock ticks any louder… I mean, extended health benefits are a gift, but a sibling is a gift, too, right? Ugh! Who says I even get to decide any of this anyway? Every time I give in and decide I’m not ready to push weaning yet, he says “Nononono!” and takes off in the other direction, no milk on his mind. It feels like any day could be the last day…
Do I even know how to be a mommy without it!?
See what I mean? I’m all over the place. But with all that being said, there are a few things I’ve figured out for sure:
- While we didn’t use Baby Led Weaning in the proper sense (we gave our son purees), I do fully believe in letting baby take the lead in ending the nursing relationship. That’s not to say I can’t nudge a little, though, so we are currently practicing the “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach, and I’m limiting the length of each session whenever possible.
- This is one emotional subject! Much of my purpose and identity as a mother is wrapped up in our breastfeeding relationship, and my heart just aches at the thought of its end. But, I’m realizing that parenting only gets deeper and more complex as the days pass, so I’m sure the bond we’ll develop in the next stage of our lives, whatever it may be, will be just as precious to me (and maybe a little easier on my sleep schedule.)
- No matter how much longer we go, I have met several goals already: 6 mo, 1 yr, nearly 18 mo. It has been wonderful, but it has not been easy, and I get choked up every time I think of how proud I am of our accomplishment. Even if we stopped today, I sleep better at night knowing that I’ve provided my son (and myself) with an entire lifetime of better health!
- I’ve been told right to my face that I am disgusting for nursing my toddler and that if we continue, I will damage him for life. To those people, I say: Make NO mistake about it, this decision couldn’t have less to do with you and your ignorant judgement.
- Every time I think I have something nailed down, it up and changes on me again. After a long conversation with my LLL leaders about this very topic several days ago, I woke up the very next morning to a happy monthly surprise! It seems that we are back in action, for real this time. So I may not have to entirely wean after all (even though my boy may have other ideas at this point.) I guess I’m right back where I started, confident that (as with most parenting issues I’ve found) I need to just follow my heart and my son’s lead and we can’t go wrong.
And with the developments over the last week, my hope to tandem nurse just might not be completely out of reach after all…
Motherhood: It’s never boring, is it?