Weaning a Toddler
I can’t say it’s a new phenomenon for me to feel, in the midst of motherhood and all it’s joys, that I am the ONLY one to feel a certain way, or to think a certain thing. In those first tumultuous months I thought that I was failing, I thought that I was just not cut out for this, I thought that I regretted having had a baby at all. But mostly? I thought that I was alone.
In the intervening months I’ve learned that I am most certainly not alone in the feelings I had as a new mother. But still I find myself feeling the same way now, as I face weaning my toddler from the breast.
See, there is a boatload of literature on getting the baby to breastfeed successfully. I took advantage of a lot of it. How to get the perfect latch, how to navigate blocked ducts, overactive letdown, pumping, teething, you-name-it. And there is, it seems to me, sufficient information on how to wean a baby onto a bottle of formula if the need arises. In fact, my own sisters and mother could easily coach me on that particular transition had I asked. But I wanted to nurse for at least a year, so I never planned to, and never did, wean onto formula.
And, at the moment, there are books and websites and even brick-and-mortar establishments set up to support extended breastfeeding and, most importantly, natural unprompted weaning that happens when the child determines he or she is ready. (FTR: if left to his own devices I’m convinced Gus would totally be the kid that comes home from high school and wants to nurse.) When I consult these I just end up questioning my resolve, and generally feeling bad about my choices and terrified of traumatizing my little boy and altering our close relationship for good.
And here is where I despair. I want to wean my 19-month-old toddler. I do.
(and I don’t)
This is a boy who *loves* his “ah-jee” (how he got that from “milk”, I’ll never know) more than anything. A boy who has nursed every single day of his life. A boy who finds comfort in our nightly ritual of rocking in a quiet, dark room, and playing silly games that make him smile up at me until he is tired enough to request to go to his crib.
The thing is, I’d be lying if I said that I don’t find just as much comfort in it as he does. And I can tell you that his tears won’t be the only ones shed when the milk tap is turned off.
So the questions is why? right? why am I subjecting myself and my sweet boy to this if it is going to hurt us both? Part of me doesn’t know. But the other part of me, she has her reasons. I want to get pregnant again. And while I know this feat can be achieved without weaning (I have regular periods again) I know how hard pregnancy was on my body and my psyche last time and I just don’t really want to further stress my system by also nursing. And I am really not interested in tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler. I want there to be enough separation between when Gus weans and when a new baby comes on the scene that Gus doesn’t have even MORE reason to be jealous of the newbie.
And I hate to admit it but I feel pressure from relatives and loved ones as well. I’d love to say that I will do what I want and forget my mother’s voice in my ear telling me “it really is time” and my grandmother saying “he’s getting old for that” and a close and dear family friend warning that extended nursers (in her experience as a pediatric nurse) are troublesome… But these are women to whom I look for just this sort of advice and support. These are my role models, flawed though their ideas might be.
There is certainly a part of my intellectual self that knows they could be out-moded and wrong, that they probably are. But tell that to the other part of me who has been listening to them for her whole life and who, in adulthood, has come to know that most of the things they tell me are truth. It’s not as simple as saying “you’re wrong, go away.” you know?
And the resources from which I have drawn the majority of my parenting help, books and the Internet, are eerily quiet on the topic of weaning an extended nurser before he’s “ready”. Either you’re weaning onto formula before a year, or you’re celebrating “weaning day” with a cake for your four-year-old. I’m finding very little in the in-between. It’s been disappointing.
So here we sit. It’s January. The latest deadline I gave myself. And now January is more than half gone. It’s safe to say we’ll be setting a new deadline, but I think this one is going to be a little softer. We’ll go slowly, allow for setbacks, and see if we can eliminate one of his nursing sessions first, and then the other. Somehow. I just need to take the first step, and I am beginning to think the first step has more to do with getting *myself* ready than it is about Gus.
So help a mother out. What about you? Have you successfully weaned a toddler before s/he decides it’s time? Any tips? (Even just a “yeah I’ve been there, and my child is not traumatized for life” will do.)