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How I Weaned My Toddler (last year…)

April 11, 2012
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There was a comment recently on a post I wrote over a  year ago regarding Gus’ extended nursing and eventual weaning. The comment made me realize that I had not really ever told the rest of the story, and there’s no time like the present!

When I wrote about weaning a toddler in early 2011, I mentioned that there is so little out there to guide a mother through the very tough and personal decision to wean an extended nurser. Much of the literature seemed to guilt me for wanting to initiate the weaning process myself. I knew there had to be some happy medium. I don’t profess to be an expert on this. I’ve done it exactly once. But I’ll share what happened with Gus and me when the time came, in the hope that it might calm some fears out there, or at the very least – as I said in that original post – let us know that we’re not alone.

In that post I mentioned that my latest and greatest “deadline” for weaning my first boy was January. Welllll… January came and went and I could never bring myself to do it. Then February came and went. When March showed up, I was determined to at least start cutting back.

At that point I was mainly down to nursing him morning, night and naptime on the weekends. When we traveled it was a different story and I’d often end up nursing him all night. For the most part, at home, I had weaned him at night. Even if he woke up in the middle of the night, I’d go into his room and hold his hand, or sing, or rock him if nothing else worked. As most nursing mothers know, rocking a baby and *not* nursing him, is sometimes difficult, so I would try to avoid picking him up. This was probably the period of time (including now) during which he slept the best at night.

As we moved toward seriously weaning, the first thing I did was drop the morning feeding. This one made the most sense to me because I could easily tempt my little guy into some other wonderful activity for us to do together. Namely: making pancakes. My kid loves his pancakes and he loves helping make them. So when he started asking to nurse in the morning, I’d quickly suggest we go make pancakes instead. It sounds silly, but it really was that easy.

The next one to go, oddly enough, was the night time feeding. It hurt my heart so much to even think of not nursing my little boy each night. Our routine was always to do a story, nurse, and then go to bed. One night, Gus asked for another story so I thought, what the heck, and tried telling him that if he wanted another story then it’d be time for bed and he’d have to go into his crib. He agreed, much to my surprise. I figured we’d still be in for a fight once the time came, but he was strangely totally fine. It was the first night of his life that he didn’t nurse before bed. While this did not turn out to be a trend, it at least let me know that he wouldn’t be completely traumatized without nursing. Eventually I found that moving the location of our night time ritual from the glider to the twin bed in his room, and allowing for a couple books and lots of snuggling, really made the transition easier. For a while, I’d move him to his crib before he fell asleep and sit in his room as he drifted off. Now he sleeps in the twin, so we’ve developed some brand new questionable sleep associations. le sigh.

But to this day, we still read as many books as we have time for, and snuggle before he falls asleep. It’s my favorite part of the day.

In March of that year, I realized that some wacky things were going on with my emotions as I went through the weaning process. I wrote about that here. I won’t go into it too much in this post, but I have noticed a few articles popping up with this same kind of theme, so it might be worth a google if you recognize the plight.

Finally it was time to drop that last hold out – the nap time nursing. I was totally at a loss as to how to get him down for a nap without nursing. I’m trying to remember exactly what we did. I think that we may have moved him to the twin bed for his naps around that time. We read him a book before nap and then lie quietly. Sometimes he’s cool with us leaving the room while he’s awake. Sometimes he’s not. Most of the time, I have no problem getting some extra cuddles in on lazy weekend afternoons.

On the mid-June afternoon of Gus’ second birthday, I breastfed my first baby for the very last time. We’d pretty much weaned at that point, but he was an over-tired, over-stimulated little boy and when he asked in his sleepy little voice, I knew it would be the last time I said yes. I burned the image in my brain. My beautiful little boy growing up too fast. All legs and arms and none of the baby he’d always been. He fell asleep there at my breast and I could have kept him just like that forever. My little bunny.

Of course that’s not how it works, is it. He’s completely weaned now and on to the bigger and better. Is he ok? Yes. We have our special things we do together. We have our evening snuggles and morning pancakes. He’ll always be my baby, even when he’s old and grey. But I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t tears on my face even now, almost a year later, as I write this. And I doubt I’ll ever think on that afternoon and not feel a pang of loss. But WE didn’t lose what makes us close. WE didn’t suffer. And I really don’t think that he did either. The loss I feel is a selfish one, of time moving too fast and wanting to hold onto every piece of this incredible life.

The last time I nursed Gus, I was about 8 weeks pregnant with Jude. Now I’m building my nursing relationship with this new little man. He’s such a different kid and I try not to have expectations about how our time with breastfeeding will unfold. I know that when these milk machines close up for good, there will be a major part of me grieving. There will be new adventures with my boys, too. So many things I look forward to as they grow up.  I can’t wait, I really can’t.

But it doesn’t mean I am not still trying to catch these impossibly fleeting moments in my hands before they dissipate into distant memory.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jay permalink
    April 11, 2012 6:48 pm

    You are a gem, jen. Thank you for answering me. Heck, I teared up as I read the post. Ironically, jace is sleep on my breast now :-)…so it was all the more moving. You scare me though. I’m so tired in the sacrifice, especially with my non-sleeping over nurser, that it’s hard to fathom being anything other than relieved. BUT you cause me to take pause. I looked down at him lying there, sound asleep, softly suckling, and HALT…perhaps there will be tears. Hmph. And grrrrr. And the increase in oxytocin and whatever else, arrrgh. So I’m back to conflicted feelings, thanks 😉

    Thank you for offering an ear. I know I will have questions because my tough cookie monster will not, and I said WILL NOT go down without a fight for all. Unless my prayers really are answered and he finds himself a big enough boy to let go with ease. Wth that, I’m sure I will email you once I find another peaceful place with a decision.

    Btw – he actually goes 24 hours without nursing, and sleeps all night, when he is

    at his dad’s….go figure.

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