Wednesday, May 1, 2013

On Extended Breastfeeding and Weaning - Part I

I've always known I would breastfeed my babies. Sort of like I've always known I wouldn't choose to birth in a hospital; it is one of those things I never really even put much thought into. It just ... was.

I didn't always know, however, that I would partake in "extended breastfeeding", or in simpler terms, that I would ever nurse a toddler. A toddler who could walk, talk, and had her own name (and song and dance - oh, yes!) for my breasts and for nursing. I planned on nursing for at least 6 months, then I would reevaluate. At 6 months, I planned on 12 months, max. And at 12 months, well ...

I shared the sentiment of many people out there - maybe even you - that if the kid is walking and/or can ask for it, they are way too old to be getting it. Yes, I was a perfect parent once. And then I became a parent.

Ahhh, perspective and insight. 

What I wasn't able to understand then is that even with a walking and talking toddler, she was (and is!) still such a baby. She might be doing "big girl" things, but she still needs her Mama for so, so much. Nursing, for my toddler, became a source of reconnection after a long or particularly busy day. It became a source of comfort. Nurturing. Downtime. It was clearly no longer a source of nourishment - no, my little garbage disposal had been scarfing down everything we ate since she was 10 months old - I was not disillusioned to think that she needed to nurse, nutritionally. I had tried to wean her a few times before, but she simply wasn't ready. It was a horrific process and one that I didn't have the energy to see through to the end.

I've received several comments from well-meaning friends and acquaintances. Calling me "SuperMom" for nursing so long.

The reality is, "SuperMom" is inaccurate. "LazyMom" is more like it.

Weaning a toddler who still wasn't sleeping through the night? Not exactly SuperMom status. SuperMom's babies sleep through the night at 6 weeks old. I kid. Sorta. Anyway, I was tired. Sleep deprived. 17 months of sleep deprivation will do crazy things to a person. I was not going to fight the battle of weaning while I was also fighting the battle of sleep. That is CrazyMom status.

Miraculously, at 17 months on the dot, my toddler started sleeping through the night. Nothing changed in our routine. No sleep training. Just ... my toddler finally decided she enjoyed sleeping more than she enjoyed waking and ... she slept. I got my first taste of sleep in 17 months. Seven.Teen.Months. That is a long freaking time to go without adequate sleep. I think this is when I was finally able to start thinking clearly, without everything being one jarbled mess.

I had been done nursing for months. I was over it. It was no longer a mutually beneficial relationship. It felt completely one-sided and I felt used every time I nursed her. I felt like our entire relationship revolved around my breasts and whether she could or could not convince me she needed to nurse. Exhausting. And super frustrating. 

I had no idea how to wean her. I Googled and read article after article, forum after forum - everyone has the perfect advice, and everyone's advice is totally different. Sigh. "Go cold turkey! They'll cry, but they'll figure it out eventually!" "It will be harder on you than it is on them - just do it!" 

Those articles and forum posts weren't for me. 

"Cut out one feeding per week and you can gently wean them. It won't be easy, but there will be minimal tears. Day three of each week will be the hardest, and once you make it past that point, you're smooth sailing." 

Perfect! That? I can do!

How I weaned my nursing-obsessed toddler in 3 weeks, with little to no tears - to be continued.




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