dudes (if there are any of you), its about to get really girly around here. just so you’re aware! 🙂
generally, women fall into two camps concerning breastfeeding: “a year is too long/long enough” and “let the baby/toddler/preschooler wean at their own pace”. i’m somewhere in the middle — i don’t think i ever thought i would breastfeed a three-year-old, but have always had 18 months to two years in my mind for breastfeeding. i haven’t made it to that mark with any of my babies, though.
jones weaned himself at 14 months. he was just done and over it — at almost 5, this fits his personality well. he’s independent and feels most alive when he’s doing things without my help. one of his favorite activities of late is to ask me to drop him off a few blocks from our house and let him walk home at his own pace — it always takes him forever, but he comes home radiant at having done something without me! with his weaning, the fact that he started teething at 2 months and already had a full mouth by 14 months (minus his three-year-old molars) might have had something to do with it — he wasn’t in any pain and had better things to do. i felt sad — i wanted to continue, had that 18-month mark in my mind, but i remembering thinking i wanted him to (somewhat) lead things, and his thoughts on the matter were pretty clear: “I’m DONE.” besides, i would have more babies.
ezra nursed great and i weaned him purposefully at 11 months. looking back, i wish i would’ve continued nursing him, because he woke at night frequently until age 2 — nursing would’ve been a great way to get him back to sleep! but at the time, i was newly pregnant with a VERY busy 3-year-old and an 11-month-old baby, and even if i could’ve had a chat with myself today, i don’t think the jamie-back-then would’ve been convinced. i was tired and sick and saw weaning as my ticket to a full night’s rest. (HA!) weaning him was rough and i don’t think i’d be able to stick with my guns if i was doing it today — oh, ezzie’s sweet baby cheeks and big blue eyes.
harper just turned 9 months on saturday. and she’s done nursing. (she’s doing a bottle now, for nutritional reasons.) totally NOT what i expected, as i had in my mind that i would be talking sweetly to my baby at the breast for another 5 or 6 months. i’ve been struggling a lot with the emotions surrounding this, which seems silly because i know she’s healthy, i know its okay and no one from la leche league is going to come beat down my door — but weaning is still an emotional, hormonal thing. and after wading through puzzling emotions for a few days, i decided it would be better to just write about it.
about a month and a half ago, we had just made it through the flu, all five of us. it was a harrowing few weeks, as the bug lingered for 9 or 10 days for each of us. i was worried about my milk supply, but caring for everyone and for myself, with little sleep for the parental units at night, pumping was the last of my thoughts. i drank tons of water to keep up with the fever and harper’s needs — then i just supposed she would bring the supply back up after she got better.
i’m not really sure if that ever happened, and she started to get fussier about eating — i know babies tend to be too excited about the world around them at this age to nurse for very long. i tried the “dark room” thing to no avail, and eventually resorted to walking around with her while she nursed so she could watch her brother’s play and look at things on the wall. we did this for about a month, and she still didn’t seem to take in very much at all.
about a week ago, she and i took a trip to visit our new friend lucy in utsunomiya on the tail end of a cold for her, and that apparently just did us in. she went into full-on strike mode — “i WILL NOT nurse anymore.” i knew the signs for a nursing strike and was hopeful it would end. 8 days later, still going strong. not even in the middle of the night could i get her to nurse for longer than a few seconds. she just kept pulling off and getting angry with me, and i felt more and more helpless.
bryan, of course, was the voice of reason. what’s the big deal? she can be done nursing. we can just do other things if she needs extra calories. but for some reason, this was just really hard for me to accept. had i done enough? this wasn’t what i was expecting. did i do something to make her stop? should i pump for the next few weeks to see if she’ll make it through and want to nurse again? in my mind, this is what i thought moms who were truly committed to breastfeeding would do.
and yet, i didn’t really want to pump for the next few weeks. and the thought of building a supply back up after the flu and colds and a long nursing strike, with her 2-year-old brother feeling a bit needy lately and her 4-year-old brother as active as ever, sounded like WAY TOO MUCH to me right now. and actually, having my body to myself after three-years-straight of pregnancy and breastfeeding sounded kind of nice — to drink caffeine without regret in the wee hours of the night! to be able to take allergy meds without worrying. to not constantly be thinking of when i could leave her and when i couldn’t. to get a BREAK after all the emotional things that have been happening lately. logically, this sounded like what i needed — but i thought i was committed to breastfeeding, and now do i have to take all of that back? how do i mother a baby without breastfeeding? and truthfully, i’m still feeling guilty, even though a growing part of me feels like this might be just what my family needed.
right now, harper is taking a bottle two to three times a day and eating a TON of food at her meals. (and i’m learning a lot about bottle-feeding and reading cues..) she’s still a pretty petite baby, so i’m not quite sure where it’s all going, but i can see that my supply wasn’t really up-to-snuff for her needs, as she’s been sleeping a lot better (thank you Jesus!) since she started a bottle.
i’ve read that weaning suddenly could be an emotional process, and i’m certainly learning this truth right now. on the other hand, i’ve read some weaning stories on the LLL website, and my honest reaction was, “oh please! it’s just breastfeeding, not the end of the world!” perhaps my other half would benefit a little more from that perspective.
ps -i’m learning through this that there is a lot of advice out there about parenting and babies, but it tends to fall into two camps: parent-centered (do what you need, and baby will adjust) or baby-centered (always do what baby needs, no matter the cost to yourself). i don’t tend toward the parent-centered camp because i do think children are persons deserving of our respect, and their personalities and needs (physical, emotional, and otherwise) should matter and factor hugely into our decision making as their parents. i don’t tend toward the baby-centered advice (unless its the early stages of infanthood) because it can tend to make already guilt-prone mothers feel even worse when they aren’t willing to give their bodies (etc) over to one child for three to four years. there are only a few places where i have found family centered advice, that helps you take into account your emotional health, your marriage, where your family is headed, siblings and their needs, etc. i wish there was more of it! any moms want to chime in some of the latter???