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6 Months of Weening

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The first few years of a child’s life are absolutely dizzying for parents.  Rapid developmental changes keep us in a constant state of agitation, as we try to wrap our heads around what is happening in the moment, try and be grateful for it, and “how in the Hell am I going to deal when it all changes again”.  I LOVED nursing my little guy, and he LOVED the Boobies.  The time we had together was so sweet, and fleeting.  I wasn’t able to nurse my first 2 babies because my first was stillborn and my second was a preemie who would never, ever, latch. After spending a whole year hooked up to my double “milker”, I was going to do whatever it took to get to nurse my son.  The first two excruciating weeks (yes, it does hurt, can we be honest about that?)  passed and we fell into a natural and wonderful rhythm.

Feeding, soothing, and loving him through nursing was more amazing than I had imagined.  I finally felt connected and authentic.  Nursing him to sleep was so easy!  Sleeping and feeding all night, and never having to get up out of bed was an absolute dream.  I knew it would be over soon enough, so I savored all of it.  Then, I kept having to remind myself how I was “savoring” it.  The teething, ouch!  The feedings every 2 hours, all night long.  My neck and shoulder “nursing muscles” were completely locked up from holding rigid positions through long feeding sessions.  But being so close to him, and getting those doses of oxytocin, how could I even imagine giving it up?

Little things started happening to me, like the total loss of vocabulary from sleep deprivation.  If I could finish a coherent thought, no words longer than five letters would be used.  I had to go to the chiropractor several times a month for emergency adjustments.  My hair was starting to fall out in clumps, post-pardom style.  I realized I had not slept more than 2 consecutive hours in the 18 months since he had been born, and the effect was taking my health down fast.  One evening, as I was standing up from the toilet, my back went into a massive spasm.  I was half-way squatting and screaming when my family rushed in to help.  Joel and the two little sweeties, all helped me to the couch, where I lay there completely immobilized.  As I caught my breath and tried assess the situation, I noticed the little guy toddling toward me.  Complete and overwhelming terror washed over me, as I realized I was going to have to nurse him.  Somehow, I did, but it was time to make some changes.

The anticipation of weening him had been stressing me out too.  I had asked all of my friends for advice, but they couldn’t really recall very much of how they got through it, because they were too tired, it was too traumatic or it was just really easy.  I wanted it to be as gentle as possible for both of us, but it also needed to start happening immediately so I could get some sleep!

Night Weening
I did a little research, and discovered the term “Night Weening” for stopping this all night-feeding fiasco we had going on.  I read one method where you nurse them to sleep, then don’t allow them to nurse again from 11pm until 6am, or whatever seven hour window worked best.  I spent an entire night with a crying, whining, begging, pathetic little monster crawling all over me.  We both watched the sun came up and finally passed out.  Well, that was terrible.  One of my friends mentioned she had her husband sleep with her son to break the cycle.  I was 100% for that!  The next night, I made a little bed in the living room and listen to him cry again, though not nearly as long.  He did wake up several times and got mad at Joel for me not being there, but he eventually slept.  The third night was less crying, and I slept six hours in a row.  It was amazing!

There were a lot of steps forward and backward.  He got sick and needed nursing, then I would have to go back to the living room for another week or so for some separation.  He would still beg me all through the night, and I would tell him he would have to “wait for the light”.  After I nursed him to sleep, he had to wait until the sun came up to do it again, that was my deal.  This whole process took about 10 weeks before it became routine.  It was really hard, the most difficult part of the whole thing.  I am so grateful I had Joel’s help.

Day Weening
It was summer, and we were so active, that he hardly ever wanted to nurse during the day.  If he got hurt or really needed it, I would nurse him, but just for a few minutes.  Then, as the summer went on, I would just distract him.  I still nursed him to sleep at nap-time and at night.  I was getting anxious about how I would ever be able to get him to sleep without nursing. I remembered the Battle Royale’s I had getting my daughter to sleep, and I didn’t want to jump in that boat anytime soon.

Bed-Time Weening
Towards the end of summer, when he was about 21 months, I reached my limit with the bed-time nursing.  He was just playing around, then would bite me, and do yoga poses while latched.  It would take well over an hour to get him to sleep and my patience were just gone.  I told Joel it was his turn to step in.  He took him upstairs, read his books, gave him drinks of water and would lay with him until he passed out.  This is still going on, and still a very long process.  I finally get to have special time with my daughter, reading with her, snuggling and tucking her in.  We all needed this switch-up in caregiving.

Morning Weening
Giving up the morning nursing wasn’t so hard for us, it just sort of happened sometime over the summer.  There was a long stretch were he would wake up pre-dawn, full of energy, jump out of bed and demand we all go downstairs for breakfast.  We aren’t morning people, so that was pretty rough stuff.  Nursing and cuddling was not on the agenda.

Nap-Time Weening
The actual phase-out of the boob-to-nap happened faster than I thought it would and was much easier than I had built it up to be.  Our routine had been to nurse on the couch, then lay down to nap in bed.  It changed one day almost by accident.  He handed me some books, which we read in a different spot on the couch than where we nursed.  After the books, we went to my bed and read more books.  Then, I cuddled him to sleep.  Easy!  I put the Boppy away in the closet so it was out of view, and we kept our new routine.  Now that he is two, we are fully in the throws of nap-time drama, so he usually sleep is in the car.  He even says he needs a “nap-drive”.  Luckily we live in the country, have a carport and can keep a close eye on him while he snoozes in the car.

Now that we are fully weened, I am starting to feel physically strong, mentally alert and rested again.  We aren’t having anymore children (“Snip!”), so this is a little bit of an emotional transition.  The process wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated, except for the first few weeks, which was really hard on all of us.  Sometimes change just is.  Most of my stressful pre-planning was completely useless, I really learned to just wait for the next phase happen organically.

He seems to have no second thoughts at all.  Our relationship is different, he wants to cuddle now.  While we nursed we were inseparable, but he never actually wanted to cuddle, it was a nurse-and-go thing.  Now in the mornings he crawls in close to me, snuggling and dosing and waking up gently with hugs and kisses.  You bet I’m soaking this up, because it too is fleeting.

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