Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weaning - again

I hesitate to post on this - mostly because I don't like getting the negative comments (from anonymous, every time) about how ridiculous it is that I'm still nursing a child who's over three... but it's really a big issue for me, so I'm going to be brave. Let me say first that I loved nursing my babies, and never considered not doing it. My goal was strictly to get to one year, after that, if he had shown any sign of wanting to wean, I'd have been all over it. Jessie weaned on her own at seven or eight months, so I was grateful to not have to spend money on formula for him, and even at two, nursing didn't seem like a big deal. At three... I'm really ready for it to be done.

Weaning sucks. Weaning while pregnant sucks even more. I know this because I've been trying to do it for a LONG time and now that I'm 11 weeks pregnant, I can officially say that it's gotten significantly worse now that I'm pregnant. Between the actual physical discomfort that comes from anything that has to do with my breasts, and pregnancy hormones - the whole weaning process is filled with tears and rage and frustration - on everyone's part.

I've got Sam down to minimal nursing - and it really is minimal. He nurses to sleep (and it's quick, less than five minutes) and when he first wakes up. It's the waking up that's killing me. Because Sam's not a kid who wakes up sunshiney delighted to face the day - he wakes up groggy and mean. He's never happy about it - and always requires some quiet alone time nursing before he'll even consider not screaming. It's a good morning when he actually wakes up and gets out of bed to find me, a bad morning when he lays in bed hollering "MAMA! COME IN HERE!"

He sleeps fine thru the night, rarely, if ever, wakes up to nurse - it's just that every morning we have a huge raging battle of wills and it sucks unbelievably bad. Screaming, crying, begging, pleading, sobbing - and it's so physically uncomfortable that I just can't do it for very long. Couple of minutes, five, maybe ten tops. And that's nowhere near enough, as far as my stubborn little love bug is concerned.

The problem, if you ask me, is that I read a quote about how a nursing mother should no more count the number of times you nurse a baby than you should count the number of times you kiss your baby. So I always nursed on demand - and with colic and reflux, Sam learned early on that nursing was the only thing that made his life better. He outgrew the colic and reflux, and has a healthy appetite, is a confident, independent boy - but LOVES nursing. Nursing for us is so much more than food - he obviously doesn't need it for sustenance, but today - after he'd been screaming and sobbing and nothing was working, he finally just said "hug me please" and his big brown eyes were still brimming over with tears and he looked so lost and so sad, like he just couldn't figure out why I was denying him this basic expression of love and attachment - and then I, of course, picked him up, hugged him and held him, rubbing his back and he asked for breakfast. By the time Marc brought him in a bowl of cereal, I was a teary-eyed mess, crying and feeling like the worst mother in the world - he obviously isn't ready to give up nursing, and I went ahead and got pregnant, and now it's so physically painful and I can't do it anymore and it's breaking his heart... it was awful.

He hasn't asked to nurse all day - which is typical for him. He doesn't nurse at all during the day, it's just to go to sleep and then to wake up. I've tried everything, special drinks, distraction, encouraging a lovey, chocolate, movies, special time with Daddy - nothing works. I've even broken out the bottle and pacifier, thinking maybe he just likes sucking on something. I think we're just going to have to battle thru it. Nursing certainly isn't going to get easier, it's only going to get worse. As I get bigger, it's going to be more and more difficult, and I'm just praying that he'll outgrow the need.

I feel a little bitter - because I always thought that nursing on demand would result in this perfect nursing relationship, he'd stop on his own because he didn't need it anymore - but he turned three in July - and in his version of a perfect world, he'd have my breasts available whenever he wanted them. I did everything right - as far as the attachment parenting model is concerned - my only problem is that Sam didn't read the same parenting handbooks that I did. He doesn't know he's supposed to have stopped on his own - he doesn't know he's supposed to have just outgrown this because he knows that I love him and will be there. He's just a little boy - and doesn't understand why I'm so mean to him.

Yeah - pregnancy hormones are not making this whole process easier. Marc's on board, as supportive as he can be. He thought I was mostly crazy for continuing to nurse, but since it wasn't him doing it - and weaning was obviously not going well, he pretty much just stays out of it. But when asked, he tells me that I'm doing the right thing, that part of parenting is giving a little push out of the nest and that Sam needs me to encourage him to be a big boy. Or something like that - and I know that he doesn't need the nursing - I know that it's more a battle of wills and Sam's an incredibly stubborn kid when it comes to this. Once he accepts that I'm done for the morning (and that can take up to an hour of him temper tantrumming), he moves on and is fine all day.

But suffice it to say - my house is nowhere you'd want to be between seven thirty and nine o'clock every morning.


Heather said...

Melissa, ignore the negative comments. That commenter doesn't understand the special bond between a nursing mother and child, and he/she needs to just keep her opinion to herself. This is between you and your son.

I blocked anonymous commenters from my blog, because I got tired of cowards, who didn't even have the guts to leave their names, stopping by just to criticize me.

That said, I understand your dilemma. Cakes didn't wean until after her second birthday, and the only reason I was able to do it was because my husband took over. Cakes weaned very easily (within a week), without much fuss at all, when my husband took over the bedtime routine, as this was the only time she wanted to nurse. Instead of nursing, he rocked her and read to her, and we made it clear that she could touch Mommy's "bubbies," or snuggle with them whenever she wanted, but she could not put them in her mouth. This was acceptable to her, because she was no longer nursing for nourishment, only comfort. Sometimes, when she was upset, she would ask for bubbies, and I would just hold her in the rocker, with my shirt open, so she could rest her head on my chest. That was enough for her. I think at the toddler age, it's the warmth, softness, scent, and familiarity of Mommy's skin that is most comforting - not necessarily the milk.

After a few months, she stopped asking, and now she seems to have completely forgotten about nursing altogether.

Give this method a try, if you can. It really worked for us. I'll be praying for you.

Jessi said...

You know the people who say the mean things are the people who are uneducated about breastfeeding. Aiden is almost two and I get comments all the time. It's annoying and mean for sure but WE know what's best for our children and we know how wonderful it is. Not just nutrition wise, but developmentally and most importantly, emotionally! I, too, know how the breast makes your child feel calm and at peace almost instantly.

I can imagine weaning a 3 year old is tough. I know that I'm down to nursing before nap and bed and am looking to cut nap out here soon and am already dreading it. We'll get through this though.

I know what you mean when you say you cry and feel horrible for denying him that. I also know pregnancy hormones are not helping. I know when I think about weaning I think of how Aiden will feel without his security and it breaks my heart so you're not alone :(.

Melissa said...

Thanks for the support - it really does help. And Heather, I'm going to try that, and see if that makes it easier. I was completely unprepared for weaning Sam, my Jessica just gradually dropped a feeding at a time and nursed less and less, it was so peaceful and easy, I expected the same. But with Sam, it seems traumatic and stress-filled and with no end in sight.