Monday, May 21, 2012

Prelude to weaning


Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.



mikko breastfeeding m4yo
My view.
My older nursling is turning five next month. I haven't been writing much about our tandem breastfeeding (mis)adventures lately for a few reasons.

One is that it was going relatively poorly, sorry to say: major nursing aversion. And I felt bad about that.

One is that I had this external sense that Mikko really should wean. I happened upon a discussion of people talking about me behind my back, and that was the consensus. I know — you never hear good things when you're eavesdropping, right? It stuck with me, and made me feel sheepish and low. I kept telling myself, What do I care what other people think? But I do…obviously.

Just look at the recent hubbub over the TIME cover. That kid's a three-year-old. Mine's almost five. I know there's hate out there.

I felt bad that I was feeling this external pressure to stop nursing, and bad that the internal pressure due to the nursing aversion was exacerbating and emphasizing it.

I wanted the end of our nursing relationship to be one of gentleness, peace, and mutual respect — a wistful bittersweetness with more sweet than bitter. I didn't want an abrupt end with me screeching, "I can't take it anymore!" and forcing him away from me.

Calming the nursing aversion

I read a couple articles that Amy Phoenix wrote as guest posts for Code Name: Mama about nursing aversion. I had tried techniques before (calming techniques, hypnosis techniques, deep breathing and relaxation, distraction), but nothing had made the toe-curling sensation go away. If nails-on-a-chalkboard had a feeling, nursing aversion was it. But this time, when I read Amy's articles (this was a couple months ago now, I think), I concentrated on this item: "I am choosing to breastfeed."

It was so simple, and it worked. It felt magical that first time, and I was scared it would disappear. It wasn't magical, because I would still feel nursing aversion from time to time afterward, but it was amazingly helpful, because it was much abated from those earlier levels.

I also participated in a private conversation with Amy (where I doubt she knew she'd have this much effect on me), where she said something about how she wished we lived in an environment where nursing pairs could continue as long as they wanted without any inappropriately placed shame. That and seeking out other mothers of older nurslings took a huge weight off me and reassured me on this most basic level: My kid and I are doing something that's totally normal and fine. I realized it had been the aversion that had caused a lot of my psychological discomfort, because it made every nursing session feel so off to me.

I now felt able, since I wasn't dreading each nursing session or feeling guilty about breastfeeding an older nursling, to contemplate weaning on a more logical, loving level.

I use the term "nursing" intentionally here. I tend to favor "breastfeeding" in general, because I feel it's a source of less confusion (there's a profession for nursing, after all, and you can practice bottle nursing) and because it seems more technically appropriate and encouraging of a frank discussion of just what the feeding is. But when it comes to a four-year-old, the feeding isn't really the point anymore. I mean, Mikko is getting milk; he tells me so, and will knead the breast or switch sides if he can't get any out. (I've had to curb his kneading, because it triggers my aversion.) But he nurses for literally several seconds on each side, and then he's done, so his calorie intake is low.

Setting limits

We've got it down to twice a day, at my own behest: once in the morning, once at night. Sometimes he forgets and skips one or the other (and I don't remind him), but not often. Sometimes I put him off, and then he falls asleep, but not often with that, either. He used to insist on nursing twice in the morning — upstairs (in our bedroom) and downstairs (in the living room) — and the same at bedtime. But I've put the kibosh on that obsessive behavior and told him one session is enough, and he can choose where it happens.

Just in general, I've felt more comfortable about setting a lot of limits with him at this age. I limit how often, where, for how long, and, at some points, whether. I don't feel this is unfair to him at this point, since he's old enough to do without if he needs to, and he'll often snuggle next to me or ask for back scratches to replace any perceived cuddle deficit. While he's nursing, I can simply say, "Ok," and give him a little pat on the side, and he knows to come off immediately. (During the worst of my nursing aversion, I had the hardest time not turning that "little pat" into something more forceful, and the "Ok" came out between clenched teeth, which is why I'm so glad the worst of the aversion has dissipated. It took nearly a year.)

I also still can't stand nursing both boys simultaneously, so that happens only very rarely, when I seem to be out of other good options. If Mikko's nursing and Alrik's awake, Alrik starts giggling happily and lunges onto whichever breast is free. However adorable that is, this is why I try not to nurse Mikko when Alrik's conscious of what's happening. (When they are both nursing, I have this recurring thought: "They're milk brothers!" And then I remind myself, "No — they're just called brothers in this instance.")

Steps toward weaning

So … weaning. I've begun speaking with Mikko about the idea of weaning, which to me was the first step, and one I resisted. I loved the idea that he would gradually stop nursing on his own. Do I think it would happen, eventually? Oh, sure. But I've finally admitted to myself I'm not willing to wait forever. Most extended nurslings I know of stopped at 2, 3, maybe 4. When I hear of a 5-year-old, I feel safe for a little longer. I heard of a 6-year-old the other day (from a reasonable, respectable person) and felt another little burst of relief. That said, all the mothers say the same thing about those kids: They're nursing occasionally, once every few days, not still on this highly regular schedule Mikko's on, where he would gladly nurse more if I would let him.

I think he needs a push. And I've finally gotten past the guilt and, yes, grief that I have to give him one. I really, really was hoping this could all be of his own volition. Even saying here "I want him to wean" breaks my heart a little. I don't know quite how to explain that to anyone who doesn't believe in child-led weaning. I do believe in it philosophically as an option, and had hoped to practice it, which is why it's so upsetting that I'm abandoning my plans. I'm now ready to try for a mix of mother-directed and child-approved. I'm hoping for something gentle and that's honorable of our nursing relationship so far.

So back to my tentative plans: I've mentioned to Mikko, and Sam has chimed in for me, that everyone stops nursing eventually. His dad and I are not having nummies anymore, we told him. Neither is his (beloved) cousin, or most of his friends. Eventually everyone gets big enough that they don't need them anymore, and they stop.

That's been step one.

Step two has been planting suggestions of when to stop. I said, Maybe five years old. Mikko countered with "Maybe seven!" I guess we'll come to a compromise.

I'd rather not do a weaning party or other abrupt cutoff date, at least not at this point. For one thing, my maudlin sensibilities don't feel like celebrating the end of our nursing relationship. I know, I know, it's gone on for five years. Of course, on the one hand, I'll be glad to have it naturally phased out. But on the other hand, it's gone on for five years! It's all I've known with him! And I'm already feeling a little bereft at the thought of forging a new connection with him.

Instead I'm thinking further negotiation will be necessary. I'll suggest dropping one of the daily sessions, either morning or night. I'd like to drop night, because I'm usually putting both kids to bed alone, and it's a challenge, as mentioned above, to feed both of them. But I wonder if that's Mikko's favorite session, in which case we might need to drop morning instead.

I haven't broached this one yet, since I just thought of it … oh … yesterday. But that's step three.

Beyond that, I'd really like to get something special to remember our nursing relationship by. Maybe a weaning necklace or other keepsake for us to share.

I'd also like to continue our new, connecting traditions of back scratches (he'll even scratch mine occasionally! Score!) and lots of hugs. I think those will ease the transition into being a big kid who doesn't need nummies anymore to continue feeling loved and secure.

Here's another factor when I think of weaning Mikko: Sam and I have discussed having a third baby (so! fun!), in which case I know, for suresies, that I do not wish to nurse through pregnancy and tandem feed again. It was really painful on my nipples through pregnancy; my milk dried up, which was a bummer; and tandem nursing has been more burden than bliss. However, I say "do not wish" rather than "absolutely will not," because if we decide to have a child sooner rather than later (or if the universe decides for us), I don't want to cut Alrik off before he's had his share of the nummie goodness. I will say that it's been lovely to have tandem nursing to smooth over the sibling newness. I do think it's helped reduce rivalry, so yea for that. But, one way or another, I don't think triandeming is in the books for me. I really hope not!

So those are the first three steps of my plan, and we'll see how it goes from there.

What I believe

Here are truths I affirm:
  • It is totally legitimate to nurse a child until he wants to stop.
  • All children will eventually stop nursing.
  • Sometimes the weaning timing works out perfectly, but not always. Some children stop nursing before the parent is ready, and some parents want or need the nursing to stop before the child is ready.
  • It's totally legitimate for a breastfeeding parent to decide when to wean. (I've believed this for other parents, but giving permission to myself has been harder.)
  • Ideally, the weaning process, whether child- or parent-led (or a mix of both), will be gentle and respectful, though that doesn't mean the participants can't be sad or have strong emotional responses to the process.
  • Breastfeeding your child for any length of time is a gift, and those of us who practice long-term breastfeeding have done something good for our children that cannot be undone by weaning.

All right, that's my long-winded story of where we've been and where we're at. I'd appreciate any perspectives on what you would do (or did do) with an extended nursling who kept … on … extending the nursing. What are gentle ways to encourage weaning that preserve the relationship of trust you've built?



Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):


(This list will be live amind updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)

  • Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
  • Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
  • Weaning Aversion'Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced 'feeding aversion'.
  • Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma's evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
  • Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
  • Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn's super power is diminishing.
  • Reflections on Weaning - Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
  • Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for SuccessMudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
  • Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer's Daughter.
  • 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
  • Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
  • I thought about weaning... — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
  • Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
  • Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
  • Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
  • Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn't have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
  • Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
  • Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
  • Breastfeeding: If there's one thing I know for sure... — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it's time to wean?
  • Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.

34 comments:

Kara said...

I feel your pain about awkwardness from others when nursing an older child. My son turns 4 in July, and lucky for me, he's still in diapers too, so that seems to be more of a focus by the grandparents. I also have a 2 (tomorrow!) year old nursling who also insists on having milkies whenever big brother asks. Also, not a fan of nursing at the same time. My older son is down to morning, before bed, and the occasional daytime if he's hurt (physically or emotionally). We do plan on having more children and I'm counting on a dip in milk supply during a pregnancy to be the reason he weans. When he nursed through my second pregnancy, he really cut back, and often times it was me offering to him, just to get him to stay still for a minute! He was also 13 months when I got pregnant, and I felt like I was depriving him of milk he should have had, so I was pretty determined for him to still be nursing once the baby was born.

Well, this has gotten a little lengthy. Know there's others out there! You still nursing your almost 5 year old, makes me feel better, just like you hearing of a six year old helps you. I wish it was more socially acceptable, because I think a lot more children would benefit from extended (full-term) nursing, and I think a lot more mommies who do it, wouldn't have to feel embarrassed, or that they can only do it in their own home.

Sarah Beth said...

I had a nursing aversion that developed while I was pregnant. I felt very guilty when my daughter "self" weaned that maybe I had pushed her away too much due to the aversion. But she is happy and affectionate and we have found other ways to bond.

Also, I am reading The No Cry Sleep Solution and Pantley mentions that one of her techniques helped her wean her son. It involves making a book about your child that ends with your goal for them. She said after reading the book for a couple of months her son weaned gently.

theadventuresoflactatinggirl.com said...

I'll be honest, your post made me a little teary-eyed.

I totally get what you mean. All of it. The nursing aversion (currently battling that myself) and shame from others (however difficult it is to admit bothers me) even though Peanut is 3 rather than 5, I also know that people are talking behind our backs. I actually feel embarrassed when Peanut starts begging for "mama milk" in public. When she was younger I decided to call it what it is (milk) because I had nothing to be ashamed of and it is the true milk. When she started drinking cow's milk, it turned into mama milk. It's still obvious what it is, but the fact that I now do feel ashamed when she's asking for it while I'm having a conversation with, say, one of the other moms from her music class, makes me feel that shame. Then I feel guilt for feeling shame because I'm a lactivist for heaven's sake!

Anyway, the biggest part I really get is the sadness at not doing child-led weaning. I've always told other moms that mom matters just as much as the nursling does in the relationship, so they should only continue if they're happy. I'm finding it very difficult to take my own advice! I love the idea of Peanut just gradually ceasing to nurse on her own, but I just don't see it happening. I'm fairly sure that for her, she'd happily keep nursing to the high end of the biological norm. While I'm mostly happy with the idea of continuing to nurse, the idea of doing it another 3+ years makes me cringe.

Did Mikko react to Alrik's birth by nursing more? Before Twig was born, Peanut was nursing at naptime and bedtime. Now she's asking to nurse more often than Twig does. I think it might partially be my recent efforts to wean that freaked her out, but oh my goodness.

Cassie said...

Thank you Lauren. This really spoke to me. You know our babies are just a few days apart. But Mikko is older than my older one, my oldest is almost 3. I've been tandeming like you and every time you write about it it is almost exactly how I feel.
That feeling of not wanting to nurse the older one- BEEN THERE!! And I've had un gentle times of de latching,too. But I feel like, for us anyway, They were important steps to understand I can't nurse all. The. Time.
But then I read another post in this carnival. And the thought of my son weaning made me want I cry. He's only almost 3. It just really gets tiresome nursing both kids all the time. We've cut down too a little. Mostly before and after sleep.
I always joke with my husband that I'm weaning them both at the same time- but I wanna let my daughter nurse. I feel bad I'm burnt out nursing and she's not even one lol. So maybe when they are 2 and 4, when I want to get pregnant again.
Anyway even though it hasn't been perfect I still love the nursing with my older one sometimes. And I love that they have that special bond. And like you I'm glad I did it but I don't want to do it again!
Thanks again for writing this!!

Wendy said...

Wow. I agree with so many of your points. I, too, am ready...I think. But my son is not. We talk a lot about what it will be like when he doesn't drink milk anymore (usually while he's nursing, looking up at me.) I have given myself the permission to "nudge" him along, gently, while trying to let the process progress as naturally as possible. But most of all, I agree with your statement that you don't want to run screaming from the nursing relationship because it's become just too much to handle. It's nice to think it just ends organically at the perfect time, the way we hope...but it's also nice to think that people don't talk about us behind our backs, right? We can only do our best and follow our instincts, and it sounds like you're succeeding at both. Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences.

I'm a full-time mummy said...

Hi Lauren!
I feel for you when I read about your nursing aversion. You are one of the first few people I asked about (other than Dionna) when I started feeling the aversion as I tandem nursed my 2 kids.

And yes, I got over it. At 8 months going on 9 now, I am still tandem nursing them (38 months old and 8 months old)

As for my 1st child, I am practising the 'don't offer, don't refuse' method. If he doesn't ask for it, then don't offer. Anyway, he's down to once a day (always before his bedtime) and it's not even more than 2 minutes.

Like you, I want my breastfeeding journey with my kids to end in peace and to be a memorable one. I hope you'll achieve yours and thanks for sharing your experience!

Adrienne said...

Loved this post and thought it was a great prelude to the carnival of tandem nursing soon to come. I appreciate your honesty and (woo-hoo!) am excited that you're thinking of more offspring!!!!

ida said...

I feel like my post might not be totally supportive of the route you're trying to take, but I feel like it's worth saying anyway, if just to offer another perspective. What I'm seeing in your post is that you want to stop, you "can't take it anymore," but you don't think you should feel that way. And this is upsetting to me, because as much as there is pressure to ween before your kid can, say, in the "regular" world, there is also a huge amount of pressure to nurse your kid until they self-ween in the attachment community, which we internalize, unless the kid wants to quit early, and then we call it a nursing strike. (I understand that kids can truly go through things that make them strike very early which we should be helping them get through, but I just read a post from a mom who's kid didn't want to nurse anymore at 18 months, and she was forcing the screaming kid to the breast every couple hours which just didn't seem respectful to me.)


I'm probably in the minority in the attachment community -- maybe I'm not even a member because of this view -- but I feel sometimes we force ourselves to breastfeed as long as possible, even when we don't want to, or heck, even if the kid doesn't want to, because we feel we need to in order to be good attachment parents.

I thought for sure I was going to be a tandem nurser, but breastfeeding was just too painful and uncomfortable when I was pregnant that I ended up weening in the 2nd trimester. But you know, I'm okay with that. This nursing aversion is so common during pregnancy and I really believe that there is a reason for it -- that before we had the easy availability of nutrition that we have now, our bodies were telling us that there might not be enough nutrition available to nurse a toddler or preschooler, and support our own health, and grow a baby inside of us. Now, it's very rare these days that we can't sustain both nursing and pregnancy. But this built in desire to ween at this time may very well be, dare I say, natural.

Now, I'm not saying that tandem nursing or long-term nursing is unnatural at all. It's wonderful! But I feel like it's not the only "natural" choice. And if our bodies are telling us that it's time for the nursing relationship to come to a close, then it's okay for us to make that choice. And I know others feel differently, but I think it's not just our kids choice -- we have a right to respect what our bodies are telling us instead of feeling like we aren't allowed to listen to it. We are part of the nursing relationship too, and if it's no longer working for us then it's okay to lovingly close that chapter and start another one.

--Ida

Liz Fiorentino said...

I think Ida has a great point--the WHO recommends nursing for as long as it is MUTUALLY desired...and it sounds like half of the nursing pair here does not desire it at all! Don't beat yourself up; even those of us who support extended breastfeeding until the child chooses to wean may not be willing (or able) to reach that goal. He's almost 5--you've done GREAT! Your desire to breastfeed him this long will give him such a great start on the rest of his life. Just watch--he's going to live to 150 :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Kara: There's always something the grandparents need to focus on, huh?

I'd feel the same way about needing to nurse through pregnancy with a young nursling like that; I can understand your dilemma there. I also wish it was more socially acceptable so parents didn't feel like they have to cover it up.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Sarah Beth: That's kind of helpful that whatever limiting techniques you used for the aversion naturally put an end to the nursing; I'm glad bonding is still going well for you. I keep wondering if my limits will push Mikko to wean, but not so far. ;)

It's funny you mention a book, because I actually wrote a book about gentle weaning that Joni Rae from Tales of a Kitchen Witch is illustrating for me (beautifully!). I hope to publish it soon, and then it can be a resource for all of us in that situation.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@theadventuresoflactatinggirl.com: That's a big reason we stopped nursing in public around 3 — I couldn't take the attention anymore. Sometimes Mikko will still come up to me and hug my nummies and say out loud how much he loves them. That's a tad embarrassing, lol. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a kid-who-would-nurse-for-ev-er. And, yes, Mikko totally ramped up his nursing after my milk came in. I'd limited things a lot during pregnancy, and then I let him nurse more because he was so excited the milk was back. So then I had to reinstitute the limits, but it worked all right. It was really stressing me out having him demand nursing more than Alrik was, which is what you describe, too!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Cassie: I do that, too, where I cry imagining him fully weaned. It's kind of silly, considering how much I want to be done, that I'm so ambivalent about the ending. Ah, well! It's an emotional thing.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Wendy: Exactly — it would be nice, but I guess we have to deal with the reality, huh? Here's hoping we both find a good way through with the "nudging."

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@I'm a full-time mummy: I forgot how "don't offer, don't refuse" is a weaning method, because I've been doing it so long. :) Like, literally years! I'm so glad you've found a way past your own nursing aversion and that things seem to be tapering off peacefully as you're wanting. That's really lovely.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Adrienne: I do have a lot to say about tandem nursing! :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@ida: I totally get what you're saying and appreciate it. I actually do feel that some extreme voices in the attachment community promote the only-child-led approach, which is what left me feeling guilty. I also believe there's room for a much wider range of opinions on that score! And I don't think you (we) actually are the minority, just maybe not as vocal. ;)

I've done a lot of thinking about aversion and its role, too. I think as well that it probably could serve as a natural notice to conserve resources for the next baby. However, tandeming and long-term breastfeeding are both common enough (historically, globally, in certain cultures) that I don't know that it's mandated, yk?

Anyway, I agree with you, is what I'm saying. :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Liz Fiorentino: Oh, I totally agree. That's what I meant by saying I'd never preach to another mother that she should keep nursing if it wasn't desirable to her. It's just so dang hard to take that advice for myself! I've come to the point where I'm not averse to weaning; I just want it to be gentle rather than abrupt. Thanks for the encouragement, and here's hoping for 150! :)

heathermhs said...

I can relate to so much of this. Including the nursing aversions - without another pregnancy in the mix. DD just turned 3 and still nurses a LOT. I often wonder how our nursing experience is going to go from here. Thank you for sharing :)

Momma Jorje said...

I also use the "nursing" term just for Sasha specifically because she is the only one I nursed through a dry spell (pregnancy).

I have also wanted, desperately, for our nursing relationship to fade off on its own, with Sasha leading the way. But, like you, I've had intervene. For us, we also dropped to "Morning Milk" and mommy milk at bedtime. I quickly cut morning milk out, usually through distraction. If she didn't ask FIRST THING, she lost her opportunity. I felt a little mean about it.

I can NOT imagine nursing Mikko, Alrik, AND another baby! No thanks! I will say, though, perhaps another tandem would be different for you. I know it isn't hard for EVERYONE. Right? I sure hope not! It was HARD! As much effort as it took for me (lots of clenched teeth here, too), in the end I don't feel like it had a huge impact on their sibling relationship... but I don't know since I didn't try it any other way.

Now that we're down to 5 minutes of nursing at bedtime... funny, just today Elmo argued he thought it was really only 2 minutes, but I literally make a laptop postit note of the start and projected end time when she gets into my lap! - anyway, it will be the last to go. I'm hoping my mental health will hold out until her birthday... 4 more months. I suppose we will start truly preparing for it in a couple of months. I'm sure I'll miss it, despite having such a hard time with... holy crap, I guess it will have been at least half of our nursing relationship! That makes me kind of sad...

Jennifer said...

I thought I was some kind of horrible breastfeeder for wanting to tandem but HATING breastfeeding both at the same time. I just felt TRAPPED, "unable to defend us if danger struck" style.

I think no matter how weaning happens at this point, you have done a great job so far, and I am excited to hear how the next phase of parenting goes for you. Because I need to know what to do!

onefitmom.ca said...

It's okay to gently set limits at appropriate times in your child's development, just as you did with ending the nursing in public and nursing on demand several times per day. Some kids, if left to their own devices, would stay in diapers until school age, but nobody would ever criticize a parent for encouraging the potty learning process at an appropriate age.

If nursing an almost five year old is no longer working for you, and Mikko no longer requires it from a nutritional standpoint, it's okay to tell him that it's time to stop. The great thing is that he's old enough for you to have a two-way conversation about it, which is as gentle and respectful of a way to end things as I can imagine.

I would pick a day to wean, and gently let Mikko know the day before (not earlier - it will only cause anxiety since preschoolers don't have much sense of time) that it is going to be his last day of nummies. "After today, no more nummies." You can offer a brief explanation, or not, depending on how helpful you think that might be. Then tell him that instead of nummies, he will be able to have cuddles/kisses/scratches/etc. Perhaps you could get him a special comfort toy or start a new special ritual to give him the sense of moving on to something new rather than giving up something he loves.

The nursing is purely for comfort and affection at this point, so as long as you are offering a suitable alternative, you should not be made to feel that you are depriving him of anything.

You made it to almost five years - through pregnancy and more! Give yourself more credit and less guilt :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Momma Jorje: I have to say, I'm so, so relieved to have you around going through the same sort of thing. I don't mean I'm happy you've also found it challenging, just that I'm glad you know exactly what I mean!

I do wonder about the effect of tandem nursing on the sibling relationship, because, like you, we haven't tried another way. Alrik and Mikko's is really good, but then again, they have four years between them, so there's not as much room for rivalry there. I don't know, it seems like a good thing to me to smooth into sharing Mama with a sibling to not have to give up nummies at the same time. But I certainly know other siblings who've managed!

I also wonder if tandeming or nursing through pregnancy would be different next time. I hear from other breastfeeding mothers of multiple kids that each pregnancy is different when it comes to that, so maybe. I don't want to count on it being anything other than hard, though, since I know it can be.

Look — I'm leaving as long a response as your comment. Fancy that! :)

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@Jennifer: Ha! You're my guide for how to go to the next phase, since you're one kid ahead! :)

You're right about the trapped feeling — that's exactly it. I hate not having either hand free.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

@onefitmom.ca:I agree — if I were feeling like I needed to quit immediately, I would just need to do it. It's all right, though. I'm not feeling like a martyr at all. I've chosen this path, and I'm choosing still to continue through to a gentle, gradual weaning. That's what feels best for Mikko and for me, and I'm at peace with that as we find our way through. Thanks for the suggestions of how to talk with him about alternatives — that's helpful.

Inder-ific said...

Thanks for this thoughtful post! I've been wondering how it was going for you and Mikko. I can't relate on a specific level, as Joe tapered off breastfeeding before I got pregnant and then stopped altogether when my milk dried up (I admit, I did not exactly encourage him back onto the breast at this phase - OUCH).

I do relate to the wondering, though - in setting limits with Joe, I'm afraid that I pushed him to wean earlier than he was ready for? I think of that now and then and it's pretty bittersweet. I also relate to wanting the relationship to end on a good note - I am a little sad that our breastfeeding relationship ended at a time when I didn't want to nurse anymore because it just HURT, rather than being the slow tapering off that I had imagined it SHOULD be. Not that Joe seems the worse for it - he doesn't, at all. But I get the wondering.

Before weaning, I also felt very sad at the thought of ending our nursing relationship. And I do miss it a little bit. But we still get lots of snuggle time, and that helps.

Anyway, I think it's normal to feel a broad range of emotions around nursing an older child and weaning, and I appreciate your honesty!

Amy Willa said...

Oh, Lauren, I feel you *hugs*

I talked about this in the Carnival of Weaning - I wasn't averse or bothered by physically nursing Abbey, it is the intensity of her demands that were really eating at the relationship.

The idea that nursing past infancy is recc. when it is mutually beneficial/desired is what resonated most for me - I found myself then asking, "what would make this mutually beneficial?" "What changes would make it so that I would desire to breastfeed my child?"

I found that the answer was setting firmer limits with Abbey (despite the backlash that [still] happens). . . Abbey is a spirited child, and she is super intense and particular about the way she needs things to go, and distraught when things don't go the way that she needs. So, setting limits earlier on may or may not have been easier. . . I think probably easier on me, but harder on her. . . now that we're both comfortable with and used to my limits (no armpit massaging/torturing, only a little minute on each "mama", only twice per day (on average days) etc)

Anyway, *hugs*

I think that especially with breastfeeding, there are those who feel passionate about the ideal, and don't see that compromise is a better way to go.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Amy's posts have really helped me too, although I still tend to agree - the nails on the chalkboard feeling sums it up for me much of the time. By the way, I felt guilty starting to cut out Kieran's nursing sessions too (esp. right after Ailia was born), but that guilt has quickly subsided as I've realized that he truly doesn't miss them as much as I thought he would. Btw - I also have a couple of friends who nursed 6yo's, and they're both very normal, happy children ;)

(And Ida - I agree with you, and I don't think it makes either of us "less AP" than the next person.)

onefitmom.ca said...

@Lauren @ Hobo Mama
It was really interesting to read your post, as I had honestly not given much thought to how my little one will wean when the time comes. Before he was born, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of six months, and I knew I did not want to supplement with formula unless medically necessary (so basically, breastfeeding to at least a year), but I'd never considered how things might play out beyond that point.

We have been doing baby-led solids, and I guess I just assumed that sometime in his third year, he'd simply wake up one day and decide that steak is better than boob :) I now realize that was a completely naive idea, since breastfeeding is so much more than nutrition, especially as babies get older!

(Not) Maud said...

I was really lucky, when "still" nursing my four-year-old, to have two friends in the same position with their children. My son weaned by mutual agreement (but definitely more my idea than his) when he was four and a half, but my two friends kept going until 5. They only know of each other through me, and I think they both liked to hear that they were still not alone.

I felt the same way as you about nursing both my children at once - it wasn't pleasant at all for me. I tandem nursed for two years, but only the first few weeks of that included nursing both at once.

gentlemamamoon said...

Your truths are my truths also. Beautiful post :) I really enjoyed reading it.
My father was five when he was encouraged to wean by my Grandmother in Turkey (though by not particularly gentle methods - she put chilli on her nipples!). Full-term breast-feeding was the norm in the east in those days but he was the only one of her 6 children to nurse for so long and she found it hard I think as she'd had enough but he is a VERY willful character! My son has a similar temperament in some ways and I think had I not become pregnant and developed serious feeding-aversion along with losing supply, then he would possibly have gone on with it for just as long. As it is he has just weaned at 28 months old, and though it may not have been at a time when it was his choosing or when either of us were prepared, I am comforted remembering that it is a natural end to our "beeboo" time, of sorts.. in that my body chose because it knew I needed those resources for the new little one growing within. Still I have been grieving with my son and grappling with the guilt that comes with knowing that this has been hard on him when I so wanted it not to be.
Well I guess previous generations may say that is 'character building' not sure for who though!
He is unwell for the first time since weaning, it's been 3days of fevers and coughing, we've had A LOT of cuddles but I miss the "beeboo" super-magic now more than ever!

melissa v. said...

AWESOME post!! I'm behind on my blog reading these days so I had not read this yet! What a wonderful, honest look at the whole picture =) I feel this kind of authenticity in discussing extended breastfeeding (or 'full term') just cannot help but open minds and hearts to the idea in the first place, no matter how they feel about it.

Man, you just expressed so much of what I felt when I weaned Riley. So much! The joy, the aversions, the wanting to end peacefully on a high note but feeling conflicted, not enjoying tandem nursing but yet feeling proud that I did it and happy I got to experience it, and etc...

I have a friend from LLL whose oldest child is 6 1/2, and he still nurses on occasion. He's perfectly wonderful and well adjusted and happy. =) He's at the once every two to three weeks mark. When he was five and his sister was born, at one LLL meeting he came up and asked me, "Could you hold that baby so I can have some milk from my mommy?" SO HILARIOUS!! I happily obliged, of course. =P

I salute you. You're amazing. xo

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