Weaning

June 23, 2016

I remember when all three of my children weaned.

My plan for Phoebe was to nurse for one year.

I figured I could avoid formula and bottles if I nursed her for twelve months.

At my baby shower for her I received 36 bottles! I had not registered for anything and told people I would be breastfeeding. We did not have a dishwasher. The thought of washing bottles overwhelmed me and made me want to breastfeed even more.

Laziness was a motivating factor initially in some of my parenting choices. Breastfeeding and co-sleeping were the bomb!

Though we struggled together initially, nursing became an extension of my mothering Phoebe.

As her first birthday approached I got anxious about the weaning process. How would I do it? Who would it benefit? How would I calm a tantrum or get her to sleep?

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Phoebe’s birthday came and went and we kept nursing. As her second birthday approached I felt conflicted. We both loved nursing but I was thinking of having another baby. I feared nursing was suppressing my fertility. My friends were having their second babies and I wanted to get pregnant.

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I was able to leave her with Rob, my mother-in-law or a couple of choice baby sitters but we were attached.

I started pushing her away and she started holding on for dear life. The more I pushed away the tighter her grip on me. Once I noticed this I softened my approach and embraced her.

I spoke to a dear friend and mentor, Kate. I asked her about weaning. Weaning so I could have a brother or sister for Phoebe. Kate saw the conflict. She knew nursing was important to me and so was expanding my family.

“Don’t sacrifice the child you have now for a child that may never be.”

At another time that may have upset me but this made so much sense. I relaxed my need to wean.

I also had met women who were tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler. I knew getting pregnant was not impossible.

We hit Phoebe’s third birthday. She was nursing but not every day. Some days a few times and others she went to bed with out nursing.

A few months past her third birthday she climbed onto my lap to nurse.

“Ouch, that hurts!” I told her.

“I will try the other side,” she struggled.

“Ouch,” I said.

“There is no milk. I will save it for my sister and brother.”

That was the last time she nursed.

It was a sweet weaning. No fanfare, no bribes or celebrations. She was simply done.

When Chloe came along I had no designs on weaning at a set time. I figured she would wean around age three. My children are big and by the time Phoebe weaned she was the size of a five-year-old.

When Chloe was two and a half years old I became pregnant and expected she would wean by the time the baby was born. I was open to tandem nursing but I was open to weaning too.

Chloe nursing at the World Walk for Breastfeeding NYC 2002

In the second trimester I miscarried. It was good to have a nursing toddler to manage the milk that filled my breast for the baby that never came.

I got pregnant again when Chloe was three and a half years old. Chloe loved the silky shirt of a pair of my pajamas. She would run it back and forth between her hands while nursing. Shirt-shirt was its name. One night as I lay down with her to nurse before sleep she struggled and pulled off.

She said, “There is no milk. I have Shirt-shirt and Cup-cup. Chloe rolled over and fell asleep. She was a month shy of her fourth birthday.

Finn was born six months later. We struggled so much to get nursing going. He had a terrible tongue-tie. It was only partially released. I often think that if he had been my first I would never have breastfed. I would have had a completely different life.

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Finn was my last baby and he and I were both exceptionally vulnerable. When he was born he was small and yellow. I was mourning the loss of my mother, definitely postpartum depressed.

Once we got past the breastfeeding challenges we fell into a nice step. He was my little savior. Finn gave me focus. He demanded my attention.

He nursed past first birthday, past his second and third birthdays. I was a new territory nursing a four-year-old. I wondered if we would make it to his fifth birthday.

I felt ambivalent when Finn was four years and nine months. Our family had the opportunity to spend a long weekend in London. Rob was concerned that the time difference would be unpleasant for preschooler. Rob and Phoebe were going to see The Who. Chloe and I had tickets to see Billy Elliott on the West End. What would we do with Finn? Rob’s mom agreed to spend the weekend with Finn. We weren’t  nursing every day but still, how could I leave my little buddy for four days? I left tentatively. We had a great time. When we arrived home Finn looked at me with a serious face. My heart sank, was angry with me? He ran to his room and came out with a smile showing me a toy that Grammy had gotten him. He never asked nurse again. Twelve years of nursing done.

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Weaning”


  1. Wow, this post was so much heavier and more emotional of a read than I expected. We have three as well, and whilst my wife has breastfed all three, about the only similarity to yours was our design that we could avoid the formula / bottle washing apocalypse if we focused on breastfeeding.

  2. Daisy Burton Says:

    This made me quite teary. Really emotional post. I’m still breastfeeding at 9 months and want to keep going for as long as my little boy wants to. Like you however, I will want to start trying for a second baby in the next couple of years. I’m going to go with the flow and if it happens it happens. That advice you received about not sacrificing your current child for one you may never have was spot on.


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