When Chubs was about 18 or 19 months old, it got too much for me. All of the gentle rules I had put in place weren't enough. I was resenting feeds, and was frequently but inconsistently refusing. It was hard for Chubs to understand that the rule had become 'you can feed whenever you feel like it, if you ask nicely and sit properly as long as I'm not doing something else and I'm not in a cranky mood and I'm happy to feed, but feeding is driving me nuts so I don't want to feed you right now but I definately don't want to wean and even if I did I can't just cut you off straight away because I'm in a bad mood, so you can have a feed now because I know this is normal toddler behaviour but I'm not really happy about it, so I'll try to stall for a bit but then I know that's confusing so ok you can have a feed but don't expect me to be happy about it.' Not exactly simple or consistent or fair. We had lots of rules, but they weren't working.
As I had done many times before, I sought help. I emailed a breastfeeding counsellor, and received the reply of 'do we have the same child?!' With more advice and discussion with Dear Husband, we decided to wait until the disruption and chaos of the kitchen renovations were finished and then we would really cut Chubs' feeding back (but didn't have a plan about how to do so yet). It still didn't feel like time to wean, but breastfeeding wasn't working the way it was.
After we finished the renovations, things were ok again. She wasn't feeding for fifteen minutes, every twenty minutes. To share with you the clarity that hindsight gave me... No wonder she was feeding so much during the renos. For much of the time, my job was to keep Chubs away from the construction. Since most of the kitchen was stored in her bedroom, that pretty much left the high chair and my lap. We would go out as much as we could, but you can wander around the shops from wake up til bedtime. At least, not everyday. Plus, you can't do baths there. What does she like doing when she's sitting on my lap? Breastfeed. Not always, but a lot of the time, so when she's there all day, breastfeeds it was. I was offering too - breastfeeding can help to convince a toddler to sit still (heck, never mind the nutrition and immune and comfort reasons - this alone is reason enough to keep going!) Obviously, it was also a time of great change - every day she got home there was more stuff missing and/ or more stuff in. The home she's always knows was literally being torn up around her - no wonder she was seeking comfort and reassurance.
As the renovations finished up (over-time and over-budget, of course) she had room to run and play. Much more room, since we knocked out a wall and improved the storage. To quote Mayim Bialik - the world beyond my breast was calling. She certainly didn't wean as Bialik's son did, but she did cut down her feeds. Things were managable again.
Night times were great too, especially with Chubs in her own bed. Unlike many other mothers, feeding to sleep and feeding during the night don't really bother me. I mean, I'm a sucker for an uninterrupted night's sleep as anyone else, but total sleep time has always meant more to me than the number of times I've woken. Generally when Chubs 'sleeps through' she's up for the day at 5:30am -ugh. I much prefer a weekend sleep in until 7am. (Sigh - I remember when 11am was a Saturday sleep in. At least I think I do - perhaps it's an exhaustion induced hallucination.) Anyway, many mothers night wean first, but I figure we'll night wean when the effort of feeding is greater than the effort of night weaning, and we're not there yet. That said, Chubs sleeps through probably five nights a week, and most of her night feeds are 5am PleaseForTheLoveOfGodGoBackToSleepIt'sWayTooBloodyEarly feeds. So to all of those people who said that cosleeping and feeding to sleep was a bad idea - our two year old generally sleeps through in her own bed, mostly without overnight feeds, using gentle sleeping techniques and almost no night weaning techniques. Works for us!
Day time feeds were another issue. After the renovations things settled down again and continued on for a few months, but before long the all familiar situation returned. The constant feeding, my inconsistent responses, the stress and frustration for all. At about 21/ 22 months, Dear Husband and I made a decision that after her birthday we would day wean. We felt that we had reached the point where, on the balance of everything, it was better to (day) wean than to continue breastfeeding. I was using all the rules that I could think of or had heard of which worked, and it still wasn't enough. (There are many 'nursing manners' suggestions which I haven't mentioned, but some are better for older children, or children with different personalities and so on.) To restore sanity, I wanted to deal with the feeds that were stressing me out the most, and keep the feeds which we enjoyed. As I mentioned, many women want night feeds to go earlier so they night wean first, but it was the day time ones which were on the chopping block for us.
Once we had made the decision TO day wean, then next thing was to decide HOW to wean. I did have a bit of a chuckle when someone mentioned 'don't offer don't refuse' as a weaning technique - if that was going to work we would have weaned months ago! Some people suggested a special chair (wouldn't really work for us), or cutting down the length of feeds rather than the frequency (we already used counting for going back ON the breast when she was messing about, not getting off and I'd tried a song with no success). Others suggested cards (but I didn't think she was old enough to understand, nevermind the logistics of keeping track of them) or reading weaning stories (no good, she just wanted more Mummy Milk whenever she saw a breast!) All of the suggestions are great toddler weaning ones (and there were many more) but they just weren't going to cut it. Sadly, if gentle was going to work, we wouldn't have been in this position.
The more we thought about it, the more we talked about it, cold turkey (day) weaning was going to be the best way. Not particularly gentle on the face of it, but ultimately what we felt would be best, like ripping off a bandaid. More inconsistency and fuss wasn't going to meet Chubs' needs, so in many ways cold turkey was the most gentle as it would be quickand consistent, not drag it out and changing the plan all the time. Here is another crucial point - it's not just about what Chubs needs. Contrary to what she (and all other toddlers) might think, she is not the only person in the world who matters. She matters a great, great deal, but me and my needs matter too. As she gets older, I get to call some of the shots. A newborn pretty much gets her needs met whenever, however and by whoever she wants - a toddler is learning patience, respect and consideration. I don't want Chubs to learn that she can get whatever she wants all the time with no boundaries at the expense of someone else's wants and needs. This was also about teaching her that breastfeeding is a relationship, and in a relationship both people matter.
After we decided that cold turkey day weaning would be better in this situation than stretching it out, we wanted to make it as gentle as we could. We were the ones changing the rules on her. We were the ones who were deciding that what was preciously and acceptable and even encouraged behaviour for her whole entire life was now suddenly not allowed. So we did what we did for all changes. We picked a date (her birthday party, not her actual birthday as to me it was more significant for her) and we talked about it. 'Chubs, after you're party you'll be a big girl and you won't need Mummy milk in the daytime any more.' We pointed out friends of hers who were 'big kids' who didn't have Mummy milk in the daytime - mind you, we know lots of families who feed for many months/ years, so we had to look closely at who it was before pointing this out! Since breastfeeding has been a big part of her life we encouraged her to feed her toys and other breastfeeding play that she was already doing. She's a very funny kid and often jokes about having 'Daddy milk' or 'Nanny milk' or 'Auntie milk' so it's very much a part of her world.
We prepared ourselves, Dear Husband and I decided what we would do. Only Mummy Milk at night, and at daycare pick up. (In the end I added in day time nap feeds too, although naps are few and far between now.) We prepared our neighbours across the street, across town and across the country for the screaming. This was not going to be pretty.
Once we made this decision, it was actually quite strange. I didn't mind feeding any more. Once I knew there was an end point, it was tolerable. It was quite the Catch 22. I even considered not day weaning because feeding wasn't bugging me anymore, but that would be like bringing Schrodinger's cat back to life before you killed it, so we continued with the plan.
Her birthday came and I posted this on my Facebook
To my unintentional WHO baby, thank you for the privilege of breastfeeding you for the last two years. I never planned to feed you as long as this, but it hasn't felt like time to stop for either of us yet. Despite biting issues, lipase/ scalding issues, gymnurstics and small amounts of cracked nipples, thrush and reflux, this has been an amazing gift, both from me to you and from you to me. I will always remember what it's like both to be a working/ pumping mother, and to nurse a wonderfully wild toddler - both are their own unique kind of crazy. To those who supported us even if it 'wasn't your thing', to those who taught me so much, to those who listened and offered support; thank you. To my darling husband - thank you for your unwavering love and support.
This has been a wonderful journey for our little family, and I will be forever grateful x
This has been a wonderful journey for our little family, and I will be forever grateful x
It was actually quite emotional that night. Yes it was my precious girl's birthday, but actually feeding her until her birthday - putting a tick in that 'two years' box was strange. I'd never set out to feed for two years. I never had any timeframe in mind actually. I had a vague plan of day weaning at twelve months, but I also had the plan that we wouldn't watch TV all day long, too. Nothing had really changed since the day before, or the week before, but that actual day was strange. It was a very similiar feeling to how I felt after Dear Husband and I got married. We still loved each other as much, and but for a date on the calendar and some traditions it was only 24 hours later, but it still felt weird. Good weird, but weird none the less.
We had her party that weekend (photos of cake to come soon, I promise). I had prepared myself for a last feed during the day, but as it was the beyond-breast world was too exciting, and she didn't ask all day long. Oh the irony - this was exactly what I wanted, and tomorrow it would be oh so different.