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This phrase was my toddler’s special way of asking to nurse. He didn’t just ask to nurse…he always let me know exactly where he wanted to nurse. “Nurse chair?” or “Nurse couch?” or “Nurse Mommy bed?” were the most frequent requests. This time it was the rocking chair in his bedroom. He wanted to nurse before bed, as usual.
I remember feeling frustrated and tired. It had been a rough few weeks. Ezra and I had both had a rough flu bug that left us housebound for several weeks and Ezra asking to nurse every few hours. Then there was the molars…another situation that often led to extra nursing. We had just gotten home from our Life Group meeting and it was already an hour past Ezra’s bedtime.
The last thing I wanted to do was nurse my squirmy almost-29-month-old little boy.
No Ezra. Not tonight. Let’s just rock.
Without asking again, he just cuddled down into my arms to rock. He fell asleep almost instantly, and didn’t cry at all when I laid him down and walked out of the room.
The next morning, as was our new routine, I made him stay in his room until I was ready to face the day. When I went in to see him, he only asked for a banana.
48 hours later, I was still saying no.
Wednesday night after putting him down the same ways as I had the two nights before, I felt myself start to hope. Could this weaning thing FINALLY be happening?
I never imagined that I would still be nursing a child at almost 29 months. At my first La Leche League meeting when Ezra was only six weeks old, I had seen a fellow mother nursing her 19 month old and I about died from the…weirdness. Seriously…isn’t that kid a little big to be nursing?
But when Ezra was about 2 months old and I was throwing myself into research into all-things-attachment-parenting, I stumbled upon this article on nursing a toddler that kinda got me “warmed up” to the idea of nursing past a year. I didn’t immediately make any decisions on how long I was going to nurse, but I wasn’t as grossed out at the idea.
Some time after Ezra’s first birthday, I started to look into weaning. I really liked the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method of weaning. It’s simple. If the kid asks to nurse, nurse him. If he doesn’t, then don’t bring it up.
There was only one problem: Ezra was still asking to nurse all. the. time. I quickly realized that I was going to have to start refusing to stay sane, or I would still be nursing him as if he were an infant. Nursing every two hours is okay when you have a 3 month old. Not so much when you have a 12 month old.
So I started saying no. A lot. With the busy-ness of toddlerhood, I did find that we were nursing less without too many issues. It didn’t stop him from asking, but he could usually be distracted by a snack, apple juice, or an episode of Thomas.
When Ezra was 16 months old, my husband and I went away for a night and I had 23 hours of non-nursing bliss. And again just before his second birthday…another night away. So I knew that it was possible to go longer stretches without nursing.
But he just wouldn’t stop asking! I kept waiting for that magical day when I realized “Oh, it’s been x amount of days and he hasn’t asked to nurse! WOW!” But it just wasn’t happening.
When Ezra was 26 months old, I had to go away for a four-day conference. I was so hopeful that the time apart would kick-start the weaning process. Maybe he will just forget about it?!?! Ezra did fine while I was gone. No trouble at all for my mother-in-law and my husband who were watching him. He met me at the door upon my return, all smiles and giggles. The first words giggled out of his mouth were “Nuuuurrrrse Mommy? Nuuuurrrssse?”
Are you kidding me?!?!
It was this experience that made me realize that this child probably wasn’t going to self-wean anytime in the next
100 years year, and I wasn’t really sure that I was happy about that. Don’t get me wrong, I fought long and hard to get this child to nurse, and I have thanked God for breastfeeding almost every day that Ezra’s been alive. But I was just tired of it. Really really tired. The combination of teeth, a less-than-stellar latch, and Ezra’s long squirmy body have just made things uncomfortable for me, even painful at times.
But I felt it would be unfair to force him to wean simply because I was tired of it. He seemed to really need it. Everything I read about the “natural” approach to weaning was that weaning should happen when both mom and baby are ready.
So what do you do when mom is beyond ready, but baby isn’t even close to being ready?
I mused on this issue for months really, considering my options, Ezra’s personality, Ezra’s health, and the future of our lives as a family. I had several conflicting factors bouncing around my brain.
- I wanted to continue nursing through the winter to help boost Ezra’s immune system and keep him from getting sick.
- I wanted a “nursing break” between Ezra and our next baby, and we aren’t sure when that is going to be (as it is heavily dependent on what kind of job my husband gets and where and when we are moving).
- I knew that moves can be somewhat traumatic on little children, and I wondered if continuing to nurse through the move would be helpful or even necessary to help Ezra with the transition. (Or perhaps I should wean before moving to get it out of the way?)
- I guessed that, based on some of the times I had told Ezra “no” and it had resulted in huge crying fits, that forcing him to wean would be emotionally hard on him. I figured that to wean with this approach would take one or two very long weeks of crying and screaming, and I wasn’t ready to go through that, or put him through that.
I couldn’t really come to any decisions. Then someone suggested that perhaps we use our upcoming move as a catalyst to help him wean. “You’re a big boy! You are going to get a big boy bed in a new big boy house! Once we move there you won’t nurse anymore!”
I liked this plan. But we still didn’t know when we were moving, so I just continued to nurse as normal. Usually just first thing in the morning and just before bed.
Then my husband had an interview for a position that could have had us moving at the very end of February. We had vacation time scheduled for the first week of February in case we needed to travel to look at housing. While we were waiting to hear back about the job, we discussed tentative plans to take a trip during that week, leaving Ezra at our home with one of his grandmas. Now that would be a convenient time to wean!
So that was the plan. Then we found out that my husband didn’t get selected for the job, and we weren’t moving any time soon. Now I was frustrated and discouraged about life in general…just coming off of illness, winter blues, extra nursing, spending hours researching housing and preparing to move–only to find that it wasn’t the case.
That’s where I was that night when I said no.
But when those first 48 hours went so smoothly, with no crying, that I wondered…
What would happen if I kept saying no?
So I tried it.
There’s been no crying, no screaming fits. When he asks to nurse (he still asks about once every 3-4 days), I just say “No Ezra, you’re a big boy now. We’re all done nursing.” And then he cuddles into my arms and falls asleep.
It’s been five weeks, and I’m still shocked at how easy weaning has been.
I don’t remember the last time I nursed him. I mean, I remember when it was…January 28th, first thing in the morning…but I don’t actually remember doing it. It wasn’t this momentous “this is the last time we are nursing” kind of thing. We just stopped.
And we are both okay. More than okay actually.
Rocking instead of nursing is actually working better to calm Ezra down to sleep. He’s crying himself less frequently every week. More nights than not, he simply crawls into bed and goes to sleep. Or he will get up, turn the light on, and play for a while, He’s also waking up happier and just starts playing in his room. The same thing is happening at nap time! I’m really still in awe about how easy this transition has been and how easy the whole sleep issue has become.
I’m enjoying the “getting my body back,” shedding pounds, and all the extra rest and sleep that I’ve been getting. I feel so much more sane as a mother. I know for sure that I did the right thing!
Part of me wishes that I had weaned earlier. But I think that this time was just the right time. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so easy a few months ago. I’ll never really know.
Nursing a child is a beautiful and precious thing, and I feel so blessed to have had the privilege of nursing Ezra for almost 29 months.
But weaning is a beautiful and precious thing as well.
Even when it happens unexpectedly.