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Writings on Motherhood, Judaism, and Happily-Ever-Afters

Weaning sucks

I’m a breastfeeding mom.  I nursed my oldest until she was eight months or so, Sam stopped when he was three and a half (or so) and Julie is still nursing at two.  Not only did I do it way longer than I ever planned to with Sam, I also nursed thru thrush, staph infections, multiple fissures, nipple confusion, nursing strikes and mastitis with Julianna.  I’ve gone down the road with this, and I’m so ready to stop.

First, let me say that I can’t imagine not nursing my babies.  It’s a fundamental part of the way I relate to my babies, it’s a big part of the way I define motherhood in the beginning.  The ability to immediately soothe and calm a baby – both Sam and Julianna were HUGE comfort nursers, and I encouraged it.  Why wouldn’t I?  It was EASY.  Perfect.  Jessie loved her pacifier, and nursed strictly to eat.  Once she had solids, she weaned on her own.  It was peaceful and gradual, and while she continued using her pacifier for years afterwards, I felt really good about that weaning experience.

Sam wouldn’t ever use a pacifier – believe me, I tried.  Really, really hard.  But he hated it, and for a very long time, would only calm down from nursing.  He nursed non stop.  I remember counting each time he latched on, starting with first thing in the morning and hitting 24 by two o’clock in the afternoon.  It wasn’t that he didn’t transition to solids easily enough, he loved to eat.  He just also loved to nurse.  He loved snuggling and settling down and relaxing.  It was… easy.  It was the perfect solution to whatever bothered him.  He was a child with huge stranger and separation anxiety and it seemed to reassure him.  It was a quick easy reconnect when we were apart, and stopped a tantrum cold with little to no effort on  my part.

But he just kept going.  It wasn’t unusual, in my circle of friends to nurse a toddler.  Two of my closest friends had babies around the same time, and both of them nursed until well after their kids were two.  But two came and went with Sam and he showed no interest in stopping.  I put off getting pregnant, he obviously wasn’t ready for a sibling.  I got tired of waiting for him to be ready and we conceived Julie in August.  He had turned three in July.  I nursed until I was four or five months along.   I just looked it up (and here’s why blogging comes in handy) he nursed for three years, five months and two weeks.  And that last five months or so was hellish.  I didn’t want to nurse, but he wasn’t ready to stop, and as much as I was ready, I wasn’t willing to make him miserable for it.

I hoped, oh, God, I hoped that Julie’s transition out of nursing would be easy.  Like Jessie’s.  Gradual, peaceful.  Just an outgrowing of the need.  It’s not happening.  She’s still a nursing little kidlet and shows no sign of outgrowing.  It’s simply her favorite.  I’ve moved way past don’t ask, don’t refuse.  I never, ever offer anymore, and refuse as often as possible.

The nursing relationship with Julie was so challenging at first – it seemed as though we spent the first four or five months struggling.  She went on a nursing strike on the third day and I was so devastated when she refused to nurse.  It ranks as one of the worst days of my life, I literally sobbed all day long.  Granted post-partum hormones obviously played into it, but still… that day, Sam’s circumcision, and the first day I went back to work three months after Jessica was born – they all measure about the same to me.  We got thru the nursing strike, went almost immediately into a case of thrush that was so bad it morphed into open cuts all over my nipple (TMI, I know…) and then into a staph infection.  AND I KEPT NURSING.

So it seems odd, now, after having fought so hard for this, that I’m desperate for it to stop.  Not desperate.  Just… yeah, I’m ready to be done.   Yes, it’s great that putting her to bed is a breeze, she nurses for a bit and goes right to sleep.  It’s an instant mood lifter, nothing tranforms a cranky toddler faster or heals a bump on the head like a couple of minutes of nursing.  But I’m tired of it.  I want to be done.  I feel like she’s grown up so much – she’s talking and walking and potty trained, and I’m just waiting for her to be done with this.

And pushing her to be done.  I refused to nurse her all day today, and she didn’t fight it that much.  I’m limiting it to just before nap and bed, I think, and I’m working towards night weaning as well.  I know that the day will come when she’s done, and there’s a part of me that’ll be sad, but not that much.  Mostly, I think I’m ready to move onto the next step – I just want her to be ready too.

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