February 7, 2012

Weaning: Part III (or, The Process Continues)


Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m ready to be done with this nursing thing. Although I figured this time would come, it also surprises me. I have loved nursing Bee. I’m proud that we’ve gone so long and I’ve cherished the experience. Since Hubby and I won’t be having any more kids, I know that once Bee is weaned, this beautiful part of my parenting journey will be over.  When Zippy was a baby I fully expected I’d nurse again with #2, so somehow weaning him wasn’t a particularly emotional experience for me. But all along with Bee I’ve been aware that once we are done I won’t be doing this again.

I still love nursing. It’s the TIME that it takes that is becoming more and more of a burden and as Bee has gotten older, adding that time to our routine has started to feel like a big, fat inconvenience.  First, we add an extra 15 or 20 minutes to an already hectic morning routine. Then 10 or 15 before nap, another few minutes after nap, and finally the bedtime nurse. On the days Bee attends daycare, he has a Nurse-Fest as soon as he arrives home. I used to see this as a wonderful luxury – I would get to chill with my baby, feet up, while Hubby cooked dinner. Now I feel like I am being held hostage on the couch by a mini-tyrant who does acrobatics on my lap and occasionally stops to check out what everyone else is up to, but refuses to let me get up and join the action.

The other part of this is that the more time I spend nursing Bee, the less I can choose to spend that time meeting his brother’s needs or helping Hubby. Once I finally get Bee down for nap, I may rush through Zippy’s stories so that I can get my much-needed afternoon break. I know Zippy would like me to put him to bed more often, but my husband usually does it instead, so I can nurse the little(r) one.  And at the end of a long day, Hubby is stuck making dinner, feeding the dogs, getting the mail, and so on, while I nurse. He doesn't complain, but I wish I could help out more.

About three months ago we got away from on-demand nursing. We’ve since managed to keep a nursing routine of four times per day. So I decided last week that the next step is to cut out one of those feedings. The post-nap / post-daycare session seemed the best candidate. If my husband can get Bee home from daycare and snacking at the kitchen table before I walk in the door, we can usually get away with not nursing until bedtime. I was going to visit my sister for the weekend, so I thought if Hubby picked up the boys Friday and then I was gone all weekend, we’d be on our way to 3 times /day. The weekend went well and I was hopeful. 

Yesterday Bee woke from his nap. I picked him up and whisked him downstairs before he could ask to nurse. “We’re going to watch Zippy play basketball! Let’s have a snack before we go!” I said enthusiastically. Poor baby was not having it. “I want nurse,” he informed me. I reassured him we would nurse at bedtime. That didn’t fly. Tears ensued. Bee walked himself right back up to his room, where I found him sitting in his chair – our nursing chair – sobbing. The tears were making big wet spots on the seat. It breaks my heart just writing about it. I remembered what Hubby told me the last time we talked about Bee nursing: “He wants to nurse. He doesn’t need to nurse.” 

Okay, let’s define “need.” Sure, he will survive without nursing. He doesn’t need it for sustenance anymore, although he undoubtedly gets lots of great nutrients from breast milk and it continues to be good for his health and mine. He is able to be comforted during the day without nursing, so he doesn’t necessarily need it as a way to cope when he’s upset. Yet, this has been a part of his day-to-day for 2 years. It is part of his routine, which we know helps give kids a sense of safety and predictability. But once we get over this hump he’ll settle into our new routine unscarred. Okay, so I know he doesn’t “need” it. The needs filled by nursing can be filled in other ways. But he sure wants it. And, part of me feels guilty taking this from him – even a little bit – when he doesn’t want to give it up.  That part of me wanted to rush in yesterday, snuggle him up, and let him nurse. 

But, I didn’t. Because the part of me that is ready to have a little more freedom in our day was stronger than the part that wanted to make Bee feel better IMMEDIATELY. I knew it was going to be tough, just like when we stopped nursing on demand, but he’d be okay. He tantrummed, like he tantrums about so many things these days (that is another post in itself). I did my best to comfort and reassure him. And 20 minutes later, we were on our way to basketball practice, where Bee sat happily on my lap eating crackers and looking at books. It was okay. He was okay.

And today? Not a tear after nap. He didn't even ask for it!

Check out Weaning (sort of), Part 1 and Part 2