April 1, 2012

Eliminating morning nursing (our weaning saga continues)


I wrote my first post about nursing a toddler - "To Wean or Not to Wean?" - in early November. Clearly I decided it wasn't time yet, because here I am five months later, still writing about how to wean my little Honey Bee. Although I've set some limits and eliminated our after-nap/after-work nurse, Bee still nurses three times a day. Weaning has been a slow process, mainly because my ambivalence often results in inertia. I can't decide what I want to do, so I just keep doing what I'm doing and figuring when I'm ready, I'll know it. And I keep hoping Bee will wean himself, although all signs point pretty clearly to Not-Gonna-Happen.

If I mention I am starting to feel ready to be done with breastfeeding, the response I usually get is, "Yes, Bee is getting too old for that." An interesting response, because I've never suggested his age had anything to do with it. His age isn't the issue for me at all. It is always the time involved.

Last week it dawned on me that when Zippy starts school in the fall, I might be able to cram all of my work at the office into two long days rather than three shorter ones, if I just go to work earlier. You know, if I start rolling up in the joint before 9:30 a.m., like a normal person. If I arrived at 8:00, I could do 9-hour days, freeing up an entire day to do things at home - like write and be a classroom helper and write and scrub the toilets and, um, write? But if you've been reading Musing Momma for any length of time, you probably know I am not a morning person. Getting out the door to start work at 8:00 would mean I'd have to be quick in the morning. That would be easier if I didn't need to nurse Bee for 30 minutes.

That is all still a few months away, but for some reason the prospect of a more efficient morning suddenly became my motivator. I may not be ready to end nursing entirely, but oh if I could only have some of that time back in the morning! Of course, Momma guilt settled in. Like, am I really going to take this away from Bee for my own convenience? Any suggestion that we deviate from our nursing routine is usually met with a sobbing tantrum. I'm not sure if he is flipping out because he's a toddler or because he is truly devastated at not getting to nurse. If it's just a normal tantrum, I'd let him cry it out. But the thing is I'm not sure - maybe he's feeling completely confused and abandoned - and I don't want to be the source of that. Is weaning an infant this complicated? I can't remember. It seemed easier.

Momma guilt not withstanding, I decided that I would try not nursing in the morning and see how Bee responded. I came up with two strategies:
  1. When I go to Bee's room in the morning, I'd bring a sippy of milk and crackers for him. Maybe if he has something else to fill his little belly, he won't be so preoccupied with nursing. 
  2. Whatever I do, I will not sit in our nursing chair. Because this would be a big fat invitation to climb up on my lap and ask for the boobie.
Guess what? It's working! We're three days in and although Bee has asked to nurse a handful of times, we haven't had any tears about not breastfeeding in the morning. He is surprisingly excited about the crackers, and once he eats a little bit and I distract him with books he is fine. Initially I avoided calling any extra attention to the change in routine, but today when he asked to nurse I started putting some words to it: "We'll nurse at bedtime. We drink our milk and have crackers in the morning." Then I try to playfully distract him with books or tickles or a song. Thank goodness for the 2-year-old attention span (or lack thereof). 

Our morning routine isn't any shorter - yet. My first goal is for him to adjust to not nursing when he gets out of his crib, and I realize that means lots of snuggles and activity for now. We'll worry about the rest later.  

Photo by Christy Scherrer via Flickr. Some rights reserved.