It seems like everyone I know nursed straight through pregnancy and then tandem nursed afterwards. (Tandem nursing is nursing two children during the same time period.) I know that isn't true. The ones who weaned during pregnancy just never happened to mention it, because it's the more common thing to do. But as I read my blogs each day, I keep on coming across more and more about nursing during pregnancy and tandem nursing. Assuring me that it's okay. Assuring me that it's normal. Assuring me that it is totally the best thing to do. Articles like this one and this one and this one.
I understand that. It's not as common a choice as it seems from my point of view, and those who do it often don't know anyone else who does. They think they have to wean when they get pregnant, and the fact is, they don't. They can if they want to, or they can choose not to.
You never have to wean as long as everything's normal. Nursing never becomes physically or psychologically damaging. The length of an average nursing relationship is cultural: some cultures, like the !Kung in Africa, do it for four years or more. In Biblical times, three years was taken as pretty standard. And in Mongolia, sometimes the youngest child nurses till six or seven because no one really cares if they do. Sooner or later, whether you do anything about it or not, every child weans. At the very latest, when their permanent teeth start coming it, they lose their latch. No child ever graduated from high school still breastfeeding. So there's no need to worry.
However, sometimes mothers just don't want to wait six or seven years to be done nursing ... especially if they have other children! There are so many reasons why mothers choose to wean. Just the other day a woman was asking for advice online because she had to wean her toddler to get back on medication she needed. Some women demanded, "Will you die without it? Then why are you forcing her to wean?" I don't think that's fair at all. Making the sacrifice of going without a needed medication for a whole year is very selfless -- no need to make her sound like a terrible mother because she doesn't want to do it for three years.
On the other hand, I also don't really like the advice I see where moms are told to just wean cold turkey, along with the not-so-comforting addition, "My son screamed bloody murder for a few days, but then he was fine." Isn't it kind of traumatic to take something that has been a source of nourishment and comfort for a child's whole life and just say, "Nope, you can't have it anymore because you're a big boy"? I've heard that approach likened to taking a child's baby blanket away from him and nailing it on the wall out of reach. "Oh, it's still here. And I could get it for you if I wanted. But you're just going to have to look at it all day and know you can't have it."
So that isn't what I wanted to do. I decided to wean gently, a little a time, and being okay with going backwards for awhile during a stressful time. I've got nine months (well, seven now). I don't have to be done today. For the main part, I feel good about this decision. I think Marko's ready, or will be soon, and that he will be okay without nursing.
But I guess I just wish there was a little more out there that affirmed my current experience. I want a blog post by a mom who did wean during pregnancy -- and had it go well. Some tips might be nice. Some commiseration might be nice. I guess I just want what I always want ... someone else to tell me I'm doing the right thing.
Why am I choosing to wean? Well, a number of reasons. The idea of nursing two is just overwhelming and scary to me. I know it might be okay. But what if it's not, and I hate and resent it? I can't exactly change my mind on a dime here. And it's not that I haven't seen it done -- I have. But the women who do it always seem to have kind of mixed feelings about it. I want to feel good about showing affection to my toddler when I have a new baby -- not touched-out because I'm nursing around the clock. Nursing a newborn is really time-consuming as it is.
I also am aware that most women lose their milk supply at some point in pregnancy. At that time, many children wean naturally. It seems like an easier time to do it than later might be. Though I know nursing my son till he's five would not do him any harm, I just ... don't ... really ... want ... to. I want to be done in the foreseeable future. I never intended to nurse him longer than a year when he was born, so I am aware that I could easily change my mind. But it seems so convenient to work on weaning during pregnancy.
But then when I actually did get pregnant, I felt completely decided. Why? The PAIN. Oh the pain. Some women have no pain while nursing during pregnancy. Some have a little. And some, like me it turns out, have awful, terrible, excruciating pain. So far I am handling it fine. Twice a day for now, and knowing we'll be done soon? I can take that. But I can't imagine how I would deal with it if he were still nursing on demand, and there were no end in sight. I would find myself feeling resentful and angry. I have no objection to mothers "being martyrs" if we want to. I mean, we have to go through labor. It's not like suffering pain for your child is something out of left field. But if you've had enough, and it's driving you crazy, and the amount of good it's doing your child seems to be much less than the amount of harm it's doing you? You don't have to do that if you don't want to.
So, there it is. Marko is fine. He has never "screamed bloody murder" because if nothing else will comfort him besides nursing, he gets nursing. Honestly, though, that hardly ever happens. Generally, the offer to play outside, rock in the rocking chair, or read a book is happily accepted. So I think I'm agonizing over it a heck of a lot more than he is.
Has anyone else weaned during pregnancy? How did it go?