Thursday, July 28, 2011

Weaning checklist

I keep meaning to do a post on weaning. I had one all planned out four months ago when Marko suddenly went from nursing every two hours to nursing three or four times a day. But then he went back to his old ways and I've begun to realize he just likes faking me out. He'll go a whole day with nursing only twice, and I think weaning is just around the corner. I obsess over what this means: He's not a baby anymore! I will miss nursing! On the other hand, should I be helping this process along to wean him sooner? Or should I try and encourage him to nurse more so he doesn't wean too soon?

Meanwhile, Marko's just moseying along, doing his own thing, going two steps forward and one step back. I'm finally going to admit I have no idea when he will be done. Lately his thing has been to demand "neenee," signing "milk" furiously with both hands, and then when I pick him up, he jerks away and says, "No! Cheese! Meat! Water! Juice!" or whatever. But he still does nurse several times a day. First thing in the morning, usually; before nap (until the past two days, when he fell asleep watching peaceful music videos with me); after nap; and whenever he happens to be feeling particularly clingy or cranky. He doesn't nurse to sleep at night anymore. (Sniff, sniff: that one was my favorite.)

I'm starting to feel more ready, myself. That is to say, I'm starting to feel really fed up with his antics, acrobatics, hair pulling, and so forth. The fact is, he's never been that into nursing. But he is really into pulling my hair. If I don't let him pull my hair, he generally won't nurse at all. This morning he was really cranky and insisted on "neenee," but the whole time he kept trying to plant his foot on my throat. No, thanks. And it didn't even make him less cranky at all. What he really wanted was my undivided attention. Nursing while reading blogs is no good. (Which was the main benefit of nursing before: guilt-free computer time!)

And then there's a little part of me that wonders if I will be able to get pregnant before he is completely weaned. I'm willing to wait awhile, but if he hits two and is still nursing, and I'm still not pregnant ... I think I'll be a bit more eager to be done. I don't want to push him into something he's not ready for just for the sake of a baby that doesn't exist yet -- but if he seems ready, I don't mind nudging him in that direction either. My plan was always to nurse him as long as he wanted, and then encourage weaning if I got pregnant ... but I don't really want to wait three years or more before having another baby. Of course, maybe nursing has nothing to do with it. I just don't know. But the concern is there.

As I think about whether or not to encourage weaning (by, say, offering a cup of milk or a snuggle or a book when he asks to nurse -- offers that he generally is happy to accept), I've been working out a checklist. It's a list of things I'd like him to be doing before he is completely weaned. Because if he hasn't reached all of these milestones, he isn't really ready. My fear is to wean him too soon, and then find out he still needs it later, when it's too late to go back.

*He has to be able to go to sleep reliably without nursing. This is mostly the case. His "no nursing" way to go to sleep at night is to take a walk in the stroller. Twice around the block usually does it, and he's easy to move into his bed. The only problem is that this won't work when fall comes and it gets rainy and cold. We're going to need a new "backup" strategy when nursing is no longer available as a fallback. Perhaps more praise-and-worship music videos... but I'd rather not make TV a habit, either. Hm.

*He has to be able to go to sleep again after he wakes up at night without nursing. He's sleeping through the night at least half the time now, but when he does wake up, nursing is the best thing to get him back to sleep. Sometimes rocking works ... but sometimes not. Before I let him stop nursing in the daytime, I'd have to try night-weaning and see if I can get him back to sleep reliably without nursing.

*He has to be able to snuggle without nursing. This is actually a new breakthrough that he seems to be reaching lately -- the ability to sit still in my arms without grabbing, pinching, fighting to get down and then screaming to get back up, or requiring me to bounce and walk around the house the whole time. Books help with that. He's just a really wiggly, active kid who has to be doing something or he can't sit still. But he's learned to pat my shoulder or stroke my arm, and he's also more interested in looking at pictures, so he is able to get snuggles without nursing ... in fact, maybe a little better without nursing. Seeing as nursing often leaves me with a toe in my eye.

*I'd prefer him to have all his teeth. So far, every time he seems like he's about to wean, he starts cutting a new tooth and suddenly wants to nurse all the time. It's a big source of comfort to him, and I'd hate for him to have sore gums and not be able to nurse when that's one of the main things that makes him feel better.

*This is a long shot, but I'd kind of like him to be potty-trained, or at least closer to potty training. Why? Well, kids often get constipated when they're training ... and mother's milk is the best remedy for constipation I know of. Still, I know it may be a long time before he's potty trained.

So, for now I'll focus on waiting for him to reach the milestones on this list. I'm not really into pushing him to achieve any of those, but as they happen naturally, I'll check them off. When he's reached them all, he may just wean on his own ... but if not, I may try a gentle nudge in that direction.

One thing I won't do is set down an ultimatum. If he really wants to nurse, he gets to nurse. I believe children have strong desires about nursing when they still need it ... that's why they feel that way about it! I don't want to feel that I have taken away something from him that he still wanted and needed -- that's like cutting up his pacifier and security blanket all in one day. (Metaphorically speaking -- he has no pacifier and has never taken to a lovey.) Whether his need is physical or emotional, I'm willing to let him have what he needs.

Moms who have been through this, I'd love to hear any advice or just plain comfort that you have. Somewhere inside me there's a sniffling mess curled up in a ball wailing "Why doesn't my baby need me anymore?" It may be that weaning me is going to be a lot more difficult than weaning him.


Maggie Smith said...

Some kids never want to stop nursing and you have to step in & end it no matter how much they want it. I had this experience with one of mine, who I finally forced to quit at age 4. Even when he was 5 yrs. he used to try to open my shirt and beg me for "snack." (Not attractive behavior for a 5 yr. old in public). I have 5 kids and the rest never did this, all stopped around 3 yrs. old. It just goes to show you that each child is different and some need a little pushing, while others are fine without any of your help.

Sheila said...

I have heard that most children become unable to nurse anymore when their adult teeth come in. In any event, when he's older I will be able to reason with him and explain the situation, so it's not like just cutting him off at two, before he could understand it.

Though I think the odds are slim that would get to that point. He might possibly spend ten minutes a day nursing ... often less. I think our nursing days are numbered.

mudpiemama said...

Just wanted to offer you hope that you can conceive while nursing and even keep nursing while pregnant, I did so twice and both times my boys were nearly two and self weaned! It was a big transition, no clue if the pg hormones made it worse on me but it made me teary eyed although happy that I never had to nudge them along at all, one day they were nursing two or three times and the next day with my first he just popped off the boob and said "all done" and that was 14 month old is still nursing, no end in sight ;) good luck!!

Anonymous said...

I also conceived twice while nursing, somewhat surprisingly since I followed all seven standards of ecological breastfeeding to a tee. My babies were still pretty young (9 months the first time and 11 months the second time) so I was very worried they would wean too early. I had heard that milk supply often decreases or the taste changes with pregnancy. Luckily, I was able to nurse through both pregnancies. My oldest son and daughter both had similar weaning experiences, they decreased their nursing sessions to about 3 times per day and stayed that way for about a month and then one day seemingly out of the blue abruptly stopped. I think it was definitely harder on me, I was all geared up for tandem nursing but both times the babies had other ideas. I am curious to see how things go with our littlest guy... he is already trying to sleep through the night at 3 months old, much, much earlier than big brother and big sister. It seems like you are very "tuned in" to Marko and by following your instincts the nursing process will go smoothly for you both :) Good luck!

Sheila said...

Well, I've been wanting to get pregnant for seven months now, and there are no obvious obstacles, but still nothing. I guess it depends on the person.

I guess we will see what happens. The past week he was nursing less and less -- like maybe ten minutes a day total -- and then yesterday and today he asked a lot more. Who knows what will happen in a month or two? Till then I'll just wait and follow his lead.

Sarah Faith said...

I tend to get pregnant when my husband winks at me from across a room, so I have to eco b/f like a maniac to keep from it -- but a friend of mine starts out her newborns at 4 hour nursing and sleep through the night - and she will not get pg or have a cycle until she weans (even 2 years). So it definitely depends on the person! I think you're right- you need to go by Marko's and your needs - there is no guarantee you'll even conceive again if you do wean and you wouldn't want regrets regarding how you rushed him off, should that be the case.
I've never weaned when NOT pregnant so I don't know what that's like, but I sure hope to one day. Ha ha . :) Vacation for TWO here we come!

Sheila said...

I know -- John said to me today, "Oh, when the baby's older, we can leave him with a babysitter for the weekend and go rough camping in the wilderness!" I was like, "What are the odds he'll still be an only child by then?" We still haven't left him with a babysitter ever, much less for a weekend. If we had family in the area, maybe when he was three or four ...? Except we don't. So I really don't foresee a weekend away for a LONG time.

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