“I am gonna nurse,” declared my then two-year- old son, as he stomped his foot and yelled at me defiantly.
I had started to slowly wean him, no longer nursing when he woke up from a nap-which he just did-and he was mad. I was distraught and broken hearted. I knew in my gut I wanted to wean him. I loved nursing, I loved every minute of my two years of doing it. But I was starting to resent it. I felt like my son was the one in charge. I was done. This I knew.
“Come on, let’s go outside and I’ll pull you in the wagon,” I offered. Distraction was a big part of our weaning process. Distraction and heartache. After what felt like an eternity, but was only five minutes of crying, he moved on, got in the wagon and was happy again. The tears were followed by small victories, repeatedly for about a week, until he was officially weaned. My husband, my son and I all high fived when he made it through the biggest accomplishment, a full night with no nursing. He was proud. I was amazed to have my first four hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep in two years.
I also weaned my daughter at age two. Again, I knew I was done. This was confirmed one day with the following scene. My daughter preferred to nurse on the left “nurser” as she called it. She was refusing to switch to the other “nurser,” and therefore it was engorged and in pain. I told her sweetly, “you have to nurse on the other side now.”
"She said "no. "
“Yes come on, it hurts if you don’t,” I explained.
She said no, I said yes, she said no, I said yes and then she said, with all the eye rolling attitude of a teenager “fine this nurser.” Yep, it was time to wean.
When I was in the throes of weaning it was all encompassing, all I thought and read about. The dread of when and how to do it, the actual doing it. I worried I would scar them forever, as they begged to nurse and I refused. But we did it. I realize now that once that parenting mountain is climbed, there’s another one, and then another. There are so many opportunities to scar them!
If you are thinking about or in the process of weaning, be gentle with yourself. Have some good mama friends to reach out for support. Follow your inner guide. Do it at the time you choose, because you know it’s right for you and your baby.
As far as practical advice, what worked for me was planning a week where I knew I could succumb to being exhausted. Exhaustion from lack of sleep and from all the extra energy needed to bounce into some fabulous activity for distraction, when it would have been easier to plop down on the couch and nurse. I needed time and focus to hold my little one as they cried. All the while reassuring them how much I loved them.
I refer to weaning as a journey. The timing and process of weaning is a personal and individual experience. What works for one may not work for another. My son was easier than my daughter to wean. She is still the more stubborn one. She doesn’t go down with out a fight on anything. It’s just who she is. In retrospect both of my kids weaning stories reflect who they are today. Which is proof as to how personal it is; there is no one way to wean. By the way, my kids and I now laugh together when I retell the story of “I am gonna nurse” and “this nurser.” I guess they aren’t too scarred from it.
One thing I wish I had during my weaning time was a picture book to read with them. I wanted to write a book that would be appropriate for anyone who is weaning, regardless of style. I decided to use animals since babies and toddlers easily relate to animals. If you decide to get the book for you and your little one, I hope it helps in even the smallest way. You can do this! It seems daunting but it will happen and everyone will be okay.