Well, I survived my first night on the journey to weaning Liam. This is a hard topic for me as a mother who so far has equated breastfeeding with mothering and who is on the brink of publishing a nursing-positive board book for children.
Two weeks ago, I started seriously considering whether I would need to gently encourage the weaning process for my 2.5-year-old son. My fertility seemed to be down and I was feeling emotionally drained and heavy, having just miscarried again. My body was giving me signs that I shouldn’t try to combine nursing with becoming pregnant, despite that fact that many women are able nurse throughout a pregnancy and beyond. Liam spotted me one moment after I was crying in my husband’s arms, touched me gently and said with encouragement, “You can try again.”
So, weaning felt like an increasingly necessary duty but one that brought me no joy. I was mourning for more than one reason; I actually sobbed multiple times at the thought of deliberately redirecting Liam away from nursing and at the realization that one day, as a result, he would forget how to do it. And, knowing that particular form of bonding and emotional closeness would be over.
The idea of mother-encouraged weaning is foreign for me because so far, I’ve tried to let my parenting approach be child-led, meaning that I don’t actively guide him through milestones but rather, let him take the lead. I reached out on a gentle weaning Facebook group, asking for support. Was it supposed to be hard? Was I too attached? Or was I not ready? I texted with my best friends too, also nursing moms. They empathized with me and one suggested that I just take a break from thinking about this for awhile. No rush.
I allowed myself to heal, and nurse, and be fully present. Treasuring those breastfeeding moments early in the morning as we woke up, or in the bathtub floating together in warm water, or winding down before bed in the warm lamplight, listening to Putumayo lullabies in different languages. I read about weaning and talked to a midwife and to friends who had been through it. There seemed to be many schools of thought, no one good time or method, and I learned that many moms feel grief, guilt, relief, or any other complex mix of emotions during the process. And I heard that there is light at the end of the tunnel -- the special loving relationship with my child could and would continue, though the bonding would take different forms.
My challenge was to conjure up a plan that felt good to me, was gentle and nurturing as possible, honored my son’s needs, and could be flexible. And my first goal is to cut down from two daily sessions (morning and night) to just one in the morning. Here’s what I tried tonight:
Overall, the plan went really well. He asked for “milkie” a few times and I had to swallow a lump in my throat as I talked positively through the new routine and asked to wait until morning. He didn’t protest too much and just tried some regular stalling before bed before we finally convinced him to come look at the candle in his dark bedroom with dad which looked just like a campfire. He went down easily for bed. And I came downstairs to capture these thoughts.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. – Psalm 131:2