I'm the sort of person who makes big decisions based on my innermost feelings about a topic. I like to call it "moving with inspiration." This sort of living is not usually based on logic or rational thinking but rather, asking myself the question: "Am I being moved to do this now?" If the answer is no, I usually stay still, and wait. I've gotten better at waiting over the years, and trusting that process.
The last time I wrote about the weaning journey, four months ago, I was experimenting with a ritual to wean my two and a half year old gently. I tried it for a week or so and Liam indeed started nursing less. However, it never sat entirely right with me because I did not like the thought that I was orchestrating the process in any way. Nursing is a relationship with so many benefits for my son, and one that I still loved, deep down. The reason I was considering weaning was not because I was positively attracted to it, but rather because I was trying to increase my fertility to avoid miscarrying again.
I don't remember the exact moment that I abandoned the "weaning plan," but it may have been around the time that I got pregnant again. Simultaneous to cutting back on breastfeeding, I was pursuing acupuncture for fertility with an acupuncturist who I trusted and who had treated me successfully for a recurring infection a few years back. Acupuncture, with its Eastern roots, is a healing art that I find mysterious. I usually turn to it for situations where home remedies and conventional medicine have nothing else to say; in this case, to balance fertility hormones that seemed out of whack in me.
After eight acupuncture treatments, I felt that the pregnancy was well-established -- I had gotten farther along than the last one. My acupuncturist agreed, wishing me heartfelt congratulations and good luck. In the meantime, we were still in the depths of a Virginia winter, and Liam in his first year of preschool, picking up a new virus every week or so. I didn't hesitate to let him pick up again and breastfeed more when he needed the immunities, or closeness. These days, he nurses once every 1-2 days, usually in the morning. I can tell that natural weaning may be approaching; the quality of his latch is changing, he gets distracted more easily. I have a loose goal in my mind of nursing him until at least his 3rd birthday (approaching quickly, in March) -- maybe because I was impacted by research I read that cultural factors aside, the natural weaning age for humans is around 3 years old on average.
But you know what? That's a goal I'll keep open as well. Baby #2 is scheduled for a summer arrival, so I'll pay close attention to the impact of occasional toddler nursing on my body, energy, and mood, especially as the birth is approaching.
The good news is that experimenting with weaning is reversible, so if you are like me, you can stay present, trust your instincts, and see what works for you and your child. And enjoy, deeply, those extra warm, reclined snuggles with your little one which you never imagined you would still be having.
I am thrilled to share that my board book celebrating breastfeeding through the ages and stages, A Nursing Love Poem, is now available for purchase! You can find it on Amazon or purchase it from me directly for a 20% discount over the Amazon price. Just send me a note at michelle (at) findmybalance.org.
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
At my first “Morning for You” in September, I remember these moments:
Thanks to money raised, we contributed $200 to Generation Hope though a special campaign that doubled our donation. Thank you to all!
Though new babies and moms tend to steal the show, dads and partners play an indispensable supporting role. I found out just how wonderful my husband’s hands-on support was after the birth of our son earlier this year. It really does take (at least) two to raise a child. Here are some practical ways that husbands can help support their wives and babies after the birth.
You know what? By following these tips, my husband was the star of the show (in my book). We’ll see if he’s up for an encore in a year or two.