to wean or not to wean...

>> Friday, November 9, 2007

This is the question floating in my head.... My son is 19months old and has always loved to nurse. He is a big comfort nurser, wants to nurse to sleep even now. And I have SO enjoyed nursing. All the cuddle time, the satisfaction of being able to nourish and comfort him in that way. I love his little eyes looking up at me. I especially love when he tries to laugh or smile during mid-latch. That is so funny. I still love to nurse him... sometimes.

pictures: Lucas nursing @ 4months, from a mommy's eye view

The problem has become that my milk supply has substantially dropped off. I stopped pumping 'cuz I hate it. He only nurses 1-3x day when he first wakes up and before bedtimes and occasionally when he needs comforting. My supply is not gone completely but I don't think he gets enough per feed to fill his tummy. But he doesn't really care. He just wants to sit there, latched on, until he falls asleep or something better comes along. It gets very agitating to me, somewhat painful, for him to nurse with those shallow sucks for extended periods of time. He went through a phase where he didn't seem that interested and now he asks to nurse ALL the time. He has been waking up at 4:45 and I have been trying to bring him into our bed and nurse to get him to fall back asleep. He nurses for 30-45minutes but doesn't fall back asleep. He just wants to lay there and nurse until he is done which I have no idea how long that would take. I get agitated and physically uncomfortable long before he reaches that point.

He seems old enough to wean, I mean I know he is. But he asks for it and it still calms him and comforts him so much. I don't want to give up this soothing-tool for times like airline travel or falls when it is the easiest and most efficient way to calm and quiet him. I love the bond, the closeness. Weaning would be a concrete sign that my little baby is no longer really a baby. Those are the emotional reasons. But is the physical evidence contradicting? I think I want to nurse, but I am ready for him to be done after about 10min and he is just getting started. Not because he is getting feed physically, but because it is soothing to him. I know he is going through so many developmental things and learning about the world around him. He likes the comfort or closeness with mama (and I do too) but I can't ignore that I get physically uncomfortable if it goes on too long. How do I ignore his precious pleas for "more nursies" with the cute signs we taught him and his big brown eyes staring at me longingly? I feel selfish and torn. I want to cuddle my baby and meet his every need... does it have to be in this way? How do meet these same emotional needs (for me and for him) in a way that is soothing and pleasant for us both.

I am so conflicted. My hubby sees how agitated it makes me (I'm sorry I keep using that word- it is just so descriptive of how I get) and tells me to wean. But I don't know if I can do that to Lucas. Or if I want to.


Heather November 9, 2007 at 2:24 PM  

Oh that's a really hard decision Farrah!

I would have nursed Peanut longer then 20 months if she'd wanted to, but I was really lucky that she self-weaned. Then I didn't have to feel like I was taking it away from her. I think that would be the hardest part. Not that mama initiated weaning at this age is a bad idea if you decide to do it--just that I can see how it could be hard.

By Lucas' age Peanut was only nursing liek 5-10 minutes at a time. A 30-45 minute session would probably have bothered me. And certainly been uncomfortable for me in bed. ;-) I really can't sleep and nurse at the same time very well--I'm too light of a sleeper.

Maybe ask KB about it? She might have some good tips.

I know that sometimes toddlers can be taught "nursing manners," but not sure how/if that would work/look like with a 19month old.

Catherine November 9, 2007 at 4:01 PM  

Wow Farrah. I guess I'm grateful that I didn't have to think about this one. So, I guess the only helpful thing I have to say is that Asher also LOVED nursing...but when it was gone, he found other things and ways to fill the comfort need. So, if you decide its best for you, I don't think you need to tell yourself that you're taking away his source of comfort...just shifting it. Maybe?

TwoSquareMeals November 9, 2007 at 9:35 PM  

Calvin weaned himself at 14 months, and I weaned Hobbes around that same age because we were going to England. He was already down to once a day and was not terribly interested in that. So I had it easy.

I know this is a controversial issue, but if you are "agitated" then I would try weaning slowly. I think Catherine is right that you could shift the source of comfort.
Try cuddling and singing or reading instead of nursing at the session that he is usually least interested in. Give him a sippy cup or something. Do that for a while before you try dropping another session. If he resists, you don't have to push it.

If you are miserable, he is old enough to be encouraged to wean a bit. It may take a few months of give and take before y'all get it figured out, but he is well attached and will find other ways to get comfort from you.

On a related note, did you see that YouTube video of the woman who breastfed her daughters until they were like 8 or 9? I am fine with child-led weaning, to a point. But at some point the kids need to learn that they are not the complete center of the universe. Those girls seemed really spoiled. Weird. Not that you will do that with Lucas. I just can't get that video out of my mind anytime anyone talks about weaning.

Rachael November 10, 2007 at 12:21 AM  

It sounds like setting some firm nursing boundaries would really help the situation and preserve your nursing relationship while respecting your needs too. I have set nursing boundaries with David and it has helped me a lot.

The non-nutritive sucking is really annoying to me too, so I limit it and then tell him 'all done' and he knows that means nursing is done and I will cuddle instead or we can go do something else.

Nursing doesn't have to be all or nothing - either full-on whenever he wants and however long, or else full weaning. There are steps inbetween that recognize his need to nurse and your need for limits - since he's older he can begin to learn the give and take of a relationship and how to compromise.


Atwood-Family of 3 November 10, 2007 at 7:27 AM  

Hi Farrah! How I wish i were in your situation (I think). You know what I find really interesting? Recently I have thought about how if Anne still nursed, she would for sure be nursing more at this age than she did a few months ago. Recently she has been VERY clingy and VERY cuddly, which is just unlike her. So i wonder if L wanting to nurse more is a developmental thing of toddlers needing their mama more at this age for some reason.

I recently told John and I could completely see nursing a kid til they are 18 months, even if i were anti-nursing because i really believe they are still babies. If I were anti-nursing I would think nursing beyond 18 months wasn't necessary because they really turn into toddlers and kids at that point. Obviously I'm for nursing and right now if my next kid wants to nurse until he/she is 4 i'm ok w/ that. (But that's not being in the situation.) If I were getting agitated, I know myself and I know that I wouldn't be able to keep it up because I would get so frustrated at my kid and be a worse mom. When Anne would nurse for 15 or 20 minutes total, i would get annoyed, if it were in the middle of the night or before a nap/bed when i couldn't watch TV or something. So anyway, those are not answers, just my thoughts on extended nursing. As yo know, I still mourn Anne weaning, and just this morning told John I wished she still nursed.

Heather November 10, 2007 at 9:51 PM  

I am so glad that we have a while before facing this. So I can't offer any wisdom - sorry! Thanks for the connent you left on my site. No, I didn't make the dress. That is far beyond my capabilities!

Crunchy Domestic Goddess November 11, 2007 at 3:06 PM  

this is a hard decision and i think, as hard as it may be, you really need to weigh your feelings about it as well as his. because if you are resenting him for nursing, it won't do anyone any good.
that said, i also don't think you have to decide right now whether or not to wean.
i think setting some boundaries on how long he can nurse and at what times might be helpful. i think he's old enough to understand that nursing during x time is ok, but nursing at y time is not. kwim?

i've been where you are and i kept at it (nursing), but i did place boundaries and limitations. and now here i am, still nursing a nearly 3 1/2 yr old once per day (as well as a nearly 1 yr old).

hugs. you will figure out what will work best for you and your family. :)

Farrah November 12, 2007 at 10:11 AM  

Thanks so much y'all for your helpful comments. It is good to hear that it doesn't have to be all of nothing. I think the idea of setting boundaries is good too.

Rachael and Amy- any specifics you could share about the boundaries you set would be so helpful... like a time limit or only at certain times of the day?

Thanks for your support. I love having a community of helpful mamas around me!! :)

Rachael November 12, 2007 at 11:16 PM  

I really love nursing my toddler, so although the following list of boundaries could sound negative, don't take it that way. They're just different things i've worked on with David over the past months.

Here are the limits i have set:

1. No reaching down my shirt or pulling on the neck of my tshirt. Whenever he did that I would remove his hand and state "Do not pull on mommy's shirt" (or "Do not put your hand down my shirt")

2. No twiddling/rubbing the other breast. Whenever he would do that I would remove his hand and make sure my other breast was covered. He fussed about this at first but then adjusted since i was consistent about it each time

3. No incessant switching of sides. He really only did this when falling asleep at night but it was annoying so I would keep him on one side only for awhile and only allow switching once or twice per session, instead of once or twice per minute.

4. No nursing in public. I'm just not comfortable doing that with David at his age and with him being unpredictable with his discreetness (i.e., 'latch on/latch off/look around/repeat').

5. If we just nursed and he asks to do so again (say 10 minutes later) I will say "No, later" and distract him with something else. He doesn't have a concept of time so I can't say "We'll nurse again in an hour", I just rely heavily on distraction, offering other food/beverage, etc...

6. I established a cue word for being done nursing. For us, it's 'all done' and David knows when i say that and unlatch him (or he asks to nurse and I am not ready to yet so iay "no, all done") what will happen.

7. Nighttime nursing limits. I just finished nightweaning him, and my standard is i will nurse him wshen i put him to sleep, and then nit again until 5am or later. Any other time he wakes up i put him back to sleep other ways and say 'all done' to cue him and it works well.


Anonymous November 15, 2007 at 1:01 PM  

Giving a drink of water before a nursing session really helped my 2 yr old feel more full after a nursing session (my milk production was way down by then). With liquid in his tummy, he seemed to be more content and not linger so long. Now, at 27 months, he nurses only once a day and instead comes to me for snuggles and reading in the big chair.

Mommy hugs!

Earthmommy November 15, 2007 at 2:06 PM  

Oh this is a tough one! I agree that setting boundaries might be good. You might also want to use the time while he is nursing to read or something else like that. Also, now is a great time to try subbing in a lovey and helping him learn other ways to comfort. The book "No Cry Sleep Solutions for Babies and Toddlers" by Elizabeth Pantley has a fabulous chapter on slowly ending night nursing too.

Hang in there cause you are a wonderful, loving mom and this is just a brief moment in time.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) November 19, 2007 at 1:13 AM  

"Agitated" is the perfect word. I know exactly what you mean. I hit that point with my son when he was about 15 months old. For us, weaning was the answer, but that was because he really didn't care all that much anymore. It actually was really easy and I didn't realize until after the fact that "hey, I guess three days ago was our last nursing session...shouldn't I feel sad about that or something?" :)

If your son is still desiring comfort nursing, and you want to give him that option, then my suggestion would be to limit his time nursing. He's old enough to understand the idea of a timer, even, if you wanted to go that route. Then after you are done nursing, you could try putting on some music and cuddle/dancing with him, or read him special stories while snuggling, or wear him in the sling while you go for a walk - something very comfort-focused but that doesn't involve him sucking on you. :)

Good luck as you make your decision!

Baby Love Slings


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