Friday, February 02, 2007

My Breasts 2, or, Haven't You Stopped that YET?

Yes, I’m still doing THAT. Yes, he is two and two-thirds years old. Yes, the end is in sight.

I have discovered that after a certain point, most people no longer ask if you’re still nursing. I’m not sure if they assume that no one could possibly still be nursing a child who is toilet-trained, or if they assume that I am out of my mind and will never wean him so there’s no point in asking, or if they’re too horrified even to ask, but the questions have pretty much dried up. Heh.

Until recently, I was fibbing a little about how much he was nursing, just to keep people off my back, I guess. People would say, “Oh, he still nurses a little at bedtime?” And I’d answer, “Something like that.” Which was only a lie if “something like that” doesn’t include also nursing 1) first thing when I got home from work 2) 4:30 in the morning 3) 7:00 in the morning and 4) pretty much all day on weekends.

The weekend days were the first to go, soon after his second birthday. It was getting so that Mondays I’d have to wear an industrial-strength bra to rein in two very confused and pissed-off breasts by late afternoon. He tolerated this restriction pretty well, so I moved on to: the 7:00 am snack, which was making me late to work almost every day. That change made him cranky, but he was cranky in the mornings regardless (this has changed since I, the über-dork, got a sunrise clock—but more on that another time).

We were stalled there for a while; the habit of insisting on nursing the second I walked through the front door seemed unbreakable. Then something unexpected occurred: he learned that Weaning Happens.

I’m not sure if I thought that he already knew this (I had cut him back, after all), or if I thought it was too esoteric a concept, but it surprised me.

It happened one evening as I nursed him after work. I said, “You’re a lucky little boy, you know.”

“Yeah,” he said, and went back to the fount.

“Not every little boy gets to nurse, you know,” I said.

He paused for a moment, considering this. Then he started to list every toddler he knows who nurses.

“Sydney nurses,” he said.

“You’re right, she does nurse.”

“Baby Jake nurses,” he said.

“Yes, he does,” I said.

“Lucas nurses,” he continued.

“Actually, no, Lucas doesn’t nurse anymore,” I answered.

He stopped and stared at me in shock. Then his face crumpled up. He buried his face in his hands and started sobbing.

I realized that up until then, he assumed that some kids nurse, and some don’t. He hadn’t understood that it would someday stop, poor kid. I had just rocked his world.

“It’s ok, it’s ok!” I said, hugging him. “Lucas drinks milk from a cup now! He likes it! He’s happy!”

“Yeah,” he said, tearfully and doubtfully, and went back to the supply that he now knew to be endangered.

For the next few days, anytime anyone mentioned Lucas, he would announce, “Lucas drinks milk from a CUP!” But more significantly, he started to ask for milk in a cup. Up until then, he had always refused to drink milk from a cup unless he was at daycare.

The evening session disappeared not too long after that. I noticed that he also became less clingy; he’s not as unhappy to let go of me now that he doesn’t see me as a human binky, I suppose.

I had worried that the 4:30 session would be hard to quit, because he could find the goods on his own, after all (he has a toddler bed, which he stays in for a couple of hours before making the trip to our bed). But a couple of times I woke up enough to stop him and offer him a cup of milk I keep on the bedside table. This pissed him off at first—once, after refusing it, he actually went to the trouble of sliding out of bed, getting the cup from the table, flinging it across the room, then climbing back into bed—but he usually settled down pretty quickly. Soon, of course, he quit waking up at all.

Yes, people, I had to wait almost three years for my child to sleep through the night. Point and laugh if you will. I’m not ashamed.

Now the routine is, nurse for about two minutes, then drink some milk from a cup, then lie down and go to sleep. And that’s the only nursing we ever do anymore (ok, ok, I admit it, last weekend when a tile floor smacked him in the face and he got his first-ever nosebleed, my instincts took over and I yanked up my shirt. It startled him into stopping crying, too—he looked as if money had started to rain from the sky. Later he half-heartedly asked for it again, but didn’t seemed shocked when I said, no, only for bedtime).

I think we’ll hang here for a little while. No sense in rushing things, after all.

31 comments:

Amber Lawbyrd said...

I had this hazy idea in my mind, when I had my first child that he would eventually wean himself. I was committed to child-led weaning. I kept waiting for the day when the desire to nurse would slack off. In the end, it took a lot of talking and redirecting and crying on both sides, with him weaning-by-contract when he went to kindergarten. My second son had seen the whole process (I tandem nursed them for 3 of those 5 years), and so we reinforced the same ideas with discussions about eventual weaning when he went to kindergarten. It's been four months, and he still wistfully tells me he wishes he could still nurse once in a while. I'm down to one nursling, my last child, and I don't know what I'll do with myself when I actually sleep more than three or four hours in a row. The one thing I learned is that for our family, at least "child-led weaning" really evolved into weaning-by-contract. It's funny, because I have friends who really wanted to nurse longer, and their kids just weren't interested anymore. The variation between kids and their needs is amazing and inexplicable.

Orange said...

Point and laugh? Okay, since you mentioned it.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that a better routine would be "nurse for about two minutes, then drink some milk from a cup, brush his teeth (or at least rinse with water), then lie down and go to sleep." I'm guessing you already have that step covered.

And thank you—bless your heart!—for saying "two and two-thirds years old" instead of that abomination, "2.8 years," in which months are mistaken for tenths of a year.

Erin said...

I miss nursing P. He stopped by (mostly) mutual agreement when he was 18 months old. He's now 3 and 1/6, and I still miss it. Especially since I probably won't get to do it again. Nursing was the easiest part of being a mother--tough at first, but once we figured it out, it was so great.

It sounds like you're working it out just right for both of you.

abogada said...

We're still nursing, at two years, five months. The sessions keep getting shorter and shorter, but the frequency really hasn't. If I want another, I will have to wean (infertility meds). I am so not looking forward to that. Congratulations on your gentle approach. Your little guy is very lucky.

JK said...

I'm glad someone else is still doing that.

We're still nursing once a day at 2 years 8 months. I'm also (tandem) nursing her little sister. I've been encouraging weaning... We still have the first thing in the morning nurse going, and a quickie at night.

My Mom gave me a "When are you going to stop nursing her?" talk the other day.... I said when she decides. My Mom rolled her eyes (we were on the phone and I heard her roll them). She said, "I can't believe you let them make decisions."

I think this will turn into a blog post on my own blog...

Do what's right for you and him.

thumbscre.ws said...

"... he looked as if money had started to rain from the sky." Bwa ha! Gotta love that knee-jerk "child hurt - stick boob in it!" response. I wonder how soon that will go away? When J.Q. was little and was upset over having his diaper changed by someone else, I'd sometimes rush over, unleash a tit, suspend myself over his shrieky little head and let him have at.

Did HellBoy ever learn the actual-factual words for the process and the equipment? If not, kudos. One of the big factors in my own nascent* weaning process is J.Q.'s charming little habit of yelling, "NURSE! NURSE! NURSE! BOOB!" and yanking up my shirt while, say, riding in a shopping cart.

* ("NURSE NURSE NURSE!" "No!" "NURSE!" "Maybe later." "Nurse? Boob?" "Oh, fine, whatever." "[suck suck suck suck suck]")

Marsha said...

My daughter turned three yesterday and she sleeps through the night maybe twice a week. And she isn't nursing. So nursing or not is no guarantee of a decent night's sleep. I used to think so, but I have been soundly and thoroughly disabused of that notion.

Anonymous said...

Funny the differences. Mine both self-weaned, my son at 15 months and my daughter the day before her first birthday. One big bite for me and a grab for the sippy cup and that was her.

Fiona

JMB said...

I find it interesting that he showed such an attachment, and was able to express how much he would miss it. Weanning, whether it be child-lead or otherwise isn't fun for anyone.

My son didn't seem to mind the loss too much, but sitting here four months later, I still find myself missing it. We had to stop due to starting infertility treatments again, and it was necessary, but it's still tough. My admiration for you for going this long-I wish we could have.

legalmama said...

I was not so committed to nursing when I had my son. I thought I would give it a try, but didn't commit to more than six weeks. I was certainy never going to be one of those mothers who is still nursing her child when he can walk and talk. We had an awful time teaching him to latch at first, and I think we managed to get nursing down at all only because I had a c-section and a few extra days in the hospital with a dedicated lactation consultant who spent hours in my hospital room shoving my boob in his mouth over and over again. And then I grew to love it. It was very healing after my infertility, to have my body do something right.

By about 14 months, he had a mouthful of extremely sharp teeth, and nursing started getting painful, and I was scheduled to be out of town on business, and it just ended one day. No drama, no trauma. I nursed him once and it hurt so much that I cried, and no technique would help. So he got a bottle the next time and the next time, and he just lost interest, and we were done.

My twin girls were preemies, and couldn't nurse for a long time, and one could never latch, even with many expensive sessions with n LC, so I pumped for one, and nursed the other, and couldn't keep up my supply no matter what I did, so we only nursed for about 7 months for them. Sad, I never had the same nursing relationship with them as I did with my son.

So good for you. Although his breaking down in sobs when he realized it wouldn't go on forever almost made me cry.

MJ said...

Children should sleep through the night? In their own beds? Really? i must explain that to my 5.5 year old son who comes into my bed almost every night. His sister--same age--comes only about 3 nights per week. (And, no they're not being nursed. It's just my loving personality that draws them in.)

JF said...

Mj...thats my thought's too, my 5 and a half year old and sometimes my 7 year old still come into our bed in the night...my 5 1/2 year old asks me almost every night "I can sleep with you in the middle of the night. Right?" he puts the word "right" after almost every statement or question it's cute.

Northwoods Baby said...

Perp is two and eleven-twelfths and still nurses at least thrice daily (fractions AND fancy talk!). Dude is 11 months tomorrow and shows about as many signs of weaning as Perp does.

I don't know that she understands the idea of not having her na-na one day. I'm not quite sure how to introduce that concept, either. So for now I take the path of least resistance and she has her snort first thing, naptime, bedtime, andif she gets hurt. And if she's sad. And, and, and.

ozma said...

I'm seriously impressed with your parenting skills and here's why:

I went until two, got stuck in a city on a business trip and then realized that was my chance to end it. So I went for it.

Crazily, I did not want to really because I knew that she did not want to. (I let her make all the big decisions in our lives!) I did realize that it would be easier for me to get work done if I weaned, though and that also decided it for me.

Girl loved LOVED her breastmilk. Honestly, a giant Elmo cake with frosting v. the breast? She'd pick the breast every time. I would read these books about self-weaning. I have several relations that nursed until past five. I was not optimistic that she would self-wean before Jr. High School.

Things did not work out so well in the end because I let her have a bottle as a substitute and then she got hooked on that and on milk. As if we lived with an alcoholic, we started watering down her milk. Before we thought of that, the quantity of milk she drank was frightful but that lasted a short time. Now she is drinking about 1/2 oz. of milk in about 7 1/2 ozs. of water. Deep down, I think she knows about the water but she goes along with the pretense.

We brush her teeth like crazy and monitor them carefully and they seem very pristine but we know about the dangers of the bottle. Also, how am I going to get her off the thing? It's going to be pretty ugly and I dread the day--which should probably come quite soon. We are past the 'pediatrician frowns' stage and into the 'pediatrician upbraids' stage. If we didn't hide it from everyone, that is!

Further, the breast has been replaced by treats as a soothing device. Next time, I think I will just go until four or so. Now that I know my parenting weakness.

So, all in all, we did not do nearly as well as you. Also, we still co-sleep and she is not yet potty trained, but getting there.

Jennifer said...

If the kiddo wants in our bed, where I am going to put the overattached, very large Corgi sleeping crossways?

We've not gotten to the children phase yet, but I've never even thought about what one does past 6wks! Very interesting to think about. I can't wait to hear about the clock.

Whippersnapper said...

My daughter loooooved nursing. So much so, in fact, that she made up her own word for it: "Moose." Then one day, in public, she referred to me as "Mommy Moose Breast" in a VERY LOUD VOICE.

Weaning commenced later that afternoon.

Anonymous said...

One more thing. I wonder, has HB had less infections during his toddler years, and if so do you attribute it to nursing?

Fiona

Larki said...

I am filled with joy when I read about other children who don't sleep through the night at, oh, six weeks. Our second, Urplet, will be two in three weeks. Sometimes he sleeps all night. Sometimes he wakes up at midnight and demands a bottle of soy milk (he weaned himself abruptly and rather disdainfully at ten months, to my dismay, and we ended up in bottle territory. Blech). Sometimes he wakes up at six and can be persuaded back to sleep. Sometimes he wakes up twice. There is no rhyme or reason.

But this I know: SOMEDAY he will sleep more than he doesn't. Until then, up we get, because that little voice calling, "Oh Mama!" or (more often) "Oh Daddy!" just kills me.

Menita said...

This story is adorable.

Meredith said...

I'm a long-time lurker, in the same shoes as you were about 7 months ago, same exact nursing schedule, and your story of HB's discovery of the finite duration of the boob nearly made me cry. Talk about mindbending! Poor kid.

I live in hope of the next few months bringing enough reasoning skills for my own boy to figure out that big boys eventually stop nursing. Right now he certainly has no plans in that direction - currently he's in bed in the next room, piteously wailing about wanting "just a little bit of noonie please" (luckily he gave that name to the boob before he was able to say "b"). For anyone else he takes a nap without nursing to sleep, but has never done it when I'm around. He doesn't seem to distinguish between my presence and access to the boob. I don't get any questions from strangers about weaning because it's pretty obvious what the answer would be: my boy's favorite place to nurse is at church, at least 6 times during the service, with some gratuitous undressing and grasping at the other nipple for good measure. I guess it's his way of saying that he feels really at home there... Luckily, even with the weekend nursing marathons, I'm not uncomfortable at all on Mondays, and I can imagine that this will be our pattern for months to come.

I don't really foresee being able to stop certain nursing sessions the way you were able, since I'll gladly admit that I love nursing too much to say no consistently, but you certainly gave me a model of a great way to gradually wean, given that my son's weaning agenda has a goal of 2012 from what I can tell. It's always wonderful to hear from other parents who are committed to giving their kids the security of nursing until they're ready to stop, especially if they are upfront about the challenges that go along with it. Thanks for your great writing!

Anonymous said...

It is so heartening to read of other working mothers continuing to nurse long past one year. My son is the last child in his day care class still nursing and I am still flying on business trips with my pump in hand. Nursing is so obviously important to him emotionally and it is also important for him due to dairy/egg allergies. Nonetheless I very often feel like a weirdo because so many view extended nursing as undesirable, strange and/or distasteful.
Thank you.
A.

Liza said...

My little one will be a year this weekend, and I am THRILLED to be weaning from the pump. 5 more days! For the last week, his pumped milk at day care has been cut 50-50 with whole milk.

But, we are showing no signs at all of weaning from actual nursing. Our schedule is 30 min when he wakes up (sometime between 5:15 and 7am), 15 min the moment I walk in the door after work, and falling asleep. On the weekends, add in 2 or 3 more times.

It's funny, I never thought I was going to be that mom. I even have a friend whose extended nursing made me uncomfortable. My original plan was to nurse/pump for at least 3 months -- I went back to work part-time at 10 weeks. Pumping at work wasn't that bad, so by 4 months, I was "going for a year."

Now? No particular plans. Noah's not showing any signs of stopping, and I don't want to stop, either. Plus my partner gets to have the next baby, so this is probably it for me.

med school mama said...

Thanks for this post and all the comments. It is nice to hear from other extended-nursers. I feel very alone in this sometimes with my still nursing and co-sleeping 2 and 2/3 year old. I have no idea if my kiddo would be ready to stop nursing. She regularly asks for it when I get home, while I am making supper, while I am eating supper, after bedtime stories, throughout the night... But I just feel like I am not ready. Nursing with a toddler who is very verbal is hilarious sometimes. I'm not ready to give up that yet, as long as she isn't either.

Do you have any advice on doing 4th year rotations in a rural state and not having to move away from my family for rotations. That is my major source of stress right now.

To A, Who cares if people think you are a wierdo. You are doing something wonderful for your child. Evangelicals do awful things to their kids all the time. Has anyone seen the documentary "Jesus Camp"?

I am also interested if others have experienced their nursing toddlers having fewer infections. Mine has never had an ear infection and she seems to get over colds really fast.

Becky said...

Oh gawd, I loved this. Thanks.

Karen said...

Having never nursed a child, I have no opinion. But ohmygosh, I think I'm in love with the sunrise clock! Tell me more! Does it really work??

DoctorMama said...

Amber Lawbyrd—weaning by contract! That is funny. Yeah, I had several friends whose kids lost interest, and I assumed it would happen for mine too. Guess not.

Orange—I thought baby teeth were basically disposable—are you saying we need to brush them? No, don’t worry, we’re doing ok in that department. (Though swallowing some cow’s milk from a sippy cup is likely not cariogenic anyway, as it turns out.)

Erin—“Nursing was the easiest part of being a mother--tough at first, but once we figured it out, it was so great”—I know, right?

abogada—it starts to seem like he’s taking swigs from a moonshine jug, doesn’t it?

JK—She really said “I can't believe you let them make decisions”? Wow.

thumbscre.ws—No, he never learned the words, and I highly recommend this to anyone who has a speaking nurser. It’s only ever been called “milk,” or if he needs to distinguish it from the cup kind, “milk from Mama.” I even quizzed him on it once—“Where does the milk come from?” I asked. “Um, um, those,” he said, pointing. I suppose I ran the risk of him making up some ridiculous name for them, though—see Whippersnapper’s “Moose” above!

Marsha—“nursing or not is no guarantee of a decent night's sleep”—damn.

Fiona—I swear I didn’t coerce him to keep doing it, either. Kids are just different, as they say.

JMB—I wish I were one of those people who were delighted to have it end. It is sad.

legalmama—Seven months is a LONG time pumping. My hat’s off to you.

MJ—I have a hard time kicking a child out when the cats get to have the run of the bed.

JF—I have a resident who’s going through a really tough depression and is staying with her parents, and she actually crawled in bed with them during a panic attack one night—and she’s twenty-eight! (And really, a very normal person.)

Northwoods Baby—“And, and, and.” Oh yes.

ozma—I think parenting is one big exercise in discovering one’s weaknesses. At least it has been for me. And oh yes, the lying to the pediatrician, and the daycare folks. We’re all happy in our fictional perfect childrearing world, why rock the boat? Also, the potty training was all him; I take no credit. In fact I dragged my feet a bit, because it’s such a pain to have to take him to the bathroom at the store. (And an anecdote: I was similarly addicted to the bottle, until my mother discovered one day that our babysitter NEVER gave me one, didn’t even realize I still used one. So my mother told me “no more bottles, let’s use a cup like with Lisa,” and I, realizing the jig was up, said “ok.”)

Jennifer—The answer is always, a bigger bed.

Whippersnapper—this is the kind of made-up word I was risking, I guess.

Fiona again, and med school mama—the data on infections is pretty soft. I’d say he’s had the typical number of ear infections, colds and coughs for a kid in daycare. Fewer stomach bugs, but who knows if it’s related.

Larki—I am convinced that 90% of people lie about their kids sleeping through the night at six weeks or whatever. Or at least have a very loose definition of “through the night.”

Menita—thanks.

Meredith—“He doesn't seem to distinguish between my presence and access to the boob”—this is the one thing about nursing I didn’t like. My husband trained him to say “HellomamaIloveyou … MILK!” when I came through the door, which helped a little. And you know, I wasn’t especially consistent about saying no—I often would kind of test him to see just how much he really wanted it before giving in.

A—“So many view extended nursing as undesirable, strange and/or distasteful”—yeah. It does seem to be changing, though. That whole dumb case with the five-year-old a few years ago got people talking about it in a good way, I think. And hey, it is pretty funny—people seem to think I’m less weird when I’m willing to joke about it instead of raising my fist and shouting “Power to the Lactivists!”

Liza—Sounds about like our story. Having him be the only one does change the picture, for sure.

med school mama—“Nursing with a toddler who is very verbal is hilarious sometimes”—oh yes. As for 4th year rotations, I’d say do whatever you want to do; don’t worry about how it will look. (If that’s what you were asking?)

Becky—You’re welcome!

Karen—Yes, it does. I no longer have to coax/harangue my son and my husband out of bed. (I wasn't the one who needed it; they're the awful ones in the morning.) When I tried leaving it off on the weekend, the difference was stark.

Anonymous said...

3 years, 3 months. Quit when both partners are ready.

Mud said...

Hah!

My mom (of 5) was a nursing MACHINE. Or so we thought.

My little sister remembers quitting nursing at 3, when my mom threw out her back.

"Mom, can I nurse?" she said.

"Honey, my back hurts."

So my sister, very polite, waited several days, and then asked again, with "Can I nurse now, or does your back still hurt?" She was very sad when the milk was all gone.

tuniesttunism said...

My daughter is 3 1/2 and still occasionally asks to nurse, but there is no milk, as we truly stopped just before her third birthday....Like so many others,I just wanted to go a year, and in shock, I STARTED attending La Leche League meetings when she was 18 months because I needed support if she wasn't going to stop...She has always been very rambunctious and bouncy, so nursing was not really so pleasureable aftter about a year....and the meetings just emboldened her to jank up my shirt and bounce around as she pleased....but to this day, this remains a riveting subject, and I am so so relieved to hear of all these stories of extended nursing and co-sleeping. No, weaning does not lead to sleeping through the night. We just got a HAMSTER who is this moment sleeping in a 10-gallon glass aquarium IN the loft bed (which was also purchased as an incentive to sleeping in her own bed through the night) next to my daughter...this is my daughter's idea, because she too feels pressure from the picture books we read from the library and friends at school and sitters to sleep by herself in her big-girl bed. I think she will actually remain in my bed for a long time, and after a long period of qualms about it, now I actually enjoy it and think it is perfectly natural.

Kelsey said...

good for you!
mine didn't sleep through the night until 21 months...
I get lots of wierd looks for that.

I like your blog, very refreshing.

Kim said...

Tonight is the night. After 19 months we're going to wean Sam. I am sad but excited. I haven't sleep properly in over two years. Anyway, there is a lot of info on weaning and some of it geared towards guilt tripping but, even in my moment of sadness, I laughed heartily at your comments and the support you give others. Thanks and wish me luck!