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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thinking about weaning, and thinking about not weaning

I always thought I would let Annika nurse until she was done. When Annika was an infant, I had no intentions of even night weaning.

But this past week I've been seriously considering weaning completely.

This topic has been no different for me than all of the other choices I have had to make when it comes to parenting. One minute/hour/day/week I want to go one way, then I think about it and I can't decide if that might be harmful for my child. So, I put off making a decision. Then I get frustrated with it all and go back and forth, back and forth.

There are no easy answers for these things.

I didn't read up much on nursing because I thought I knew it all. My mother was a La Leche League leader when I was a kid. Ever since I can remember I heard how great nursing was. I was nursed until I was 3.

I thought my decisions on nursing were set in stone. It was a relief to think that at least ONE thing I didn't have to make a decision about.

The idea of mama-led weaning seemed laughable to me. Until this week.

Annika still nurses as much as seven or eight times a day. She's been sick this week and it has been that much or more on the days when we are home most of the day. I did not think that Annika would still be nursing this much at this age. I had always heard that during the second year kids usually drop down to two or three times a day, usually surrounding sleep. I thought that was the natural progression.

Even in my peer group, where most of my mama friends still nurse their toddlers, it's not typical to see them nursing in public.

Some moms make a point to stop nursing in public in the course of the second year.

I never even thought I would do that. And I haven't so far.

For the most part Annika rarely asks to nurse when we are out and about, which is why most toddlers aren't seen nursing in public. They just don't think about it. If Annika does ask for it, it's because she sees another kid nursing and even then she only nurses for a minute or two. If we do nurse out of the house, it's usually in the car before leaving somewhere.

But lately I have gotten so frustrated with nursing that I started thinking about weaning.

I picked up a couple of books (How Weaning Happens and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler) from the South Austin API book library. It's a local group I'm a member of.

I only read the first page of How Weaning Happens and I started to cry. All of a sudden all my frustrations began to become reality. What got to me was a passage that said weaning was equivalent to a mother's rejection of her child.

It had taken some time, but I realized that what was frustrating me was not that Annika still wants to nurse. I think it's that I'm not doing something right or I'm missing something.

I don't know what it is, or if that's even the case.

But I wonder if Annika is getting all the nutrition that she needs. She must be missing something if she still wants my milk so much. She also refuses to eat enough solid foods. Or maybe I'm not giving her enough attention, or the right kind of attention. Being with a toddler all day is exhausting. It's not the same kind of exhausting as a baby.

Babies are at least easier to interpret. Babies need four things. Food, sleep, diaper change, or holding. Toddlers need those things, but they also need mental stimulation. They want you to sing with them or to them. They want you to dance with them. They want you to give them food. Then they throw it on the floor. They want you to play games and read books. They want to leave the house. But then when you are ready to go they don't want to leave. You spend all day cajoling, helping, stimulating, feeding, dressing and undressing.

And then on top of it all, parenting experts tell you that you have to set "loving limits." What the hell does that even mean??

So I wonder if I'm setting the "right" limits around nursing. I don't want to give Annika the wrong signals. But I also don't want her to think I'm rejecting her.

As I write this I'm still at a loss. A big part of me says that I should just continue down this path and let her determine when she wants to nurse. We've night weaned and even though she still asks to nurse at night, she has stopped fussing and mostly it seems to be mumbling in her sleep out of habit, and not actual wakings.

So that's the one limit I've set and I wonder if I should be setting any more limits. After all, they grow out it.




  1. I think the "right" limits are the ones that allow you to enjoy your time with your child. If excessive nursing is making you resentful, she is going to pick up on it on some level. IMO at this age, it isn't a bad idea to start teaching her that mama has feeling/wants too.

    We started really small, with just one or two times a day that I said "no" when that is how I felt. Sometimes my son was ok with this, sometimes he cried, and I nursed him. But he gradually learned that mama didn't WANT to nurse him every time he asked. Saying no, even if I changed my mind, helped both of us slowly accept the weaning process. It is up to you to decide if this is the right time and place for both of you to start putting some of your needs before some of Annika's wants.

    There is no right answer, and no final exam for parenting. Your heart knows the answers, listen to it mama! (hugs)

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence Lorien! I'm not sure I always think my initial instincts are correct, which is my biggest problem.

    But I love you for telling me so anyway!

  3. I read both of those books too, but I don't recall the passage about weaning being equal to rejection. Just listen to yourself and don't ignore your needs. I did that for too long and then by the time I night weaned Emma I was so angry because the lack of sleep was making me crazy. We've gradually cut back to once a day, and there were times that it was hard. I've always bent the rule if I thought Emma really needed to nurse and it wasn't nap time. I really thought she was about weaned but now she's back to nursing at nap time.

  4. I wonder if it's emotional? For all of her young life, she lived with both you and Toyin. Maybe the transition to separation has her needing something additional from you, even though on the surface she's seemed to have adjusted well?

    I feel for you - Jack only nurses when he wakes in the morning, and once for naps. If it was still all day, I'm sure I'd be thinking about weaning :-)

  5. Ronda, Thank you for talking to me about my needs. I really wish I didn't feel this way. I wish that I was okay with her still nursing so much. If she ate more, I'd probably be more okay with it. I totally hear you about the night weaning. I really wanted to sooner, but there was just no way.

    BTW, congrats! ;)

  6. Dawn, I have wondered that too, but her nursing habits really have not changed much since we moved. This has been pretty consistent her whole life. If we are out and about, she doesn't ask to nurse, but if we are at home, she wants it constantly. Sometimes I think she's just bored or wanting attention. But it's funny, if we're reading or watching videos, she still wants to nurse. Sometimes I joke that I'm a human bowl of popcorn. She just likes it. :)


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