Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
To review: after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad 10-week introduction to nursing, my daughter and I hit our stride. Around her third month, I finally latched on to nursing in public. And we enjoyed - or at least engaged in - a nursing relationship for 24 months until February of this year when my husband went home to England to attend a good friend's wedding and took our daughter along (mainly to visit doting grandparents and family, but also because, since he's a stay-at-home-dad and I work outside the home, his two-week trip presented insurmountable child care challenges. It would be another lie of omission if I failed to note that the thought of a working mommy staycation wasn't a little bit thrilling as well).
We knew about the wedding a year in advance. At the time, she was still very much a nursling and I had no intention of cutting her off and she showed now signs of walking away from the tap. Surely, though, we thought, over the course of a year, we'd find a way to gently manage the two-week separation from mummy and "mup" (her word for nursing/milk). Maybe she'd even have chosen to wean by then herself.
A brief flashback is in order: four years ago or so, I called my sister one evening and knew immediately when I heard her cracking voice answer the phone that something was wrong. I felt my heart pound in my chest - what's wrong! I asked in alarm. "Liam [sniffle sniffle] . .. . weannnneeedddd," she cried into the handset. Is that all, I asked? Hey, I wasn't a mother yet and thought it was weird and a little crazy that my over-two year old nephew was still on the boob anyway. I was, I'm sad to say, of the "well, if they are old enough to ask for it by name, then . . . ." camp.
Flash back to my present motherhood and I get it. I got it from the end of year one onward. A 13-month old is still a baby. I was thankful every day that her sometimes-picky eating would be supplemented by mup every morning and evening and frequently throughout the night. Frankly, it eased my worrying about eating habits generally. I am nothing if not lazy, after all.
I still had an inkling back then, however, that I wouldn't react to weaning the way my sister had. We're strikingly similar in many ways, but divergent in some - our natural affinity towards motherhood being a key area. I love my daughter, of course, but my sister could teach a master class in nurturing. She inspired my desire to nurse from the moment I first saw her nurse my newborn nephew - I swear I could see a heavenly shaft of light beam down upon her - or at least beam from her face to her son's - and I'm pretty sure those were faint angels' choirs singing in the background. Piece of cake! (Haha, as if).
When it came time for our trip, however, I had a minor freak out. It wasn't based on my feelings - well, I guess it was - but based on my fear about my daughter's feelings. We had, of course, made zero progress towards weaning - at least, I thought. Everything I'd read put a skull-and-cross-bones-like danger sign over the Cold Turkey Method.
Despite weeks of talking about her "big adventure" with daddy and reading Maggie's Weaning approximately eleventy trillion times in the months before, there we were, 24-hours before her flight departed for England and she was still the same nursling she ever was. Whose bright idea was this, anyway? Did she get it? Was she going to sob all the way to England? The books and stories and discussions and preparation and hugs and kisses and photos - had any of that stuck in her brain?
I think the message was received, at least enough for daddy, toddler, and family to have a great two weeks. Thanks to her rock-solid bond with daddy and because they had their own system of comfort honed over the daily stay-at-home grind, she was fine in England. She ate fine. She slept fine (well, after the jet-lag passed). She was fine. With Skype chats and phone calls, everything was okay. I think this was because I wasn't there not-nursing her. She was days from two-years-old - it's not like she didn't get that mup came solely from mummy and if mummy wasn't around, then no mup, either. And maybe the weaning book had helped.
I made no effort to preserve my milk supply while she was gone. Pumping was never effective for me and I had abandoned the practice when she was 11 months old (we used goat's milk and slowly transitioned to cow's at around 13 months - though she mostly drank water with meals and was, of course, still getting human milk anyway). I felt little discomfort until the day before their scheduled return when, I can only assume, my subconscious completely betrayed me and I felt a few hard, burning milk sacs swelling on my chest.
She nursed one final time when she arrived home and once more at night. We had two slightly rough nights where, in her half-asleep, jet lagged state, she was pretty pissed that mommy wasn't as all-access as she wanted me to be. (Considering her age and her proclivity towards tantrums generally, though, these weren't too bad - one grumble session per night.) "Please mummy, mup?"
I remembered the book. Remember Maggie? I asked her? Uh-huh, she nodded? Remember Maggie was a big girl and didn't have mup anymore and she was sad too, sometimes? Uh-huh, sniffle snarffle. But Maggie's mommy still loved her and Maggie still loved her mommy, right? "Okay, mommy," and back to sleep.
Ultimately, I think she's her father's daughter and his nature plus his nurturing helped tremendously. She's a roll with it kinda kid. She has flashes of her mother's temper, to be sure, but her calm side prevails. She didn't hate me. She didn't regress.
And we moved into the next phase. There are still days where she'll wake up and point at my chest and say "there's no mup in there!" (we still bed share). In a very strange way, I feel like our relationship is more rewarding now - I feel like the cuddles are more for me than for my milk, if that makes any sense at all (though I know, at least on a rational level, that it was the same when we were nursing, too).
If she hadn't taken that trip, would I have taken steps to encourage weaning? At some point, yes. When? I'm not sure. I've certainly evolved since that late-night conversation with my crying sister. Would I nurse a three-year-old? Probably. A four-year-old? I don't know. Five? Less certain still. There may be a line, but it's not my line to demarcate, that's for sure.
The two truths I'm left with at the end of two years of nursing are these: First, as Hanna Rosin wrote in her infamous article, "[nursing is] only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing" which I think is extraordinarily important to remember as we struggle, culturally, in America to encourage increased nursing and longer nursing. And second, that weaning isn't the end of the world for anyone and it is, in many cases, a cause for celebrating what's been accomplished - whether for 3 months or 3 years or anything in between, given the barriers to breast feeding that challenge women so frequently.
I still point out nursing animals in books and nursing children we see in public or pictures because I want to raise her to remember and to understand that it's normal. Sometimes she notes it on her own, sometimes she doesn't bat an eye.
Sometimes, I miss nursing because it was a handy way to quiet a fussing child or get an overtired child to sleep. Mostly, I embrace my new freedom - and hers. There may be no more mup in there, but there's a lot of world out there that we still get to explore together. And there's no weaning off that excitement.
Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)
- On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity — Jessica at Natural Parents Network has been nursing one or more of her children since 1993 - breastfeeding is wrapped up in her concept of mothering and herself. She shares her thoughts on weaning.
- two tales of weaning — Aspen at Aspen Mama writes about their countdown to wean.
- Wean Me Gently — Tam at Please Send Parenting Books shares a beautiful weaning ceremony.
- You say potato, I say bleeeuuuuch... — Anelie at Mindcradle had read the books and knew just how to introduce her baby son to solids—unfortunately, he had other ideas.
- A Post Called Weaning — (Not) Maud at Awfully Chipper writes about how weaning her son took longer than she expected.
- On Weaning, Pregnancy and Emotion — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about her mixed emotions as she allows her son, Little Man, to guide her through his weaning process.
- half of her life — Staci at Springpatch Jam looks back on her nursing relationship with her first born.
- Is it just this After Forty Mom or is it harder to wean when its your last? — Amanda of After Forty Mom shares her emotional journey towards the impending self-weaning of her toddler daughter.
- Nursing Limits — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she has weaned her toddler down to minimal nursing and her guilt about the decision to do so.
- Weaning Video Series #1: Preparation for the Weaning Process — Why is weaning such a taboo topic? Dionna at Code Name: Mama got mamas from across the blogosphere to start talking about weaning - on video. Come check out the first video in a series of five that she'll be posting this week.
- On the weaning of the boy in the middle — Kelly at Witness To Hope shares the lessons of a little one self-weaning at 18 months in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy, after nursing his older sister for three years.
- Weaning due to anxiety — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about how she had to wean to preserve her mental health.
- When Will I Wean? A Guest Post — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a guest post from a mama who contemplates when her breastfeeding relationship will end.
- On His Own Terms — Momeeezen shares her heartbreak from when her son weaned much earlier than she anticipated.
- Our Weaning Story - Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season — Weaning doesn't always go how we imagine. That Mama Gretchen shares the story of her daughter's sudden weaning and how she has embraced this new season of motherhood.
- A Tale of Two Weanings — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares the similarities and differences of how her nursing relationships with her now six-year-old and four-year-old daughters came to a close.
- She Doesn't Remember — Alicia at Lactation Narration finds that her 6 year old no longer remembers nursing, only one year after weaning.
- It's The End of the World As We Know It — A story about the end of a tandem nursing relationship on Never Mind The Rain: A toddler moves on to a new phase in her life before mom is fully ready.
- A Natural End To Our Breastfeeding Relationship — With two self-weaning children, Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots does not know when the end will come, but that it will be natural and without regrets.
- Child-Led weaning: It's Not Extreme; It's Biological — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children explains why child-led weaning is based on biology rather than social constraints.
- 6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps — Jess at miniMum shares how and why she let her first child stop when he was good and ready.
- Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
- Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
- Weaning Aversion' — Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced 'feeding aversion'.
- Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma's evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
- Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
- Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn's super power is diminishing.
- Reflections on Weaning - Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
- Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success — MudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
- Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer's Daughter.
- 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
- Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
- I thought about weaning... — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
- Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
- Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
- Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
- Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn't have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
- Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
- Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
- Breastfeeding: If there's one thing I know for sure... — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it's time to wean?
- Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.