When my daughter was born 17 months ago, it was my goal to nurse her to the one-year mark. After that it was going to be wean, baby, wean. But her first birthday came and went and we were nowhere close to weaning. She still nursed about five times a day, including before nap and bedtime, though we had finally graduated to her nursing and then going to sleep, instead of nursing until she fell asleep.
I was comfortable with our situation, she was in no hurry to change things and, I have to admit, I enjoyed the bonding and downtime.
Then came the research
I wrote an article about helping nursing mothers find ways to increase their milk supply. During my research and interviews I learned that most nursing children are unlikely to self-wean before the age of two. Seven more months of nursing? Gulp.
The day I decided to implement the weaning process, it seemed as though all that precious bonding time truly kicked in -- my daughter suddenly developed a sixth sense about mama's intentions. And she's become obsessed with nursing -- as in, pinch my chest, ask for milk repeatedly and wail like a banshee if I don't get her situated quickly enough. What the? We're supposed to be getting more independent not more dependent. But how can I say no? So, I don't.
Who's in charge?
Weaning is one of those gray areas where you don't really want to define someone as having the upper hand. This is about bonding, nurturing and love. I am heartened that my daughter is still so attached to me, but I have begun to feel defeated that I can't make things evolve the way I want them to and I feel guilty as well for being ready to stop (oh, the guilt).
I just didn't anticipate that my social butterfly, my get-outta-my-way-I'll-do-it-myself daughter would have any difficulty weaning. Also complicating matters: My little lady refuses to drink any milk but breast milk. Whole milk, 2 percent milk, almond milk, rice milk, strawberry milk, chocolate milk -- forget it. I have tried everything and she wants none of it. So I have been stressing myself out that weaning her will lead to a calcium deficiency. (At least she loves cheese.)
I am also in dire straits worrying that being the one to initiate the weaning will somehow make my sweet baby girl feel rejected -- that I'm withholding something I have so willingly given for the whole of her life. I do not want weaning to be a traumatic, scarring experience.
What I would tell someone like me
I could give great advice to others who have nursed for almost a year and a half and are ready to stop: You have nothing to feel guilty about! You have nourished your baby for almost 18 months, providing her with greater immunity, amazing nutrition and developing a strong mother-child bond! You are a rock star! Accepting these mantras for myself has proved much more difficult.
Writer's update^ Since being assigned this article, I have successfully weaned my daughter. It involved savvy redirecting with beloved board books and a hefty dose of mama guilt. But we are a happy household -- my daughter now reads before bed instead of nursing and no one seems to be worse for the wear.