Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weaning Babies

My baby is officially weaned. Boohoo! I'm so sad about it, it just seems like it came to an end so fast. I mean its been a part of my relationship with Owen since the day he was born in our little garage conversion room, in a little warm birth tub. He was an amazing nurser from the moment we let him give it a try, even with a bit of tongue tie.

I have nursed children as long as it takes the average person to get an undergraduate degree, without taking Summers off obviously. I'm not patting myself on the back, and I don't have a degree or even a piece of paper to show for my work. And I know mothers who have nursed so many babies they could have gotten a PhD.

My kids were very different nursers. Marin nursed around the clock for every reason under the sun; upset tummy-nurse, sad-nurse, wake up from a nap-nurse, go down for a nap-nurse, go to bed-nurse, wake in the middle of the night-nurse, fall down-nurse, teething-nurse, happy-nurse, nurse nurse nurse. She believed all the worlds problems would just go away if she just kept on nursing, nursing was her religion, nursing was her life. Thus is was also my life. Owen on the other hand nursed for one reason and one reason only, food. He didn't even do the "I'm just thirsty" nurse. When he started to eat solid foods he began to taper off significantly. By 12 months he was only nursing a few times a day (Marin nursed around the clock until she was about 16 months old and I put limitations on her for my sanity).

To be honest it was almost easier to handle a hard core nurser like Marin because if something happened, she got hurt, or was upset for some reason, I just nursed her. For Owen I actually had to learn how to handle his issues and figure them out and find ways to calm him or comfort him without using my super-power of nursing him.

So weaning, how does that work. For everyone its different. And for every baby its different. But here is what we did.

At 16 months Marin was still nursing around the clock, it was very much tied to (in her mind) her survival. Thus I moved towards weaning very slowly. A few things needed to be dealt with.
1. I could no longer keep nursing her several times through the night. I was loosing my mind with sleep deprivation. I would get to 2:30pm and literally start shaking because I was so tired. So I taught Marin that she could only nurse when the sun was "awake". Every night we would go to the window and say goodnight to the sun and nurse for the last time. This actually worked for her, she would wake up in the night and come in our room and want to nurse and I would say, "You have to wait until the Sun wakes up" and she would often go back to sleep. In the morning she would point out the sun was awake and then say "Nae?" and so we would nurse at that time.

2. Marin believed that she could not go to sleep if I did not nurse her all the way to sleep.

3. At 17 months we hit a little bump, her molars were coming in and she gave up her paci! I thought we would wean first and then later give up the paci. So I had to back up a bit and give her more time.

4. My brother was getting married when she would be 22 months and I would be doing some different things to help in preparing for the event and they would be night time things. So Todd would need to put her to bed and thus she would not be nursing herself to sleep.

Here was our plan: As a family we would sit on the couch and read books, I would nurse Marin, we would say good night to the sun and Marin and her Daddy would walk down the hall and he would proceed to help her fall asleep. This took him about 4-ish weeks. I say 4-ish because there were nights she went to sleep right away, and there were nights she cried, and called out for me, and he had to tell more stories, and sing lots of songs and make faces or I actually don't know what they did because I was not in there.

Marin would only nurse when the sun was awake and I was sleeping more and so we were headed in the right direction.

By 22 months I also weaned her down to only nursing three times a day. But I say three times a day very loosely also. If she fell and got hurt or was sick we threw the whole three times a day out the window and she just nursed for comfort through it and then we went back to our plan. By the time she was a week away from turning 2 years old she was only nursing once a day, first thing in the morning. We had helped her learn that she could go to sleep at night and for nap without nursing. Because of her personality (her belief that nursing was her salvation from all thing) we were very gentle and forgiving with her and gave ourselves a lot of "grace" when the "plan" was not going accordingly. But at least we had a plan, and she was making steps in the direction we thought were good for all of us.

About 5 days before her second birthday she and I sat down on the couch, we were all alone we were snuggling on the couch reading Runaway Bunny and something form Sandra Boynton when I said, "Marin I think you can be done nursing, you don't need it any more." She looked at me and smiled, I wasn't sure if she understood or not. I asked her if she wanted to nurse and say goodbye and she snuggled in. She nursed for just a few moments and then said, "Bye bye Nae" she gave out a little tearful cry, let me hug her for a bit, then jumped down and got another book.

For the next two weeks she would sometimes ask to nurse in the early morning, but she said it like she had an inside joke, she would often giggle after asking like only she got the joke. And she was done.

With Owen because he had already naturally weaned back to just a few times a day I didn't have to go through the "pre-weaning" like I did with Marin. So I skipped the first part of dropping the night nurse, then dropping one or two during the day, and then just nursing for nap. Owen was a bit more natural, but it was fascinating for me to watching him make steps towards weaning. I began noticing he only nursed in the morning when he woke up. Because he was only 21 months I was actually a bit worried about him quitting already. A few weeks ago he went 40 hours without nursing and thought, "wow he just gave it up like that". But at the 40 hour mark he seemed really upset with himself for doing that, so he nursed and was fine. Then he did it again, and then I went on my first-ever-away-from-the-kids work conference and retreat. I was gone two nights, I thought he would be done for sure when I got back, but nope he decided he wanted to try it a few more times and then he quit.

It was very different watching a child self-wean. Its almost as though he would decide "I don't need that any more" and then a few days later think "what the heck what I thinking I really need that!" and then back to not needing it, and then he would get really cranky and hit Marin and me and just be a little bear, and at some point in the melt down he would decide "I must nurse I am going to rip all of Marin's red hair out!" I imagine it might be like watching an addict try to give up booze or something. Like he would just get to a point where he could not function any longer if he did not nurse. So just a few days ago I saw the pattern again, he didn't want to nurse for nap, bed anything. After a few days went by he just kept on going and was done. He even had a really cranky moment yesterday and I thought he would want to nurse out of it, but nope, he's done.

And there ya have it, my days of nursing are over. Hmmmm, twiddle my thumbs...

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