My daughter just turned two. She still nurses. She still wants me to pick her up for no apparent reason. She crawls out of her little bed (converted from the crib she was starting to climb) into mine to nurse in the very early morning every day. When my husband asked me which age I thought would be the best to wean her, I joked “twelve.”
As a matter of fact, the thought of weaning her was scary for me. Nursing is my super power to make all her tantrums go away, to make her listen to me, to help her fall asleep when it’s nap time. What am I going to do without my super power?
Well, I guess, she will eventually stop the tantrum. And I guess she is listening to me, even when her eyes are elsewhere, exploring the colorful world around her. As for nap time, well… that I still have to figure. There might be some crying. But maybe there won’t. Who said we need to go “cold turkey”? One day at a time. And it if takes another two years, that’s fine. And if she’s twelve and she’s still nursing, that’s fine too (of course I am joking again).
I just read the notes from the journal I started writing when she was born. When she was six months old I wrote that I would probably “feel like I lost a million bucks” the day she decides to stop nursing. But I was wrong! I can never feel like I lost anything as she grows. Nobody is a little baby forever, and I don’t expect her to be an extension of myself forever! I actually feel like I win the lottery every time she reaches a milestone. She now speaks (and she is bilingual), dances, sings, paints, picks her own clothes and shoes, and we are taking swim lessons together.
The first day we were inside the pool, her arms were around me and her lips on my breast the whole time the trainer tried to encourage her to kick her legs in the water. I asked myself how that was going to play out. The second day I recalled the pediatrician saying that even though it was wonderful to still be breastfeeding, he encouraged me not to use it to soothe her, but to gradually manage to learn together how to deal with every situation.
As the trainer approached us when she was having fun playing with the plastic shark, my girl made a move like she was going for the breast. That’s when I said “no boobies in the pool, remember? The doctor said so”. The doctor didn’t say that exactly. But she got it. She is smarter than I think she is. Aren’t they always? I repeated it a few times, but I knew I was going to let her win if necessary. Guess what? She accepted a snack after the swim lesson instead of the breast. And we have happily transitioned from “nursing on demand” to “nursing when at home” and, well,at a few other places too. The beach, yes. The grocery store, no (“The doctor said ‘no boobies at the store’, remember?”)
The trick is to not show how nervous you actually are. If you’re anxious, they are too. If you feel guilty, believe me, they feel bad for you. Consistency and patience. Lots of explaining. They get it. And they know more than we think they do. They are more confident than we think they are.
We went from the “moby wrap” to the “ergo baby” and we still have a hip hugger, so we can still be very close physically whenever we want. And we don’t care about people judging us for that. “Don’t pick her up so much, you are spoiling her” never did anything to change our attachment. If that’s spoiling, well, let’s talk again when she asks for a tablet.
On the other hand, if you live this lifestyle, there is a big lack of information about weaning. It seems to be a guilt trip, a painful “detachment”. It doesn’t have to be. Take it easy. You don’t need to prove anything. You will know when. You will know how.
The only approach I had ever heard of (other than the “cold turkey” method) was “don’t offer, don’t refuse”. But guess what: we are creatures of habit. If I never refuse it, well, how will she learn not to be asking when she could just do something else? So I just suggest the snack, remind her of the “doctor’s rules” and if all fails, I am ready to take a step back as many times as we need. We will continue to be creatures of habit, and it is my job to manage and make sure we create healthy habits that don’t take away from enjoying our swim classes, playing or even calming down after a temper tantrum.
We will be nursing in the early mornings, but I will go to her bedroom instead, and we will cuddle on the sofa chair before getting changed for the day. I don’t know when we will stop. We’ll get there when we get there, enjoying every day of the transition. And we will have nothing to feel badly about. We will be bonding in so many ways as we learn more about each other and life itself. I will always have my arms open for when she needs a hug, way after she is twelve. And even if she doesn’t need a hug, I will hug her, and kiss her anyway. We will remember nursing happily. There will be no official goodbye- it will leave our world when we are distracted having fun doing something else, and we will not be able to tell the exact day it left for good. Because the only thing I know is that one day, it will be over. But I want to make sure we have a lot more to be exploring. We will be so busy being happy with her new milestones that we will not have time to regret. And life will continue to be good.