Monday, May 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Weanings

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.

While pregnant with Agent E, I read a lot of mainstream books and magazines. I hadn't yet discovered the joys of Facebook and all the wonderful information contained within, but I did receive e-mail updates weekly telling me my baby had eyelashes or reached the size of a small gerbil. Breastfeeding always seemed to get a mention. Sometimes in a very positive way, listing all the "benefits" (don't get me started) and various tips. Sometimes in a neutral way, offering it up as one equal choice of two. Sometimes simply making it sound like an awful lot of work. At the time I was decidedly non-crunchy and viewed breastfeeding as mainly a financial choice.

Then I actually had a baby and survived those early days of nursing and things began to change. Long story short, I became a Breastfeeding Momma and my whole mothering worldview shifted.

They were both "still" nursing when this picture was taken
Eva weaned in August 2009, at age 3 years 3 months. Julia weaned in June 2010, at age 2 years 2 months. Following is a little about each of their stories.

I intended to wean Eva on her third birthday. I know it sounds totally arbitrary, but at the time it made perfect sense to me. Then we had the Great Spider Incident, a week-long saga in which some evil bug or spider (I'm still not 100% sure what) chomped on her leg and it swelled up ridiculously, and then she got a fever, and started puking, and ended up in urgent care on a Sunday morning (Mother's Day 2009 to be exact) and received lots of strong antibiotics for an additional two weeks. This all began the week of her birthday, so of course I couldn't stop nursing her then. I never really pushed the issue for most of the summer. (Hubby had left in February and we were just trying to survive mid-deployment insanity.) But then around the beginning of August I noticed she was only nursing for about a minute before bed, and almost never fell asleep nursing. She had long since given up napping, so we had been at the "only bedtime" stage for quite a while, but now even that seemed to be more of a cursory nod rather than a true need, or even a heartfelt want.

So we stopped. I don't remember the last time I nursed Eva. I imagine we probably sat in the rocker in our bedroom at bedtime and she nursed for 30-60 seconds before putting her down in bed and her drifting off. It may have taken a few days of "reminders" that we just snuggled at bedtime now, but no real fuss or muss of any kind.

By the time Julia came along, I had more of a clue. I had already breastfed for almost two years, including through the entire pregnancy. We had none of the difficulties Eva and I had. Julia latched on immediately and never looked back.

Julia became more of a "serious" nurser than Eva; she rarely nursed for comfort, even as a newborn, and pretty much took an all-business approach. I was actually a bit surprised when she continued showing an interest past her first birthday, yet she did. I became pregnant with her little brother when she was 21 months old, and we started the pregnancy with our nursing relationship humming along at its usual pace.

Agent J on our trip to Germany, just after she weaned
I had this picture in my head of what our "last time" would be like. It didn't turn out quite the way I hoped or expected. One night as she nursed before bed, I unlatched her because she was chomping too hard and I was getting sore and told her that was enough (in a not so nice tone) and she started to sob. And then I did, too. Although, I think it was more cathartic than sad; we both knew. It was kind of a long goodbye . . . there had been several times when she seemed "done" and yet would ask again a day or two later. We were both ready; I just wish I had been more kind with her during that particular incident. She never asked to nurse again after that night.

Part of me was sad because I really, really wanted to remember her last nursing session as positive, especially since I could barely recall Eva's. Truthfully, though, I enjoyed the "break" I had from nursing for about five months until Andrew came along. 

I breastfed both of them for one year and three months. I nursed two children to sleep every night for over a year. Both girls remember nursing fondly, as I mused about in For the Love of Moe. They have watched their little brother nurse many, many times and talk about how some day they will do the same for their babies. Breastfeeding is so ho hum to them. It's just what mommies and babies do.

One final note: I have no pictures of Eva breastfeeding. More than three years, and not one photo. I have one of Julia, taken when she was about 2.5 months old. This is why I take (and post) a bazillion and one photos of Andrew nursing. If you are reading this and you are just beginning your nursing relationship, photograph it. Have someone take pictures for you at every opportunity. You won't regret it.

Have you weaned one of your own children? What did the experience look like for you?

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:

11 comments :

  1. Your LLL leader is such a wise woman :) And I love that you pumped for her. What a token of love! Thank you for reminding us of that option for those babes who wean earlier than anticipated.

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  2. When I was still pregnant with my first, I heard some other mothers lament that they somehow had no pictures of nursing and regretted that. So I made sure that I had lots of pictures of nursing! Somehow, I still ended up with no pictures of nursing during my oldest daughter's 2 year old year though! I guess we were not nursing frequently enough to have made it into photos anymore! Then I have pics of her nursing again once she was tandeming with her sister.

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  3. Argh - I posted the wrong comment. Here's what it should have said :)

    "that seemed to be more of a cursory nod rather than a true need, or even a heartfelt want" - this is exactly where I feel that we're at with Kieran now. Often if he asks and I tell him "in a few minutes," it never happens. It's also funny that Julia and my second (Ailia) sound very similar - Ailia is not a comfort nurser at all. In fact, I think my husband has gotten Ailia to sleep more times in her 5 months than he has all of Kieran's four years! Isn't it amazing how different they can be right from the beginning?

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    1. At 6 and 4 they still have the same personalities I saw in them as babies. Totally different, and yet best buddies.

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    2. I think motherhood connects us to a primal part of ourselves - one which embraces who we are, where we come from, and where we are going - feminism at its finest. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. I hear your upset that Agent J's last nursing isn't a "lovely" memory. Don't we wish we could be perfect mothers in every way at every moment! But maybe that tiny tiff was what Agent J needed to finish a process long begun and move on to the next stage of her life. We often have a hard time separating, even when we know it's essential, and it's not unusual for us to start a small fight to help us ease into the future that's waiting. Here's what Agent J remembers: Nursing was wonderful, it's something babies do, she looks forward to doing it with her children. That's pretty terrific! - Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.com

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    1. Agree with the starting a small tiff to ease us into a separation we know is coming. Sometimes thinking about it (an upcoming change) is actually worse than doing it. Perhaps this is why I always feel like stabbing my husband with a fork the week before he deploys.

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    2. My gosh your weaning with Julia sounds very similar to mine with my daughter! Although, for a long time she LOVED her mama milk and I thought she would continue on indefinitely. Then, one day she started biting me at the end of every session. It really hurt and I needed her not to do it in order to continue. I tried very hard to let her continue nursing but knowing each time was going to end in me getting chomped on, it was too hard to continue. Still... it was fairly easy and gentle when we did stop. She only asked a few times afterward and didn't make a fuss when I said no. I think perhaps she was ready and this idea of creating a "tiff" to put an end to things might be exactly what she was doing without realizing or understanding it. She knew it would eventually mean the end, but perhaps she didn't want to make that choice herself? Hmmmm... food for thought!

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  5. Wow, what a carnival of emotions! That soreness during pregnancy can really make those nursing sessions a trial...

    Loved the story...

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  6. I totally agree about taking pictures! So many of mine of phone pictures I took myself while looking down. With baby #2 I'm almost considering getting some professional ones done! They are truly priceless!

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    1. Ooh . . . yes, do it. I guess technically I have one "professional" picture of A nursing . . . it was during our family photos we had taken last month. He just needed a break, so I sat down and nursed him, and the photographer snapped a few. And . . . she said it wasn't her first time photographing a nursing toddler. Cool.

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