It has been a week since I began the weaning process with Kaylee, and let me tell you it has been torture – but not in all the ways I thought it would be.
First, let me say I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, and I admire the women who nurse their children long into toddlerhood, but for me, it is time to call it quits. Kaylee will be 18 months on the 14th, so she has gotten a lot more breast milk than the average baby in the US.
I have been pregnant or breastfeeding continuously for 4 years, and it has been a mental and emotional struggle for me to make it this far nursing. I weaned Zoë when she was 13 months – when I was pregnant with Kaylee – and was proud to make it that far after struggling through postpartum depression.
It was my goal to make it that far with Kaylee, but we made it 5 months longer, which I am entirely proud of. Kaylee was extremely attached to breastfeeding as she never took to a pacifier, so I was a little worried about how things would go.
For the past month or so, I have started trying to defer her when she asks to nurse. Do you want a cuppie of this? Do you want to eat that? How about if we get popsicles and go outside and play? Pretty much anything to distract her and lengthen the time between her frequent nursing sessions.
So, when I left last Thursday morning to drive down to San Diego for BlogHer, the milk supply was cut off (I don’t pump regularly). As I nursed her in bed that morning, I cried a little knowing it would be the last time I nursed her, or any baby for that matter since we have decided our family is complete.
She apparently did okay over the weekend while I was gone, but as soon as I returned home, the torture began.
I expected there to be physical pain for me, but that hasn’t happened. Over the weekend, I would pump about an ounce from each side twice a day to release any pressure, but no more than that. It’s now Thursday morning and the last time I pumped was on Saturday afternoon! So that part of it has been much easier than anticipated.
What has been the tortuous part is the sleep deprivation and emotional heartache of feeling like I am depriving Kaylee of something she loves. Even after a week she is still asking for “boobie,” but now she is starting to accept my offer of milk in a cuppie without much protest (in fact, she called her cuppie “boobie” this morning when she was talking to Brian). Last night she didn’t even ask to nurse, which was a pleasant surprise.
It wasn’t so easy the first night I was back from BlogHer though. She hadn’t seen Mommy in 4 days and when she finally saw me, all she wanted was to nurse. She let out this horrible cry that I had never heard before. I cried several times that night and almost gave into nursing her, but had to remind myself of the reasons why I made the decision to wean her.
The hardest part of the transition has been nap time and bedtime. She was still nursing to sleep the majority of the time. Zoë was a binkie loving baby, so she could substitute that for comfort, but Kaylee isn’t a huge fan of binkies. She’ll suck on one every once in a while, but quickly gets tired of it and will throw it across the room.
However, I have finally figured out what works to get her to sleep. I give her a baby doll or stuffed animal and her cuppie, wrap her up in a big blankie and then stand up and slowly rock her with her head on my shoulder until she gets sleepy. Then we sit on the couch and she lays on my chest until she falls asleep. If I get up to try and take her to bed too soon, we have to start the whole process over again. And it is a process.
She is still waking up in the middle of the night, so when she wakes up I have to get up and go downstairs with her, as the only place she wants to fall asleep is on the couch. She wants nothing to do with snuggling in bed, or even being rocked upstairs.
She starts chanting, “Up, up, up.” Meaning, “Stand up with me Mommy.” Then she chants, “Down, down, down.” Meaning, “Take me downstairs now.”
So, I tend to fall asleep in a half sitting up position on the couch in the middle of the night for an hour or two. It’s funny because Zoë went through a phase where she only wanted to sleep on the couch as well. I guess it’s Kaylee’s turn.
I’m sure over the next couple weeks this will get easier. The torture of sleep deprivation and emotional turmoil will settle down. And we’ll move onto the next phase in our family life.
Until then, I need a nap. Or another strong cup of coffee.