Two weeks later, I’m willing to call it: Bingo is weaned.
My last post on breastfeeding reinforced for me just how done I was. I was done being kicked in the face every time she nursed, I was done with the constant latching/unlatching, I was done with the whiny cries for “MAAAALK”, I was just done.
So we weaned her.
How we did it:
One night I told Bingo that it would be her last night nursing. She narrowed her eyes, clearly trying to judge if I was lying. I said it again. I was serious. Then I nursed her, memorizing her sleepy face, the way her body curled into mine, the well-washed cotton of her frog pajamas. It was the first time in a long time that I had been present, really present, while nursing. Asleep, she unlatched and I put her down. We were done.
The next night I did a terrible thing: I lied to my child. Specifically, I told her that she had drunk all of the milk and there was none left. I thought this was ingenious: she understands that when she eats something and it’s gone there’s just no more: end of argument. I was just applying the same logic to my breasts. Sea had a different take on it: “you can’t tell her that”, she hissed, “she’ll think it’s her fault!”
Whatever, it worked.
The first night she cried for two minutes when I told her there would be no milk. Since then she’s cried over a plethora of other toddler bedtime sorrows (Downstairs! Monkey! Mommy! Water! Crib! Chair! Light on!), but hasn’t cried for milk. 22 months of nursing and almost as much time spent agonizing over how I would possibly wean her all boiled down to two minutes of tears.
Things that (I think) helped:
- She was already day weaned and night weaned, only the bedtime nursing session had to go.
- The lie. Yes, it was underhanded, but Bingo understood it.
- Removing nursing associations. Before bedtime on her first nursing-free night, we took the nursing pillow out of her room. I figured that I would be pretty annoyed if I went to sit in my favourite booth at my favourite restaurant and nobody served me. I’ve heard a lot of people say that totally removing the nursing parent from the bedtime routine helps, but we didn’t have to go that far.
- Offering a replacement. A Google search for “how to wean a toddler” led me to this helpful post. The idea of replacing nursing with a special “hot tea” seemed brilliant. Though Bingo ended up hating the warm milk with honey, she was excited to be offered something new and it distracted her from the fact that nursing was gone.
The aftermath (for Bingo):
I’m not going to lie (to you): I was terrified that Bingo would be totally traumatized by weaning and that I would break her little toddler heart. Really though, there has been very little fallout. According to her childcare provider, she had one whinier than usual day and then was fine. With me there have been a few more requests to hold her like a “little baby” and rock her, which I’ve done. Her stuffed animals have also developed an increased interest in nursing. Holding her stuffed monkey to her chest, she’ll explain, “Monkey want milk. Monkey need milk.”
For my part, I’ve tried to pay bonus attention to her so that she doesn’t feel like she’s lost any mummy time with the end of nursing. This has actually been easiest at bedtime: because I didn’t enjoy nursing, I used to spend most of bedtime zoned out reading the entire internet on my smartphone. Now that I can’t use my breasts as a replacement parent, I’m present as Bingo falls asleep. I sing to her, rock her, listen to the stories she tells me.
The aftermath (for me):
Physically, ending nursing has felt a lot like beginning nursing. As I said, I was only nursing her at bedtime (and on some tired mornings) by the time we stopped, so my supply was already pretty low. Still, the sore breasts, tingling/stabbing sensation, and leaking that I vaguely remember from 22 months ago all came rushing back. I really thought that this would only last a few days– after all, nursing parents learn pretty quickly to treat their milk supply as a fragile and uncertain thing. Two weeks later it has diminished, but when Bingo cries I still feel it– quite literally– in my chest. I can also still express some milk, which surprises me every time. (If you’re listening, body, quit it: we aren’t going back.)
I worried, too, about a crash in hormones leaving me an emotional wreck. I don’t think that it has (hopefully Sea can verify this…), but I have been left with a feeling that I didn’t expect… a bit, just a bit, of sadness. It’s silly, really. I hated nursing. And it isn’t the nursing that I miss. It’s just that, on most days, in most lights, I look at Bingo and I see a toddler. Sometimes even a kid. But when I looked down at my nursing baby, that’s what I saw: a baby. And now, especially with weaning, the moments when she’s my little baby are fewer and farther between. I don’t want to lose that. But then I breathe, pause, relish reclaiming a little bit of my body as my own. (Though as any parent of a baby or grabby-handed toddler knows, your body is never really your own.) And I remind myself of what my mother has told me so many times: your baby never really stops being your baby. That for the rest of Bingo’s life, whether she’s drinking milk, water, coffee, or wine, there will always be those moments when I look over and see her exactly as she was on the day that she was born.
(Besides, even if I haven’t moved on, she has. Last night at bedtime I offered her a cup of water. “NO!” she replied, horrified, “CUP OF COFFEE!”)