Monday, March 29, 2010

When Attempting to Wean, Have Chocolate on Hand

Operation: Wean
Day 1

Why am I finally weaning?
  • Melody is about to be 22 months
  • She claws at me constantly. I have scratches on my chest from her pulling down my shirt.
  • She does said clawing in public--on subways, buses, in restaurants
  • She is not in it for the milk. Long after she drains me she wants to suck for comfort, making me a human pacifier.
  • I'm going on 3 trips for work in the next 2 months. It will be hard enough on her and Joe as it is, so if I can remove the "mommy can give Melody something daddy can't" factor I hope it will be easier on both of them in the long run.

Theo stopped nursing on his own at 9 months, so I've never weaned before. I did, however, have to wean him off the bottle at 2 years and 3 months. He was very addicted. I told Joe we were going to throw away all his bottles and stop cold turkey. It would be a hard few days but we'd just have to deal with it and then it will be over. Joe had his doubts but went along with it.

Turned out to be not so bad. Our secret weapon was ice cream. To ease his howling for the bottle, we gave him his favorite dessert. After a couple of days, he forgot all about the bottle. (Happily, Melody never really took to a bottle so it's one less thing to wean her off of. And we didn't use a pacifier with either kid.)

My strategy is the same now. Have treats at the ready when the screams come.

I'm not so much weaning as stopping cold turkey. Gradually and increasingly cutting down on feedings is the most common method of weaning. Turns out that trying to cut down on feedings wasn't in either of my kids' DNA. This method of replacing boob with ice cream would undoubtedly be unpopular with many mothers, but I remain unapologetic. If I can soften the blow of this cruelty, great!

I knew the mornings would be the hardest. When she wakes up, the first thing we do every day is lay on my bed and nurse. And nurse and nurse. This morning, at 6:30 AM, I stuck her in the high chair with ice cream and Nick Jr. on TV.

When she was finished, she lay on the couch with me tugging my shirt. I was prepared--I'm wearing a turtleneck, which I plan to wear for as long as I need to during this process. Melody begged for milk.

"Alk! Alk! Aaaaalk!"

At this point I took my mother's advice and had a conversation with her, as mom had done with Elliot. "No more boobies. You're a big girl now. Let's hug. Can we hug?" WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I offered her a cup of warm milk and she refused. But all her wailing made her thirsty, so she eventually grabbed the cup and drank. After a few sips she tossed the cup in protest.

Later in the morning she wanted to nurse, so I made her hot chocolate. That kept her happy for a bit.

Now, as I type, she's happily munching on strawberries and ham and eggs (made with the delicious ham Joe's mom made for Palm Sunday! She sent us home with leftovers). So it hasn't been so bad. She cries, yes, but then she gets over it. I wasn't sure if she'd spend all morning whimpering, or worse, screaming. But she's fine.

How long will this take, I wonder? When will she really, truly stop asking for the breast? And when will she forget about it entirely?

In case you think I have a blase attitude about weaning, guess again. This is as hard on me as it is for my little girl. I shudder when I think:

I will never nurse again.

I put both my children to my breast the instant they were born. It has been a beautiful, special part of my bond with them.

It's Melody's greatest comfort when she gets a bruise or is sleepy. It's the one thing I can do for her that no one else can. It's ours, and no one could take it from us. Except me. It's a bittersweet ending.

I do worry that I'm choosing the time I'm ready to stop instead of when she's ready. My best comfort is knowing she won't really ever be. Addicted as she is, she'd have just as much trouble with this a year from now.

Joe has been very supportive--he has always said I should stop when I am ready. I know other dads pressure their wives to stop once the baby is "too old," so they can get what's rightfully theirs returned to them.

Boobs, when this is all over, you won't look as you once did. But I'll try to love you anyway. You may be closer to the ground, but you brought my children closer to my heart. You nourished my babies; you did what nature meant for you to do. How can I be mad at you for that?


Brenna said...

You will ALWAYS have something to offer your kids that no one else can, especially with a daughter. I'm sure most of NYC will be sad to see you wearing turtle necks for the next several days, but I admire your all-or-nothing (nothing or nothing?) commitment. Good luck, Mama.

Thora the Bee said...

I read all the posts after this too so I'm glad it's going well. You are lucky to have a husband who is so supportive of your nursing and weaning. Also, I agree with Brenna - you and your babies will always have something special that they will have with no one else, but I know what you mean and I think of that every time I nurse Thora.