Monday, April 13, 2009

Don't be a weaner?

It's the middle of the night and I wake up to my son's cries. I pad across the hall, bleary-eyed, and scoop him up out of the crib and carry him back to our bed. I am still 90% asleep as I lay him down on his side and slide into bed next to him. Without even having to think, I lift my shirt and he latches on, his little legs in between mine. He reaches out and begins massaging my breast furiously, willing the milk to let down. This seems to go on for hours, as he sucks and sucks, taking comfort from my breasts but not much else. It used to be that he would drink quickly and hungrily, gulping down the milk and rolling over, happy and full, back into a nice deep sleep. Now he sits upright and cries, "Mommy, mommy! Milk? Milk?!"

He hasn't really demanded much milk for the last 5 months, so my body has pretty much stopped making it. We would still nurse once or twice a day, but only for a few minutes and he didn't get much milk, if any. He wasn't drinking, just reconnecting with me after a long day apart or taking a quick suck to lessen the hurt from an owie. I figured this was a good time to begin the weaning process. My initial goal had been to allow him to self-wean, but since he was nursing so infrequently, I thought I would try denying his nursing requests and try to wean him fully.

Saturday during the day he asked to nurse and I distracted him and he forgot all about it and didn't ask again. Saturday night he woke up around 3 am wanting to nurse. He's teething and it seems to be interrupting his normally excellent sleeping pattern. I didn't let him nurse, but tried to comfort him back to sleep in other ways: warm milk, rocking, patting, singing. Nothing was working and his crying was getting harder and harder to bear (I've never not responded to his cries), so I did the only thing I could think of: I turned on the lights and we played until he was exhausted and allowed himself to be shushed and patted to sleep. "OK," I thought. "That wasn't so bad."

Yesterday during the day he didn't ask to nurse at all! Score! Last night, though? Last night he wanted to nurse and when I refused, he wasn't having it. AT. ALL. Nothing I or Daddy did could calm him down. At one point my hubby said, "Elita, there has to be a better way, I can't take this anymore!" and my heart broke. So I finally gave in and let him "nurse," which pretty much consisted of him putting my nipple in his mouth and massaging the other breast. He was out like a light in a few minutes.

Now what? I really feel like I am ready to be done nursing him and it seems he is 90% there with me. I thought I could gently push him over the edge, but it doesn't feel gentle when he cries (and he cried for a while...longer than I'd like to admit on this blog.)

Does anyone have any tips for me? Am I being selfish? Do I just need to go ahead and let him have this one session at night until he outgrows it? Or is this just how it goes with weaning nursing toddlers? Does it take a few tears to wean them? I'm feeling so torn. Breastfeeding has been such a huge part of my life for the past 16 months that I am not sure how I would really feel if we stopped, but I'm feeling drained and like I want my body back. Between the 10-month pregnancy and the nursing, my body hasn't been just my own for over 2 years.


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