My DH recently told me he wants me to stop nursing our almost 3 yo. I have a new little one- 3 mo. He feels it is confusing to our DD who is being asked to be more independent in so many ways, that nursing tells her she is still a baby. He wants to keep her moving in "one direction." I can't bear the thought of weaning her. She has already given up so much and gone through so many changes with the new baby. I have to tell her 'no' all the time when she asks for 'mum-mum.' Some days we don't nurse at all, some days twice. What can I tell him to show him it is helpful and not harmful or confusing to her?
- topicChild Led Weaningtagged by System, 3/19/12
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Please help me answer DH's concerns
One thought I had was that you are still indeed moving in "one" direction - she is not regressing just because she is continuing to nurse.
And my other thought is that you might want to question your assumption that you have to convince him. Why not assume that he has to convince you? I think it's ok for him to have these feelings, and you can "hear" them without having to make it a big deal or suddenly wean your child.
One other thought is that allowing her to continue to nurse will help the sibling relationship. Her baby brother/sister is a huge challenge (though a positive one!) for her to adjust to ... just like you wouldn't want to abruptly switch a child out of bedsharing or using a crib so that the new baby can use it, causing resentment in the older sibling, you don't want to make your DD feel like the new baby is taking her milk away. She needs that connection to you just as much now, and she will learn great lessons about patience and sharing and develop a stronger bond with her little sibling if they are able to continue to share mommy's milk (IMO).
My 3.5 y/o DS is very, very, very, very, VERY jealous that DD nurses and he does not. I weaned him as a baby (long story) so he was not nursing at all when she came along, and I believe it has made our journey much harder in the long run. As much as I try to make things even for them, DS will inevitably come back to, "How come DD gets to snuggle and drink milk and I don't?" And I have to explain he stopped drinking milk when he was a baby, his body doesn't remember how, etc etc etc. (I have actually tried to allow him, but he can't, and he hates the taste). If I had the chance to nurse them both, I definitely would. Nursing is a perfect way to even the playing field with your DD and your new little one, and let her know how important she still is. If you wean her, and she connects that to the arrival of baby, you could end up with serious sibling jealousy issues on your hands!
As for DH, I agree with not doing much to convince him. She hasn't gone backwards, she's just still going as she was. Nursing doesn't make her a baby, it makes her a child. She is a child.
I have had similar issues with my DH trying to push weaning at various times. I mostly just kept on doing what I felt was right for my kids, without engaging too much or arguing with him. Every once in a while, I would drop a little factoid, such as: nursing is biologically normal and beneficial at least until the child has a fully-developed immune system and starts to lose his baby teeth (a.k.a. "milk teeth) - both of which occur around age six; the worldwide average age of weaning is four years (think what it would be without formula use and premature weaning). My DH seems to have absorbed some of this over time or just given up the fight, I don't know which. More importantly, he has seen me nurse the kids through illnesses (which have generally been infrequent, minor, and brief) and through difficult developmental and emotional times (such as the arrival of a baby brother), and he has seen the benefits for himself.
One thing you might ask your DH to do is to try to objectively observe your daughter. What impact does nursing have on her behavior or her mood? Does it seem important to her? Does it smooth relations with her other family members, especially the baby? Does it make her feel loved and comforted? Maybe even suggest that your DH ask your daughter these types of questions. Sometimes hearing it from the child is the most compelling way to show the importance of the nursing relationship.
You might also your DH whether he really thinks your daughter's development is stunted in some way compared to her peers. In my experience, my kids felt so secure in their relationship with their parents, and in the fact that their needs were being met, that they were actually advanced for their age in many ways. My older son (who nursed until he was almost six) is very emotionally mature and empathetic. He was the kid at pre-school who befriended the younger kids and helped them learn the ropes when they were new to the school. His transition to having a baby brother was pretty uneventful, and he truly loves his brother and looks out for him. I tandem nursed them for about 18 months before my older son weaned.
Nursing is not just for babies - a hard concept for many in our society. If you stopped nursing your daugher, she would not stop needing love, comfort, and attention, because she is still a very small child. Independence doesn't come over night, but it will come in its own time.
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