So I always saw child-led weaning as a fairly peaceful process of the child in question gradually cutting back on his/her own and eventually just stopping altogether. This morning, though, I started to wonder if sometimes we'll get other signs that aren't so peaceful.
Here's the issue. For the past nine months, my son has gradually been decreasing his nursing; for several months we've been down to sleep-time only nursing (before naps, bed, after waking up, etc.), and generally nursing no more than 2-4 times a day. He wasn't quite night-weaned, but we were getting there and both of our sleep patterns were improving. And to be clear, he would only nurse when I was the one putting him down--my husband can get him to sleep on his own, as can my mother, though it does generally take some cuddling.
Then he started teething--molars--and the nightweaning went all to heck. He had been nursing at bedtime, then again when he woke up and wandered in to snuggle with us (anywhere between midnight and 4 am), and then one more time when we were ready to get up for the day. Since the teething started, about a month back or so, he's been wanting to nurse ALL NIGHT. As in, I swear he smells me when I come in to go to bed (we have only one bedroom, so his toddler bed is on one side and our bed is on the other), wakes up, comes into bed with us, and then is extremely resistant to pulling off and just sleeping. Needless to say, our sleep has been terrible, because either he's dozing and nursing and I'm dozing and hoping to disengage myself, or I'm saying "No, I want to sleep," and he's throwing a horrible temper tantrum.
This morning was the last straw. He came to bed with us around 3:30-4 am, tried to nurse for the next two or so hours, and when I finally put my foot down at around 5:30, he threw a huge temper tantrum. At one point we got him calmed down and back into a snuggle with us, but then he started plucking at my sleep bra again, I said "No," and he threw another temper tantrum (kicking, yelling, flopping on the floor, throwing any pacifier we tried to give him, etc). The end came when he stood up, looked at me, picked up his water cup, and deliberately threw it at my face (and since I was lying down, it hit relatively hard). That resulted in me leaving the room and Daddy sternly telling him no. He eventually calmed down enough to want Daddy to snuggle him, but DH and I talked about it, and we're interpreting the sleeping issues and temper tantrums as a sign that maybe it's just time to wean altogether. Yes, DS likes nursing still, but it seems to be causing more negative problems than positive benefits, partly for me, but also very much for him in the form of the refusal to sleep well when there's a boob close by.
So this morning was probably it. I'm going to try and just wean him. I'm really not thrilled about this, but it seems to me that it's time, now that nursing has become an interruption and not a regular part of the schedule. Just to be clear, I guess what I'm looking for is a bit of support that I've probably made the right decision, and I'm not just being selfish here . . .
I guess you can just try weaning (or at least night-weaning) and see how it goes. I think you'll figure out pretty quickly whether or not it's a good thing for him, and you can always try to increase nursing again if he seems to need it. I do not think you're being selfish, but I can understand that feeling because I've felt the same & am currently considering weaning my 2.5yo (despite my previous commitment to CLW). Trust that you will know what your child needs -- and what you can handle -- and try to let go of labels & ideals just enough to hear what your heart is telling you.
Yes, we have been working with painkillers when we're sure that he's having teething problems--he makes it pretty clear by being excessively clingy and crabby. We've also all been sick for the past week, and it's being prolonged by lack of sleep. The thing that makes me pretty certain that he doesn't really need to nurse is that if I leave (and only if I leave), he'll go to sleep just fine cuddling his dad, and there's definitely no nursing there! He also is sometimes willing to switch to a paci for comfort, just not in the early morning hours. DS and I also sleep much worse when he's next to me and the boob is available--it's like he can't make himself stay asleep, preferring to doze and nurse instead. When he's in his own bed, or next to Dad, he'll sack out completely and fall deeply asleep. I think weaning will result in both of us getting more and better sleep. I hope. I'm way too tired all the time now, and it's really hard to balance work (full time) and other parts of life when I'm like this.
So, to update: it's actually going extremely well, and to judge from my son's response, is exactly what he needed. Daddy's been putting him to bed at night by lying down in our bed and snuggling, which is our norm. Then DS gets transferred, asleep, to his own bed. He wakes up partway through the night to join us, asks to nurse, pouts or tantrums very briefly (less than 2 minutes) when he's told no, and then cuddles up to me (or on me) to go back to sleep. He doesn't even get so angry with me that he goes to Daddy. From that point on, we all sleep until about 7 am, no matter how early DS came to our bed. He seems miffed at being told "no boob," but gets over it quickly and comes back in for a snuggle. This is in spite of the fact that all three of us are getting over a lingering cold and DS is still teething a bit. We're all better rested, more cheerful with each other in the morning, and more tolerant at night, so I'd say it's an unqualified success, and perhaps we can conclude that sometimes child-led weaning means paying attention to negative signs like a child who starts "backsliding" or waking up more often just to nurse.
This may be something to consider, other moms who are having this kind of difficulty with nursing toddlers . . .
Funny how half of attachment parenting seems to be figuring out what limits to set, isn't it? We're still doing really well with the weaning, though I think we both miss it. If I snuggle DS down to bed, he'll pat my chest and say, "Bo?" in a hopeful way, but when I say no, he just snuggles closer--no temper tantrums anymore. I guess maybe he was ready anyways . . . I do miss nursing a bit, though. Ohwell.
I'm glad it's going well, it sounds like he's really adjusted!!
I had DS down to once a day & was even sort of contemplating totally weaning him... he seemed to be OK with it & wasn't tantrumming anymore or getting upset when I said 'no' to nursing. But he started becoming more anxious & clingy & having nightmares... I don't know that it's anything to do with weaning but I decided to try nursing him a bit more often, maybe twice a day again, to see if that helps some. He actually turned me down once thought when I asked if he wanted to nurse... which was the strangest feeling ever, I didn't think he'd ever refuse to nurse lol... but the next day insistently asked to nurse at a non-usual time. So I'm trying to respect his requests but try to keep SOME limits in place, I'm terrified of going back to nursing on demand lol!! I feel like it's so hard to meet their needs AND our own, you know?