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Mama Phoebe 03-09-2009 12:02 AM

I think this is the first thread I am starting on MDC. I've been reading alot over the past month and feel like it's time to start contributing to the conversations on here.

My son is 4.5 and my daughter is nearly 3. We tandem nurse. Up until last year I kind of went along enjoying the benefits of nursing through illnesses, being able to nurse them to sleep at the same time, oxytocin flowing through my body etc.. But over the past 12 months or so I've started to feel like I'd maybe better have a plan.

So I started some conversations with my son to the end of planting the "wean when he's five" seed in his head. He says this every day, when pushed on the nursing question.

The thing is, I'm not really sure how we got to this point. It wasn't so intentional. Sure, there are cultural and social aesthetics about our family that have made extended breastfeeding feel like a good fit, and certainly it has worked. But I didn't start nursing with anything in mind other than the sheer terror and exhaustion of a very scared first time mother. I certainly didn't have an end date or any kind of exit strategy in mind.
Over the past 4.5 years I have seen friends nurse and wean and tandem nurse and wean one child. I know a lot more than I did when I started, obviously. But I still don't really know what "our" story is. Why five? Why not eight? Well, because for me, I get a knot in my stomach typing eight. I wouldn't necessarily have a knot in my stomach if YOU said eight, for your situation, but for me, that's what happens. And also I'm starting to get that crawling skin feeling when he nurses. Not with dd who is nearly three, just with ds who is 4.5. And the tension is compromising our ability to cuddle. As soon as I am close to him he immediately says "may I have nursies please?" he even sometimes says this as a slip when he wants something else. Eg: "may I have nursies please? OOOPs - I mean Can you help me zip my jacket please?" was a slip the other morning. He's so used to asking because it is contentious right now, which I realize is making the "stock" higher in value - simply because of my subtle (and often unconcious) pushing him away. So in some ways it feels as though I need to call an end date very soon - soon enough that I don't keep feeding this tension in our relationship. But that will bring BIG changes. We co-sleep - so right now I just have him sitting there, fidgeting while his sister nurses at night. Asking every two minutes if he can nurse as well. "No, in a minute, just wait, please stop asking..." so not healthy.. And what about the next time he gets sick and we aren't nursing. Though the scary croup episodes will be behind us soon as he gets bigger. On the other hand - if I've gone this far, it seems reasonable to truly be Child Led in this. That is to say - if I "call an end date" at age 4.9, or 5, with no consulation from him, then why not simply call that date much much sooner - was extended breastfeeding really only about putting him to sleep each night in a timely manner and feeding him through bouts of croup? No...

AND there is some very disrespectful behaviour taking place (arguably on many sides) but specifically with him pushing at my arm to get to the breast. I am stuck on this, I absolutely refuse to let him touch my breast or nurse when he has not asked permission to do so, or I have not offered. On the other hand, I can see that I am coercing him to be polite and offering a high reward for his compliance. I am generally pretty coercion-avoidant, so this is feeling like a pretty big compromise of my principles. And with this, I am only reinforcing the whole "nursies are the focus of my heart's desire" thing he has going on. He's not even really relating to me, or to my partner that much on an interpersonal emotional level these days, it's all about aggressive repetitive "peter pan/captain hook" pretend sword battles, or nursies. But that's really another thread.

So, I don't really have a specific question in there that I have named. Let's see. I guess I'm wondering how much I want to be involved, and leading this weaning process, and how to do it gently, as the adult in charge, and cooperatively, as a part of a breastfeeding duo (trio!). And do I want to wean dd now as well? I just don't know. I think it would be okay for her, but again, it's complicated.

Normally I would close here saying that "I'm open to any and all suggestions/input and questions." but here's the thing. I err on the side of sensitive, and I live in Canada, where I think some aspects of interpersonal communication might be less direct than they are in the US. I have noticed that threads on MDC become inflammatory more quickly and intensely than I often would predict, and I know that I would prefer to not be in conflict with others about this issue. I'm seeking answers and more questions here. So, be gentle, please.

AquariusHome 03-09-2009 12:13 AM

I have no advice really, but couldn't read and not respond. I have nearly the exact same situation here. DS is 4.5 and DD is 16 months. A lot of what you write about is going on here too. I'll be interested to see other's responses. When I talk to DS about when he thinks is a good time to wean the response is "when I go to college" or "when I'm 12", depending on the day. I'm certain a lot of his attachment has to do with feeling pushed away, really since I was pregnant with DD. It hit me yesterday hard when I asked him to nurse a bit in an attempt to get the milk flowing so I could express some for dd's ear infection. Afterward he said "that's the first time you've ever asked me to dee (that's his word for it)." And he was so happy about it.

I'll be interested to see what suggestions you get.

And to you for being so thoughtful about it.

meemee 03-09-2009 02:14 AM

this is what i have come to the conclusion about childhood.

1. it is happy but also extremely hard and emotionally overwhelming. at 4 1/2 they dont have the language to be polite or truly express what they are feeling - when they are overwhelmed.

2. childhood is full of stress and anxiety. a lot of this could be personalilty based. so no matter how much you try he might still feel the fear in the pit of his stomach.

we are told of the terrible 3s and discover the terrible 4's. but no one talks about the terrible 5's or terrible 6's. its not terrible as much as terrifying for our children. esp. once they start going to school.

we as a group in society no longer have the extended family or friends to help our kids thru this trying time. we mostly dont have loving grown ups who spoil the child or loving playmates of various ages who teach them age appropriate behaviour thru play. all that is left on teh parents.

plus along with the physical growth spurts there are the emotional growth spurts too. and 4 1/2 in general is one of them. suddenly around that age they become grown up. kids who you thought how could they start K suddenly become matured enough overnight where you are more confident they will do well at k. 4 1/2 is a specially hard one.

even though your son is not directly relating to you in ways that you can see, know that he is very much relating to you even more now in an indirect fashion thru play. almost like mommy even if i attack you with the sword do you still love me. this was the hardest time of parenting for me. when i had to let go of my old style of parenting and let my dd lead more than she did before. this is the time they start asking about death. about where babies come from if they havent already done so. where they remember more than before. where they learn to appreciate little treats - not necessarily a toy - as it signifies mommy was thinking of them.

for some like your son and my dd nursing becomes even more important to them. its not so much about the nursing as much as about something that is always there. its like therapy for them. my 6 1/2 year old still nurses. going to bed for maybe 30 to 60 secs. if i say no she can deal with it. but overall - with life hitting her everywhere seh needs to nurse. even now. its soothing. its reassuring. it isnt about nutrition any longer. its about - this whole world is a crazy place. it isnt what i thought it was. at least i can still fall on nursing to help me get thru this. some kids can handle life without nursing. some cant.

if ds is going to go to K, then i would wait till he started school (IF he isnt in ps or some sort of school right now) to gently start easing up on the nursing.

why are you getting the skin crawling feeling of him nursing till he is 8? because of what society would say? or because you are so done? these are hypothetical questions for you to ask yourself. i dont need the answers. but then why are you thinking about 8. why not focus on well what about tomorrow. will i be ok letting him nurse tomorrow?

when i was pregnant i was adamant that no matter what happened i was going to nurse my dd. and i recall so clearly being surprised that she was one and i was still nursing. and every bday since then i am surprised we are still nursing. i knew i would do CLW but never once thought i would be bfeeding so long. or such an older child. today as i see how much she still needs it i am so happy she has it. and i as her mother have something v. powerful still to contribute to her.

hope this made sense.

Mama Phoebe 03-09-2009 03:37 AM

Thanks folks. I appreciate you taking the time to think about this with me.

I think my question falls in "how do I know if I am interfering with DS' ability to initiate weaning and personal growth by my own agenda?" I can work on my agenda, and pull back in this as in anything. You know how sometimes we need to just push a tiny little bit and they burst into the new level, but if we push in the wrong way, they go scurrying back into a plateau they've outgrown? I think nursing could go either way. I don't know if he's ready to stop, but in something so longstanding and important, I want to be sure that I help us both make the right decision.

Not sure why I feel skin crawly, or where "age 8" feels different in my mind than say "tomorrow". I WILL spend some time with that when it happens and see what I notice. Thanks!

And pp - thanks so much for saying I was being thoughtful. That really felt great to read.

lthw 03-09-2009 01:37 PM

Wow, I really have appreciated this thread. I can hardly put into words the push/pull that is going on with DD (4.3) and nursing. I was 6 when I weaned and so weaning DS was never an issue until I got pregnant and now it hurts to nurse . . . so I'd love it if she'd wean, I'm too uncomfortable to be an enthusiastic participant, but I can see how much DS needs to know it's there. And it's pretty obvious that she senses my hesitation which is making it even more important to her -- where for a while she'd forget to nurse a night or a morning here or there, not so these days. She never forgets, and yes, even accidentally asks for nursies when she means to say something else (I LOVED your description, I hadn't even paid attention to DS doing this until I read your post and then I realized she does this, too!!!!) I don't want to push the weaning thing too much on her, but I also want to make sure I'm not ignoring my own needs (ouch!). It's a fine balance.

You did a great job articulating your situation and I loved the responses. I feel like I can carry on, just knowing there is this kind of support out there.

Perdita_in_Ontario 03-09-2009 03:31 PM

There are some very wise words here...

Considering a child's viewpoint is so important, and I also don't like the "push them to do this or that because it's good for them" path. It's too black and white, and it doesn't take into account situation, personality, experiences, etc. I also like to err on the side of assuming that children have a very good reason for doing things.

That said, I also believe in "gut feelings", and listening to yourself. If you are feeling as you do, you may want to ask yourself if you think that perhaps he is really ready to wean but, as an excellent EBFing friend put it "didn't really realize it was an option NOT to nurse." Perhaps as your conscious brain tries hard to do what's right for your DS, your subconscious knows a different path is actually right.

I'm not saying you should push him to wean. That is a decision only you should make, and at his age I'd be supportive of either course of action, as would most here I'm sure. But don't forget that you get a say in this too - and very often if we listen to our inner voices, we find wisdom that can be clouded at the conscious level.

For what it's worth, I weaned my 3.5-year-old in January. I did so because time is running out for fertility treatments, and I'd already tried twice before weaning. I wasn't really getting that crawly feeling, but I think perhaps just the beginnings of it... and I can reassure you that even though DD was a dedicated nurser, with lots of preparation, and talking, and reassurance that nothing else was going to change, the transition was very smooth, and only *I* cried... I suspect it was because I listened to my inner voice telling me that now was the time (as opposed to a year ago, or even a month ago...).

Whatever you do, do it because you're pretty sure it's the right choice for you both. I doubt you can ever be totally sure. And it certainly won't hurt to go for "just one more day" while you're figuring it out.

cherimoya 03-20-2009 12:14 AM

Oh that was so nice to read. I can't speak about CLW for that age, my ds CLW at 3yo but I do feel for you. Your feelings towards your children are beautiful and although this is a tough situation for you sometimes and you will make a decision about this after more thought, I'm sure, this is a bit of writing that you should keep somewhere for your child to read much later on in life maybe when they are parents. beautiful! Good luck.

tracymom1 03-20-2009 12:23 AM

Originally Posted by cherimoya View Post
Oh that was so nice to read. I can't speak about CLW for that age, my ds CLW at 3yo but I do feel for you. Your feelings towards your children are beautiful and although this is a tough situation for you sometimes and you will make a decision about this after more thought, I'm sure, this is a bit of writing that you should keep somewhere for your child to read much later on in life maybe when they are parents. beautiful! Good luck.

And, I have to add that just by taking the time to work through your feelings, sharing them and being open to what life has brought you so far means that you are and will continue to do what is right for you and your family. Follow your heart and all will be well.

Moonchild77 03-20-2009 06:35 PM

You did a great job articulating your situation and I loved the responses. I feel like I can carry on, just knowing there is this kind of support out there.

sapphire_chan 03-20-2009 11:52 PM

Originally Posted by LaurieG View Post
Afterward he said "that's the first time you've ever asked me to dee (that's his word for it)." And he was so happy about it.
This makes me wonder if anything would be helped by offering at a given time of day every day?

I'd also maybe drop the weaning talk since it's clearly very much on his mind. Ever try to diet by dwelling on how you absolutely won't have a brownie?

chinaKat 03-21-2009 12:04 AM

I don't know much about CLW but the title of this thread jumped out at me. We had worked with DD in a similar vein, using the age of four to be when we'd stop co-sleeping. We thought it was great, planting the seed and giving her plenty of preparation. She verbally agreed to this -- "I'll stop when I'm four."

Well, the two weeks before her fourth birthday, she was a holy terror. It was as if she'd turned into another person... totally tantruming ALL the time.

The day after her birthday, she was fine. (We obviously didn't go cold turkey on the co-sleeping.)

We realized that she was SERIOUSLY stressing out about what was going to happen "when she was four". Poor kid couldn't deal.

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but thought I'd throw it out there.

EviesMom 03-22-2009 02:10 AM

One thing you can do, as I have a child who will be 5 in 11 days, and she weaned in December, is to try to shift any routines that you think might be better served in other ways.

For example, DD was nursing in the morning and before brushing teeth and bedtime stories. She was used to that, but honestly, the bedtime nurse was becoming a hassle. She desperately needed my attention, but nursing meant that I was paying attention to her baby brother on the other breast and not really paying full attention to her. So she was acting out with nursing. She didn't want to lose nursing at bedtime with no other way of getting that same kind of attention. (This is mostly me conjecturing, from the conversations DD and I had about weaning, what weaning means, and how I thought maybe we should do something else at bedtime so she would get more undivided attention.)

I started nursing DS to sleep while DD watched TV, brushed teeth, put on pjs, with DH. Then I took her up to bed, read more bedtime stories than we used to, and snuggled with her for a little while. Honestly, I think this meets her needs better overall (although we're struggling with it now that DS is staying up later too, but we'll just adjust it again.).

I also did an out of town trip with DS and without DD in July for a few days. We billed it as a fun time for her to spend with DH, and she did indeed have a great time. But it also got us all out of the bedtime and morning time routines we had been in and we could then create some new ones that didn't necessarily involve nursing. DD nursed every couple days after that, and eventually it dropped off, but then it picked back up as we planned a weaning party for early December.

I'm not really sure in the end if she technically child-led weaned, but I can tell you that it wasn't forced by me, and was at a minimum a collaborative effort.

EviesMom 03-22-2009 02:18 AM

Originally Posted by meemee View Post
and every bday since then i am surprised we are still nursing.
You know, I just realized that this birthday, when DD turns 5 on April 1st... will be the first birthday that I haven't nursed her! It's bittersweet. :

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