Hi all! I don't post here a lot but I wanted to share this. My youngest child, who turned 3 in April, was my only child to nurse past toddlerhood and self-wean. When she turned 3 I wondered if she would *ever* choose to wean....but she did! I thought I would share our story in the hopes that it will be an encouragement to someone here.
I am copying it from my blog.
Well, it's official, Q is weaned. I am not planning to have any more children so this is huge transition for me. The timing is good. She is ready. I am ready. But it makes me a bit sad that I mostly likely will never nurture a baby at my breast again.
She is the only one of my children to nurse long term and to wean naturally. D weaned at 8 months. I tried for 2 months to get him to continue to nurse but he wouldn't. Years later we learned that he has low muscle tone and nursing was very hard for him. After I introduced those "convenience" bottles, he figured out that bottles were much easier. He actually started using a cup very soon, too, before 1 year of age.
J also weaned very early, at 10 months. I don't know why he refused the breast. But both D and J totally refused. They would have nothing to do with it. If it was a nursing strike, it lasted long enough for my milk to dry up. I was very sad when they both weaned. I felt cheated of mama-time.
C had an inefficient suck and lost a lot of weight. It took a couple weeks to teach him to suck effectively. After he caught on and started getting the good stuff, he was very nursey-nursey until about 15 months and he slowed way down. I went on a short trip around that time and he never asked to nurse again when I got back. I guess that was self-led weaning, but since I was not home for 3 days, I didn't fell it was totally self-led.
With Q I was really hoping to nurse her to 2 years. She was born breech. Her head had some intense shaping from her position inutero. She had had access to her face with her hands so she had developed a habit of smacking on her fingers which was not helpful for nursing. She didn't know how to draw the breast in and milk it. She was very fussy. She needed a lot of comforting. I refused to bottle feed her so I pumped and fed her with a syringe.
The hardest thing about this (besides the sheer exhaustion) was not being able to hold her while I fed her. I had to put her in her car seat so I could be in front of her to get the fore-finger of my free hand into her mouth and train her suck. I had to track my milk output and her intake. I was EXHAUSTED. When she was about 4 days old, my face swelled up like a balloon for lack of sleep.
I consulted a board certified lactation consultant. I called a good friend who is a long time La Leche League leader. I called my midwife. I called friends. I got help with childcare and meals. I slept as much as I could. I took my baby to a chiropractor and two cranio-sacral therapists. We worked HARD. I almost gave up. I begged a disposable supplemental nursing system off a hospital where I had not given birth or sought any care for this baby. And in the end, after I had considered and tried all the advice, I found the answer myself.
It took almost 6 weeks to get her nursing fully on the breast again. Those 6 weeks felt like an eternity. We fought so hard to get Q to be able to breastfeed and breastfeed she did! She was a boob-aholic. She nursed very frequently. At 2 years, probably half of her daily consumption was breastmilk. After age 2 I didn't know how long she would go. I was dedicated to letting her decided how long she needed it.
She was also still sleeping with us. I had always liked the idea of co-sleeping but it hadn't worked out with the boys for a variety of reasons. But Q could not sleep anywhere but on my bed, snuggled up against me. Once I figured out how to nurse her lying down, it was okay. Our bed isn't very big but she was a very still and snuggly sleeper until she wanted her milkies at which point she took to slapping me in the face and screaming, "MILKIES!" usually when I was in a dead sleep. We worked for a while on night-milkie etiquette, which helped tremendously. Then we night weaned.
At two and a half, we moved her into her own "princess" toddler bed in our room, where she still sleeps. The move went very smoothly. The first night I had to sit by her and hold her hand until she went to sleep. I gradually tried to push the scale a little more toward independent sleep little by little until I could put her in bed awake, kiss her goodnight, and walk out of the room.
I remember when she couldn't sleep unless I was holding her and I had a hard time convincing myself that she would ever sleep independently. But I just kept trusting. And eventually, when she was ready, she did. And she did so gently, without trauma. She protested a bit, but not much. She was invested in her indepen*dance.
Similarly, I had a hard time trusting that my mega-nurser would ever want to wean. But something happened around her 3rd birthday, she was less interested in nursing. She was busy. There were still days when she was not feeling well or was a little bored and sought out the comfort of my breast more, but most days she was just too busy to stop and get milkies. She started asking for more cups of drinks.
We had a 48 hour stretch where she did not ask to nurse one time. Which was followed by several days when I rarely left my rocking chair ... then a few more milkie-free days. I felt we were headed toward weaning.
I brought up the idea of a weaning party just before her third birthday. She cried because she didn't want to stop having milkies. Around her birthday, I brought the idea up again. That time she wanted to have the party immediately, but not actually wean. The third time I brought it up, I explained that her brothers had all had milkies when they were little, that babies drink milkies and as children get bigger, they don't need milkies as much. I explained that her brother are big and don't need milkies any more. She grabbed on to that! She decided at that point that she was a big girl and that meant she was too big for milkies.
She nursed a few more sweet times. One of the last times I remember sitting in my rocking chair, with her in my lap, knowing it was one of the last times I would give her the tenderness of milkies. I felt so much love for her. My heart melted as she gazed back up at me and smiled.
Today she came up to me while I was writing this and asked for some milk (in a cup). J heard her and said, "mom, she wants milkies!" Q spun around, threw her hands on her hips, and scolded, "I don't want milkies! I a big girl now!"
We have reached the end of an era. I remember the words of a wise mama who told me, upon my lamenting about Q resisting being carried in a sling as soon as she was able to walk, told me that her refusal to be carried was evidence that I had met her needs. I had given her enough.
As Q reaches this milestone, I also realize this is a turning point in my life as a mother and a woman. I am so thankful for the relationship I have with her. I am so thankful that she has been able to ease through the transitions in her life so far. I think it is a very good model for her to use as she continues to experience transitions in her life. I think she feels empowered and strong. I know she feels loved and supported. If I have done nothing else right as a parent, I know I have done this right.
I am ready to be done with this phase in my life, but it has been such a lovely, rich phase that the transition is bittersweet. I look down now at my bare breasts and smile. They have served well and that makes me happy. Even in their deflated state, they are beautiful to me. And I am looking forward to pretty bras that don't have secret hatches, and to dresses that zip up the back, and to keeping my belly covered.
I have learned that if we can give our children what they need when the need it, we can meet the need. When the need is met, the child can grow confidently and the need dissipates naturally. Then life becomes a dance ... an indepen*dance.
Now if I can just find that same trust for potty-learning....