My sweet Livie-Lou has been a boobie girl since FOREVER. Right when she was born and they placed her on my chest, she did the breast crawl and latched perfectly all by herself. She has never refused the breast. EVER. She always wants to nurse and I have always obliged her. I researched breastfeeding and became a pro while I was pregnant and I was determined to make it work for us and nurse her until she was at least a year old, though the AAP recommends nursing until 2 years old. But, let me tell you... nursing an 18 month old on demand is DIFFICULT. This isn't a tiny little swaddled baby we're talking about, anymore. This is a spirited, rambunctious, heavy toddler who wants to nurse and nurse often. Sometimes, she nurses up to 12 times a day! And it's always right when I'm about to do something important that requires my full attention. She wants to nurse in the middle of Target or right as we sit down for dinner with friends at a restaurant, and frankly, it's started to become quite inconvenient. As much as it pained me to think about weaning her, I could feel myself getting frustrated with her about wanting to nurse all the time, and I have been feeling like it was time for a change.
Last week I was listening to an episode of "Unruffled" with Janet Lansbury (this podcast is an AMAZING resource for parents who follow the RIE parenting method), and a work-at-home mother was talking about how she had grown apathetic about nursing her 20 month old and she felt like her daughter was picking up on it. Janet mentioned how that wasn't really fair to the child, that something so special and bonding was becoming a point of contention, and she encouraged the mother to set boundaries with breastfeeding, that way the daughter would learn when she could expect a nursing session and wouldn't be asking all the time. Also, breastfeeding wouldn't feel like a burden to the mother, anymore, and nursing would be a sweet time of connection for the both of them, again. It was in that moment that I decided to set some limits with Olivia regarding breastfeeding.
I wanted nursing to feel special again. I never wanted my baby girl to feel like she's an inconvenience to me. I could also tell that she was picking up on my negative attitude toward her as I grew impatient waiting for her to be finished, so I could move on to whatever important thing needed to be done. So, I decided to day-wean Olivia and reserve breastfeeding for first thing in the morning and before bed times (nap time around 2pm and bedtime around 9pm). I knew I needed to do it for my own mental health, and to preserve the beauty of Olivia's and my breastfeeding relationship. Like I said, Olivia LOVES her "boobie". She will demand it and throw a fit if she doesn't get it. She will try and pull my shirt, stick her hands down my bra and occasionally try to hit me if I don't give it up fast enough. So, needless to say, I was pretty anxious about starting this process. I knew there would be a lot of drama, and I knew I would be having to upset her and endure lots of crying and sadness, but it was easier than I thought!
I started the process on Tuesday after she woke up from her nap. Every time she would ask to nurse, I would say "No, baby. We only nurse before you sleep now. You can have boobie before bedtime.". Inevitably, she would throw herself on the floor and cry. I would respond by validating her feelings and offering hugs. "I know, honey. You're really upset because you love nursing and you wanted to nurse right now! But I promise I'll nurse you before bed." Often, she did NOT want my hugs, and the crying would last about a minute and then I could distract her. She asked for it a lot that first day, but the drama subsided as the night went on. And when I climbed in bed and told her it was finally time to nurse, she squealed, did a little dance and said "(Ex)cited! (Ex)cited!". It was so precious and I was refreshed from having my body to myself and I could give her my undivided attention during that special time together.
On wednesday, she only asked to nurse a handful of times, and get this, when I told her "not right now. We only nurse at bed times, now, remember?", there were NO TEARS. At all! In fact, I think she only whined a tiiiiny little bit, that first time. And when I put her to bed that night, she actually unlatched, rolled over and let me cuddle her until she fell asleep, instead of falling asleep WHILE nursing.
Now, it's Thursday and she only asked to nurse twice, today! And there were no tears and no whining at all. She actually was being silly with me tonight, and saying "num num num" while leaning toward my chest and giving me a cheeky, knowing smile. Until yesterday, the only time she asked me to hold her, she would immediately follow it up with asking to nurse, so I could never really just cuddle her and hug her on my lap, but let me tell you... these cuddles I've been getting, y'all! They're priceless! I couldn't even have told you when the last time was that I just snuggled her and she laid her head on my chest. Somehow, I feel like day-weaning her has STRENGTHENED our bond with one another. It's like, we're nursing less, but we're connecting more and in different ways. My attitude is better when it's time to nurse. I can settle in and snuggle her and savor the time we are spending nestled into each other, because I've had my body to myself for a while. It's so bittersweet, though. I'm realizing that nursing Olivia is the only thing that is really keeping her a baby in my mind. She is so smart and growing so fast. I know that someday very soon, she won't need me as much, anymore, and she will go to sleep without having to nurse. So I'm soaking in this special time with her. I'll keep you updated on how it's going as time progresses. Hug your littles close, mamas!