Thursday, May 24, 2007


Magpie has a post about extended breastfeeding and weaning today that's almost like she's reading my mind.

I had a rough start with nursing, though not as rough as Magpie's. For a long time, I couldn't nurse in public because nursing was so painful I cried every time. Even after the most intense phase had passed, I was just gritting my teeth through every round of blanching and niacin, and through each new blocked duct, saying "one year, one year, one year." But by the time I got to one year, there didn't seem to be any reason to stop, so I just kept going.

Pumping was crazy when Z. was at daycare and still nursing exclusively, and she didn't start solids until 8 months. But it got easier. "Nana" was Z.'s first real word, and she is still doing nana at 26 months. I haven't taken flak for it because somehow I don't get flak for decisions like that (homebirthing, etc.). I think I just come across as someone who won't take flak. I did teach high school, after all.

At the same time, she hasn't nursed on demand for a long, long time. The weaning process has been long and conscious--once she started on solids, which was late, I started eliminating things from our routine as they began to feel burdensome. No "top-off" nursing in the glider at day care before I left for work. No nursing away from home (that was easy to accomplish, b/c if we're out and about she's always distracted). Night weaning was miserable, but once we managed that the remaining nana routine was pretty liveable.

Eventually the come-home-in-the-afternoon nana fell away on its own, and then we were down to sleeping and rising, morning, nap, and bedtime. It wasn't good for either of us to have her dependent on nursing to fall asleep, so A. took over the bedtime routine until Z. had new habits.

We just do nana in the morning now. Sometimes it's pretty perfunctory, especially when she has a cold, and sometimes she gets distracted and skips it, especially on weekends when A. gets up with her and lets me sleep in. Sometimes when she's sleepy it's more like old times, lying down and cuddling. But it's more likely to just be a quick visit to touch base, and I think that it would be very easy to just let it drop, if I chose. It's not "if I chose," though, it's "when I choose," and that has me all in a quandary.

The nursing relationship, like the parenting relationship, is one that appears to be one way, but is in fact another way. It appears that because your life and physiology have been rearranged by the child or nursling, then the child/nursling has power. But she doesn't. She is radically dependent, and also cognitively immature. The decision to complete weaning isn't Z.'s but mine. So there are ethics here I haven't really thought through, and I think I need to before I can figure out when and how best to wrap this up.


slouching mom said...

Ah, you taught high school. You must be strong. LOL.

I goofed deciding when to wean both my boys. With Ben, I stopped needlessly late. With Jack, too early.

It's so tough to sort out, because as you said there is more than one motivation to nurse -- there's food, but there's comfort too. And probably more.

Good luck.

S. said...

I'm thinking about the timing mostly as it intersects with the emotional piece. I don't want it to end with a bang or a whimper.

Maybe what I need is to think about sound effects.

Jeannette said...

I really appreciate this post.

I wrestled with weaning before, during, and after. I like how you bring in the ethics of the matter, because there are so many aspects of the nursing relationship than just the ingestion of milk.

S. said...

Welcome Jeannette!

The nursing relationship was the way I dragged both of us out of a daunting start (she was hospitalized for a week after birth), so I've never thought of it as only about feeding. If it were she would have stopped on her own long ago!

Magpie said...

Your last paragraph, about the power relationship vis a vis nursing, is spot on. I think there wasn't any real reason why we stopped at three; but it felt like it was time to me. Certainly, she'd have kept going. So complicated. Good on you to have gotten it to work, despite your rough start!!

S. said...

Magpie, I think paying close attention to what's going on in the nursing relationship has helped me be a better parent. This particular juncture is an odd one because no change is required, but change is so very possible. And I'm the only member of the partnership capable of seeing that, because Z., smart as she is, is still only two.