Morning cuddles: a story of child-led weaning

Editor’s note: At some point in every breastfeeding relationship, the question of when and how to wean presents itself. Many parents breastfeed into the toddler years and beyond, choosing child-led weaning. Janell Robisch shares her weaning story below.

to three and beyond coverAttachment Parenting International (API) thanks Praeclarus Press for giving permission to reprint this except from To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfeeding Children and the Mothers Who Love Them, edited by Janell E. Robisch, published by Praeclarus Press, Used with permission. Read more about the book through an upcoming API interview with Janell.

So, when I was feeling touched-out or just ready to quit nursing, I would test the waters, cut back a little or talk to [my son] A.J. about it, and see how he reacted. I felt that since I was the adult, I could be patient when I needed to. If his reaction was intense, I knew that he wasn’t ready, like the many short-lived occasions when I tried night weaning. If, however, he went on about his business without much reaction to what I was doing — or not doing — I knew that we could move forward.

The following excerpt from my personal journal, written in 2006, tells the rest of the story:

“When my son finally weaned in January 2006 at age 5 years 3 months, of course part of me wondered if I had done the right thing in nudging him along. I had been ready to end nursing for a while but was contented to let him continue to nurse until he was really ready to stop. To me, ‘ready to stop’ meant that he would not be traumatized by weaning and that, as a mother and child, we would be able to easily meet his needs in other ways.

About 4 months before he actually weaned, A.J. set a date for weaning. During the interval before that date, he continued to nurse in the same pattern, in the morning and before bed and sometimes in between. However, when the date actually came, he said that he was going to stop nursing for that day only. I smiled and waited a while longer to bring up the subject again. About a month later, he stopped nursing for six days but then went back to it.

It was the end of November when we talked about it again. He had just turned 5 in October. I suggested that it might be easier for him if he got used to the idea of weaning by slowing down a little at a time. He was amenable to the idea and set yet another date. This time, however, he did slow his nursing down right away; he suddenly went days without any nursies and showed no ill effects. In addition, prospects for a weaning party were suddenly more important than having milk.

The last day of nursies — January 1 — came and went, and we even took pictures of his last nurse. As things went, he came down with a stomach bug a few weeks later, and he did nurse one more time around January 18.

Now, as I write this, 5 months later in May 2006, I am confident that we did okay. He has not asked to nurse again since that day and has not shown any ill effects of weaning. We still have plenty of close cuddle time, especially every morning when he wakes up. If I am not nearby when he wakes, he seeks me out as he still likes to start his day with some close time with Mommy. Our bond is still there, still strong, even though our nursing relationship is over. I will be ever grateful for the bond that it created and am happy that we had that special time together.”

It has been 8 years since I wrote that journal entry. A.J. is now 13 years old and is still incredibly smart and exacting. He is not incredibly “touchy” with most people, but he always makes time for a hug for me when he first wakes up and before he goes to bed. Our relationship, like any mother-child relationship, is not perfect, but I feel that nursing — more than anything — laid down a foundation of love and connection for us that will last a lifetime.

Editor’s note: Thank you to the photographer, Allison Profeta, for the image of Janell E. Robisch included in this article.

Up all night!

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 28, 2008. As parents, we engage in nighttime parenting because we know that our children don’t stop needing our care at sunset. The author does well to validate the challenge of meeting children’s needs when they happen at a time that is not so convenient for their parents.

starry-night-1443822-mExcuse me if this post is rambling, it’s written by a very tired mammy — one who only went to bed at half past 4:00 this morning and who got up again at 9:00 a.m. But it’s nowhere near the sheer exhaustion I remember from the first few weeks of my daughter’s life. This is just regular tiredness: I feel like I was out dancing all night!

Littlepixie has just cut her first molars, four or possibly five all at once. The poor pet! Understandably, her mouth is a little sore.

Last night, she nursed to sleep and I snuck downstairs to get some Internet time in. In retrospect I should have gone to sleep, too, because as it turned out it would be a good many hours before my little head hit the pillow!

Littlepixie woke around midnight and was clearly in pain: She was banging her mouth with her hand, crying and sobbing, “Teeth. Teeth.”

We gave her some medicine, but it didn’t seem to help much. Nursing was acceptable to her but only while sitting up with the light on.

Littlepixie and I retired downstairs to the living room.

We’ve been quite lucky recently with her night-wakings. Usually she nurses straight back to sleep. But not last night.

We snuggled on the couch under a big blanket, nursing and reading her bedtime book over and over again. We found every bear, rabbit, sock and red balloon in the book, chatted about them, laughed at them, counted them and then started all over again.

I got sleepier. Littlepixie did not!

It was really just a case of watching the clock tick by and waiting for her to get sleepy. The medicine finally seemed to take effect as she was no longer complaining about her teeth, so that was good.

But I was barely awake!

So, after a while of playing with Littlepixie’s dolls, I resorted to putting on a DVD for her to watch. I know the middle of the night is not usually prime TV time, but the show was nice and calm and of course had no advertisements.

We watched the DVD for about 15 minutes while nursing and reading more books. I then brought her into our office where she often nurses for her naps, in the hopes that she would think it was nap time.

No such luck!

At 4 a.m., we went back up to bed where my husband read her another story, and she finally nursed back to sleep, with her foot lodged firmly in his face.

We were able to sleep in to 9 a.m. We’re very tired, but Littlepixie is in top form. Her teeth don’t seem to be hurting her, and she’s bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Attachment Parenting can be hard work! But it’s worth it. Littlepixie clearly needed some extra care last night, and I’m glad we could help her out. Fingers crossed we all sleep well tonight!

What about all of you? Do you have any particular things you like to do when you’re passing the wee hours of the night awake with your child?