Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Weaning Process

Though I had nursed Jeri, Ned and Paul, I never actually had to deal with weaning until Tom came along.

I had gone to La Leche League classes when Jeri was expected and had all these wonderful images in my mind of letting her wean, continuing to let her nurse well into her second year. But she was always the independent sort and decided on her own at 9 months of age that it was time to graduate to milk in a cup. I knew all the theory about how to gently wean a baby when Mom was read to stop nursing. I hadn't read anything about how to wean Mom when baby is ready to move on to the next step!

When Ned came along, I hoped he would nurse longer, and he did. But I still wasn't ready for him to decide to quit nursing on his first birthday. I had now gone through two pregnancies talking with mothers about the fun of nursing a toddler, but I seemed doomed to have toddlers who were determined not to cooperate.

Along came Paul and it was a repeat of Ned. Within a week of his first birthday, he, too, gave up nursing.

Nursing Tom was different. I don't know why, but it was. Perhaps it was because he was the first one who showed no sign of wanting to stop nursing when he turned one, and for the first time I had my own stories of nursing a toddler, as he grew older...the little all-boy boy who would run in, football under his arm, dirt on his face, and jump up to nurse for a couple of minutes before running outside again. The little kid who would sit up in my lap, fold his hands, close his eyes and say "God is great, God is good, let us bless us for this food. Today we're gonna have....nurse!"

Since David is dead and not likely to be following blogs from the other side, I can confess that I was very upset when I realized I was pregnant with him. We had four kids under five. I was already stretched to my emotional limits and the last thing I wanted was another baby. I remember the day I knew for certain I was pregnant and I sat down and cried.

One of the big reasons I was so upset was that I was having such a wonderful relationship with Tom and I just didn't want that to end. I made the decision to let Tom be the decider of when to stop nursing--and if he decided to nurse all the way through the pregnancy, La Leche League had lots of stories of "tandem nursing," where the older child continues to nurse after the younger one is born. It was a decision that to this day I regret.

Tom did nurse all the way through the pregnancy and when David came, he began nursing like a newborn so much so that he started having newborn-type diapers again. We never had the lovely nursing sessions that people talked about, where the older and the younger child would hold hands, smile, laugh, and enjoy the moment together. From the time David was old enough to realize that he had to share with Tom it was a constant battle, so much so that I had to start nursing them separately in order to keep peace (which, combined with the fact that I was also collecting breastmilk to donate to a sick baby in Kaiser hospital, meant I was pretty much nursing most of the day!).

I loved David on one level, but I still resented his just being here. In fact, I still remember the day when he was about six months old, playing in the "Johnny Jump-up" and being particularly adorable when I looked at him and realized that I really loved him. Really really loved him, not the sort of "I have to because he's my baby" sort of love.

But the older the kids got the more difficult it became because Tom would decide in the middle of the supermarket that he wanted to nurse NOW and throw horrible tantrums if I didn't open up right away. Even today people are uncomfortable seeing a woman nursing a tiny baby in public--the idea of nursing a toddler is something far too many find disgusting.

It changed things. I had to wean Tom and it was hard on both of us. To this day, I think it changed our relationship and it makes me very sad whenever I think of it.

The reason I'm thinking about weaning today is that I've been watching the puppies and thinking about how mother dogs wean their young and how they start acting almost mean to them as they continue to want to be around her all the time.

That's how I'm starting to feel about these guys, who must be on me whenever I am anywhere in a seated position and God forbid I should get into the recliner, when all four have to be on top of me. I'm not sure how much the puppies weigh--they have outgrown my baby scale--but surely their combined weight must be >40 lbs.

I find myself avoiding them these days, staying in my office, strictly to avoid being around them (even though it is always so much colder in here in the wintertime because of the dog door). I'm trying very hard to wean them, but only getting their own family is going to really wean them. But this Mama Dog is really, really ready for her babies to grow up and move away!!!

1 comment:

Niqui said...

You know, when they do grow up and move away you'll probably be all sad and teary eyed. I know my mom used to say "I cant wait til youre 18. You're out of here!" then when I moved out a few weeks after I turned 18 she was mad at me lol.I promised myself I'd never say it. I can think it though :D
As for weaning, I got lucky on that sort of.I breastfed for 4mos but I dried up when I went back to work so since we had to bottle feed while I was gone, it was fairly easy to get her to formula.