How To Wean Your Nursing Toddler Naturally May 1, 2009
Filed under: Article of the week, Mommy Musings — kindermusikkids @ 2:58 am Edit This
Tags: breastfeeding, milk, mommy, mother, natural, nursing, toddler, weaning
Had this article published recently. Hope some of my experiences help you!
How To Wean A Nursing Toddler
There is nothing more wonderful than a mother who is willing and able to nurse her baby. Aside from the emotional and physical benefits breast milk provides, nursing strengthens the mother- child connection, creates lasting memories and develops independent young bodies.
This is all well and good-until the child becomes squirmy, physically too large, mentally, uncomfortably insightful and in general clearly needs to be his/her own person. Yet what about the conflicting emotions Moms may be having? Thoughts vacillate between her desire to provide the best for her little one and the growing need for regaining her independence; body image and preservation.
I very recently weaned my almost 3 year old and it was difficult but not in the way I had expected. I had researched and read all books available on the subject of ‘natural weaning’ which occurs once a child is old enough to comprehend the time of cessation. I recognized that given my sons level of intelligence and age, the “tricks” that I was taught in the books, were not going to work and I found most of them distasteful at best. Most books spouted flowery language as to the positive aspects of nursing and did not address the desire to or provide the tools to stop.
Discouraged, I devised my own plan that involved active participation on both the part of my self and my son. The first thing I needed to accomplish in order to set my plan into motion was to be truly clear on my intent. It was true that I wanted to stop-socially I had been pressured and physically my body was signaling new needs, but the times I attempted were half-hearted and I railed miserably at my poor son who was an innocent in all of this turmoil.
I sat with paper in hand and did quite a bit of soul searching. As I was writing all the emotions and uncertainties I felt, I recognized that there was one major factor that was holding me back. I was enamored with what I like to call the “Super Mom syndrome”. I liked to imagine my breast milk as a shield that surrounded my son and protected him from the evils of the world. Of course, I am an admitted control freak and this was my way to prevent illness or worse. Use the paper writing exercise to air your concerns and you too will arrive at the true reason why you are reluctant to stop.
I found that it is imperative, as in all parenting struggles, to be one hundred percent confident in your decisions. Children have an uncanny ability to pick up on the tiniest weaknesses and use that to their advantage. In all seriousness-I recognized that my tantrums and inconsistency was my worst enemy.
There is no magic potion that will take away the desire to nurse. To be perfectly blunt it is much like an addict trying to break free. A mom must be prepared to expect and accept her toddler’s anxiety levels to skyrocket. She must be physically capable to withstand the hormonal fluctuations and the need to remain upright as lying down signals an opportunity to snuggle and nurse.
It takes approximately 5-7days of consistent, scheduled, creative and loving intervention. Duration is the key to success. Once you have established that this is truly what you want/need, first address your
needs and then focus on your child’s. In my case, I knew that the best possible outcome would be complete omission. I tackled this by substituting periods of time that we nursed with other activities and sometimes with other people. At this stage in our nursing life, my son was down to approximately nursing 3 times a day, 20 minutes at a time. Clearly this was about comfort and routine. I reviewed carefully the times/hours that he chose to nurse and made sure to enlist the help of others; babysitter,grandma,Daddy. I also noted that the best time to begin the actual weaning was over the weekend, which afforded me a period of time where Daddy could care for the child. During this period of intense emotional work it was important that I was able to sleep.
But what if you are a single Mom or do not have support? During the day when my son would nap I needed to be strong and steadfast on my own. I chose my battles carefully. I was lax about length of nap time and falling asleep on his own bed. I made up stories, supplied sippy cups and listened to prolonged bouts of screaming which were torturous to the soul. Mind you, my son is quite advanced verbally and it didn’t help to hear the child shrieking how ‘badly he needed it’. But I persevered, confident in my belief and my previous soul searching, and each day it did get easier.
I used my son’s verbal intelligence to my advantage-discussing the subject, suggesting projects about nursing-even writing a book. We also had great success with a positive reinforcement chart. My son really enjoyed being able to add stickers each day that he refrained from nursing. We then extended this chart to include other skills as well. Most of all I validated his feelings by listening without judgment. As the days passed, he shared with me a myriad of emotions and I was able to support them and embrace him when he needed me.
We are only a week off nursing and it as if overnight my baby has grown up. It is with bittersweet longing as with all his milestones that I bid adieu to that part of his childhood and my motherhood. My breasts are clearly being redefined. Not quite the breasts of a single girl but definitely no longer the shape of motherhood. We are able to joke now-he still asking in his sweet way and I still reminding him that we share love and not milk anymore. He seems to like this answer and is able to accept my hugs, my welcoming arms as a safe haven.