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Second Guessing

So all jokes about weaning plans aside, I did something “unscheduled” recently.

I weaned Maddie off of her nap nursing, cold turkey.

I’ve been wanting to let Maddie wean naturally – lose interest, transition to other rituals, etc. But with a vacation looming (read – no guarantee of ritual availability) it seemed prudent to make sure Maddie didn’t need to nurse to go down for a nap.

So last Monday, I went through everything up to the nursing, hugged her tightly, and put her in her crib.

She started wailing, of course, looking at me with confusion, betrayal, and hurt. At least, that’s what it looked like to my mommy eyes.

Whereas she used to be put in her crib still awake and go to sleep without a fuss, she rolled over, stood up, and ran screaming towards the door where Mommy was beating a cowardly retreat. I stood outside the door and began watching the clock.

Two minutes later, the crying stopped, though she didn’t go to sleep. She began playing with her animals, crooning and talking to herself.

Within ten minutes she was out, and slept a good two hours. And best of all, when I went in to get her up she didn’t appear to hold a grudge.

I knew it wouldn’t be too hard for her to go to sleep on her own; she does it already. I was just trying to avoid yanking away what she really craves, which is close, quiet time with Mommy. Sometimes when I do something like that I feel like Bad Mommy, thrusting my unsuspecting and unprepared child out into a cruel world before she’s ready. I feel like I change the rules without telling her, pull the rug out from under her feet. I’ve worked so hard to establish a routine that she takes comfort in that it seems cruel to unilaterally change it on her.

Every day after that first one was a repeat, though the sobbing’s maybe sixty seconds now. She still cries furiously, running to the end of the crib, and goes to sleep soon after. She’s not at all interested in our nap rituals; as a matter of fact, when I sit down in the chair to read to her, she begins shaking her head “no” furiously, and bats any book away from her face. She knows what comes next – Abandonment – and she’s in no rush to get to it.

Do you know what has changed the most, though? The way she acts the rest of the day. Now that we’ve removed her naptime nursing, she’s just nursing in the morning and at bedtime, and she seems to really feel that loss. She spends all day now trying to get more cuddle time with me, pointing to my blouse and asking for a nursing (which she never did before), burying her face in my chest. It’s as if, by removing this one touchpoint for no discernable (to her mind) reason, I’ve made her doubt how much I’ll be there for her the rest of the time. I can’t believe taking out one five-minute nursing has turned my confident child into someone a bit clingier, a bit less certain of my always being there for her.

She clearly wasn’t ready to give up that nursing, and I won’t be forcing a weaning of the last two anytime soon. But as hard as it is, I’m sticking to this one weaning and am trying not to go back. It seems crueler to reinstate it, only to throw her into situations in the near future where there’s no opportunity for the nursing (say, a long car ride) and she’s even more bewildered.

Yesterday, for the first time, Maddie went to sleep without crying. We read our books together, and I put her down in her crib. Right on cue, she rolled over and was in the process of standing up when I left the room. But miraculously, there were no sobs. Some quiet talk, then sleep.

It only (!) took eight days. By contrast, we Ferberized Maddie in two days.

I know I made the right decision on this. But at the same time, it feels wrong because it’s so clearly not coming from an organic place. I take comfort in the fact that, by the time she’s old enough to understand what’s happened, she’ll have forgotten all about it.

Unfortunately, I won’t.


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