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A Surprise Ending

I think Maddie’s weaned, and it just
sort of happened.

For the past few months Maddie has been pretty much weaned anyway;
she’s been only nursing to go to bed, and then if she wakes
up crying in the middle of the night. She’d been a rather
good sleeper this fall, so it was only a nursing once or twice a
month in the wee hours.

Then a couple weeks ago, Maddie went
through one of those unexplainable rough patches and was waking a
few times a night. Not just the whimpering crying, but the full-on
crying that simply escalated the longer you waited, until it took a
long time just to talk her down off the ledge. So the middle of the
night didn’t feel like the ideal time to work on weaning, and
we let it slide. By those last few nights, though, I was silently
cursing and would sit there stiffly in the rocker, resenting her
and resenting the fact that I was the only one who could deal with
her. Because she’d nurse for maybe 60 seconds, smile and say,
“Night night!”, and let me put her in her crib. It was
the routine she needed rather than the actual nursing.

We’d decided a few months ago to try to let Maddie wean
naturally; she’d dropped every other nursing on her own with
the notable exception of her nap time, which I forced and was
traumatic for everyone. But Brian and I agreed that if Maddie
hadn’t weaned herself by January we’d force the issue.
She’d be 18 ½ months and we want some distance between
her nursing and her seeing her little sibling nursing, so it
doesn’t give her any ideas. Which meant that as of a few
weeks ago, I was gritting my teeth and counting the days to
January, sure that if we didn’t force it she’d be
nursing to go to sleep in college.

And then last Sunday evening, it happened. As Brian handed Maddie
over to me, she looked at me and said, “Book!” which is
what we do for her naptime routine. Without hesitation, I slipped
into our afternoon habits and read her a book. After a few stories
she asked to nurse, but I simply said, “No, I told you that
was the last book; now we go night-night!”

And she didn’t argue.

Sure it was a fluke, I was nervous that she’d either be awake
in a couple hours screaming for it, or she’d never repeat the
sequence. But the next night I didn’t give her the option
– just started with the books. She hesitantly gestured
towards nursing, and I simply distracted her and went on with the

We had a few nights at the beginning of last week where she nursed
in the middle of the night, but that hasn’t happened since
last Wednesday. Now if she’s up in the middle of the night, I
offer her a cup of milk, which she accepts. She still asks a bit
for nursing, but has never cried or fussed when I said no, and
seems to be fine with it.

So there it is. Maddie Milner, breastmilk-free for a week now.
I’m a little surprised at how melancholy I feel about it
– not about her being weaned in general but about not knowing
“This is the last one” when it happened so I could
somehow mark it in my mind.

Because as much as I hated the middle of the night thing, I did
enjoy our bedtime snuggle. I enjoyed the closeness, even as I
chafed at the fact that it meant I was tied to the house every
evening. And I wish I’d been able to know it was the last
time, just so I could savor the details: the smiles, the little
hands stroking my arm.

On the practical side, I’m free! No more needing Mommy for
bedtime routine. On the emotional side, it’s one more tie
that bound the two of us that’s been cut; now I’m no
more necessary to her than anyone else.

I’m not saying I’m not glad it’s over; it’s
definitely time. I’m just saying, I wish I’d known. I
would’ve been more present.


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