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Wistful About Weaning

Cora’s 14 months now, and as
misfortune of all kids with older siblings, I keep comparing her to
where Maddie was at the same age. There a deeper blog about that
somewhere out there, but today I’m thinking of one milestone
in particular – nursing.

On some levels Maddie and Cora at 14 months are much the same;
they’d both been pretty much weaned from nursing for meals by
12 months old, and it’s clear that from then on out the
nursing’s been all about routine and comfort. Somewhere
between 9 and 12 months nursing went from a mealtime thing to a
snacking/sleeping/comfort thing, with actual meals and snacks
creeping into those nursing slots. By the time we hit a year with
Maddie, she was down to four times a day – early morning,
when she’d go back to sleep for a couple more hours; nursing
when she woke up; nursing for naptime; and nursing for bedtime. On
paper, Cora’s been very similar, but in practice it’s a
bit more difficult to pin down.

First off, Maddie’s idea of an early
morning nursing was 7 a.m., at which time she’d promptly conk
back out until 9 or 10 a.m. Cora, on the other hand, likes to get
up at 5 a.m. to nurse, and if I’m really lucky she’ll
go back to sleep a couple more hours. Otherwise, she’s back
up at 6:30 or so, looking for yet another snack to tide her over a
bit longer. Regardless, rare is the day Cora sleeps past 8 a.m.
– it’s usually between 7 and 7:30 that the girl gets
up. This is bewildering (and frankly frustrating) to me, the girl
who thought all babies slept 13 hours a night.

Then Maddie would go through her normal routine for the morning,
culminating in a nursing and nap at 2 p.m. Again, in theory,
Cora’s the same way. But there are times when she’s
gotten up extra early and demands a nap around 11 a.m., which means
that’s an extra nursing there. Or there are the days
we’re running errands in the car and, because I can’t
make my life revolve around her routine the way I could with
Maddie, Cora falls asleep in the car, thus rendering the 2 p.m. nap
obsolete. We still nurse at 2 p.m., hoping anyway, and then nurse
again at 3:30 and 4:30 as Cora becomes increasingly cranky, craving
that afternoon nap but unable to pull the trigger. So some days, I
end up having nursed maybe 5 times before dinner.

All this I could live with, though, if it weren’t for the
night times. Cora, bless her little separation-anxiety-filled
heart, goes through periods of waking up several times a night and
demanding to see Mommy. Sure, I sometimes leave her to cry it out,
but after a couple hours I have to see it’s not working. The
nights I’ve done this, she’ll gradually stop crying,
but she won’t sleep much the whole night and will then be
exhausted the entire day.

With Maddie, we hit a certain point – around 10 months or so
– and I simply refused to nurse at night after that.
I’d go into her room and rock her, sing to her, offer her
cow’s milk to drink, and she’d gradually learn to
accept that comfort and go back to sleep. With Cora, I simply
don’t have that stamina – after all, Maddie would
eventually conk back out and I could sleep in with her until 10
a.m., whereas both my girls are up much earlier these days. So I
don’t have a couple hours in the middle of the night to
patiently hold a screaming child, rocking and singing to her, for a
week until she gets the hang of it. I simply cave, and nurse so I
can go back to sleep faster.

To be fair, this doesn’t happen often – maybe once
every two weeks or so. But add that to her 5 a.m. milk break, and
I’ve still consider 5 hours of sleep in a row to be an
elusive, once-a-month- thing to be cherished.

We’re working at gradually eliminating the daily nursings;
right at 15 months Maddie spontaneously dropped her “early
morning” snack and started sleeping straight through the 13
hours, and I’m really crossing my fingers that happens with
Cora. The few times I’ve tried to sleep-train it out of her
and leave her to cry, thinking she’s waking out of habit and
will eventually go back to sleep, Cora simply frets and moans and
finally wails for a couple hours until she’s up at her normal
time, but minus the extra sleep that nursing buys. Worth it? Nope.

I’m having the most success with the waking-up nursing; if
she wakes up in a good mood I can whisk her downstairs straight to
breakfast, no nursing needed. But if it’s been a tough night
and she’s been particularly anxious, she’ll start
crying as I head towards the door, and point at her nursing chair
in a begging manner. So we sit and snuggle for a bit.

I know the afternoon and nighttime nursings will be here for a
while; I forced the afternoon nursing issue with Maddie at 15
months because of a pending vacation, but I’m reluctant to do
that with Cora; I’m afraid if I put her down without nursing
she’ll simply skip the nap altogether and I’ll have a
really bad rest of the day. And I don’t see Cora giving up
the nighttime nursing for a while; Maddie was 18 months when she
let that last one go.

It’s not like it’s affecting my lifestyle at all, these
nursings; there’s no nursing in public or anything any more.
And they’re kind of a bonus in the whole “burns 300
extra calories a day” way. But the middle-of-the-night thing
is getting old, as is the fact that I’m the only one who can
put her down for a nap or nighttime. I’d like to get back to
being able to put Maddie down for bed sometimes, which I
haven’t done in, oh, 14 months.

So I’ll keep sending Cora “weaning” thoughts,
even as I’m not ready to push the issue at all. But believe
me, I’m dreaming of 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep. It keeps
me going in the middle of the night. Someday.


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