Cold Turkey
Monday, 20 October 2008

When I first began looking at motherhood and making decisions, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I decided I’d nurse for a year, and then begin weaning naturally. By a year, nursings had tapered off to snuggle times like early morning or naps or bedtime, and both girls were getting most of their nutrition from food.

With Maddie, I went easy on the weaning. I had a nebulous goal of 18 months, but didn’t want to force the issue since I didn’t have to. At 15 months, I forced the nap weaning because we had a big trip coming up, but otherwise let everything end naturally. Right around the same time Maddie dropped her morning nursing, and we were down to once a day by the time I was pregnant with Cora.

That, of course, gave me even more reason to wean – nursing with those tender, first-trimester boobs is no fun, believe me. But I wanted it to be Maddie’s decision, not mine. As the months went on, though, and the pain increased, I swore I’d shut the kid’s tab down if she didn’t wean herself by 18 months. And lo and behold, three days shy of her 18-month birthday, she dropped that last nursing.

I’ve had the same 18-month goal in mind with Cora, though there’s been no urgency about it; we’ve been down to three a day – early morning, nap time, and bedtime – and it’s not as if it’s a chore for me, since I’m there at those times anyway. And I’ve had so much trouble with Cora’s sleep (or lack thereof) that I worried that weaning would make her sleep even more sporadic. But I’ve hit the point where I need her to be able to go to sleep for someone other than Mommy – I mean, think about it: every day for the past seventeen months, at 2 p.m. I know exactly where I’ll be. That means I haven’t had a full day away from the girls since Cora was born. And ditto for bedtime, so every night’s an early night for me, with Cora’s bedtime dictating my work schedule and family life.

So I knew it was time to wean Cora, make her less dependent on me for sleep. And the first step was naptime.

For the past couple weeks or so, I’ve been following the method I did with Maddie: introduce some books during nursing time. While Cora nursed, I’d read two books and rock. The books, of course, distracted Cora and she took a little longer to conk out, taking a break from her nursing to look at the book. After a few days of that, I began reading the books to Cora before she nursed rather than simultaneously, and she lay quietly on the boppy in a snuggly nursing position, following along. And then on Friday, it just happened.

We finished reading during naptime, and Cora simply nestled closer into me. I picked up my own book to read, as I always do, and she simply stared up at me, making no move to nurse. I figured, ok, why not see how long we can go? And we rocked together until she conked out on the boppy, never once asking to nurse.

When I got up to put her down, Cora immediately woke up and started crying, but I left her in the crib anyway; she’s been crying every time I put her down for almost two weeks, and it clearly made no difference whether she’d nursed or not. She eventually went to sleep – maybe twenty minutes or so – and got up none the worse for it.

And guess what? I’d only intended to wean the nap, but she repeated her performance for night-night time, and as the early morning nursing came around I decided to try and skip it as well. This made for an earlier morning than usual – and with Cora, that’s saying a lot, since my kid seems to never sleep. But look at me now – my baby hasn’t nursed since early Friday morning.

Yes, folks, we seem to have quit cold turkey, and with a minimum of fuss. I’m shocked that she ditched it all at once, but she seems remarkably ok with the whole thing. I went in early Sunday at her 5 a.m. feeding time and simply rocked her; she conked out, awoke as I returned her to the crib, and cried, but only a few minutes. She hasn’t once tried to lift my shirt or hit my chest in frustration, and it seems we’re done.

Unbelievably, this has helped her sleep. Yes, she cried all weekend any time I put her down, but no more than she had been while nursing – remember, this is my kid who NEEDS Mommy, all the time. And then Sunday the miracle happened: nap and night time, she conked out on the pillow, and made not a sound when I put her in the crib. I’m hoping her sleep during the night will even out, and I’m already seeing a deeper sleep during her nap times.

I really can’t believe this has happened, and my body clearly wasn’t ready for it; with Maddie, I weaned one nursing at a time and didn’t feel a thing, and with Cora, it’s gone from three to nothing. My boobs haven’t been this sore since Cora was a newborn, and I’m aching to hook up a breast pump just for a little relief. But I’m sticking it out and know it’ll get better soon.

How do I feel about this? Mixed emotions. I don’t know why I continue to think I can make mommyhood bend to my timetable when it clearly has a mind of its own, but I wasn’t expecting this and hadn’t mentally prepared myself for the “goodby” aspect of it. I’d also been not unhappy at the thought of nursing through cold and flu season and keeping her immune system strong. On the other hand, she’s such a momma’s girl that this can only help her get her feet under herself and learn to stand on her own a bit more. And of course, I’m praying desperately that this will mean more sleep for me at night, as she learns how to put herself to sleep more easily with less dependence on Mommy.

So there we are – completely unplanned, but it’s done, and at seventeen months Cora’s now her own girl. The milk bar is closed for business: you don’t have to go home, but you can’t sleep here. Cora’s taken a big step towards independence, and I’ve taken a giant step towards the Nyquil bottle.

Written by Allison on 2013-12-21 18:44:32 IP:
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