Sunday, May 28, 2017

Toddler #4, Weaned

When I left for Hawaii last month I had still been breastfeeding our 33 month old toddler. I knew that leaving him for a week would probably be the end of things, but I was ready, he was ready, and we were both very ready to move forward and end our nursing relationship. 
It had been several months already where I knew that he was mostly nursing out of habit and for attention. He wasn't interested in nursing, except for when I wasn't playing games with him or reading his favorite books! And I was feeling all touched out, annoyed, and ready to be done, yet avoiding it because weaning is always so hard! So, we kept on breastfeeding. My trip to Hawaii would be the end of it, so I hoped. 

Why is weaning so hard??
First of all there are so many emotions attached to nursing. Breastfeeding Malachi these past two plus years had been such a tremendous bonding experience for me that letting go of that aspect of it feels like losing a little piece of myself. I get so used to using nursing as a tool for comfort and nurturing my babies, that it's hard to let that go and still feel like a good, attentive mother. The guilt associated with weaning is harder than the weaning itself!
Second, there is the risk for mastitis. While I was in Hawaii my breasts got super engorged so I spent the first several days constantly expressing milk to the point of comfort, to avoid pain and possible infection. I've never had to do that before since our last three toddlers weaned because I was pregnant. My milk had dried up naturally and my toddlers had moved on naturally. This weaning felt much more forced and unnatural for me as I still had plenty of milk to give, but no baby to give it to.

After about the fourth day away from Malachi, my breasts stopped hurting, my milk production slowed down, and I was able to finally say "I think we are done!" Meanwhile, back at home, little Malachi was having a fantastic time with his Dad, not thinking about nursing one bit. Micah came up with a bedtime routine that didn't involve breastfeeding (obviously), and was able to get Malachi to sleep each day using his magical Dad powers. Actually, he would read him one children's story then make him listen to out-loud readings from Lord of the Rings until he drifted off to sleep. 
Micah would send me selfie photos of him and Malachi taking naps, which reassured me that his emotional needs were still being met and all was well with this weaning process. My heart needed those photos and I was grateful.

We got back from Hawaii and to our home in Utah at 3am due to the long flight from Oahu to Vegas then the driving time from Vegas to home. I was so exhausted when we arrived, but I'll never forget what Malachi said to me. I walked into our bedroom where he was sleeping in his bed and he woke up to greet me and said so enthusiastically,"Mom, I don't need milkies anymore!" He came up with that all by himself as Micah hadn't said anything to prompt him. 
 I immediately jumped in bed and cuddled my little buddy back to sleep. I couldn't stop kissing his soft head and holding him tightly against me. I missed him so badly and never wanted to let him go again! That first week I was back he was extremely cuddly, wanting me to hold him, hug him, and snuggle with him constantly. It was the cutest thing and I loved it. The first couple days he would ask for milkies out of habit, but I quickly distracted him to something else. I knew that he didn't really want to nurse, he just got so used to asking for it all the time as a way to get attention that he had to learn to play more on his own, get distracted by other fun things, and learn to do other fun things with mom, besides nurse! We talked about him being all done with milkies and how he's such a big boy now and he seemed pretty proud of the fact.

So that's how baby #4 was weaned.Baby #1 nursed for 24 months, baby #2 nursed for 22 months, baby number 3 nursed for 3 1/2 years, and now baby #4 at 33 months. That's a lot of nursing if you add it all together that's a little over ten years, almost non-stop, no bottles. However, It feels really awesome to be done nursing! There's a sense of freedom and autonomy with my body that I haven't felt in a very long time: I'm not hungry all the time. I don't wake up in the middle of the night needing more food to calm my aching stomach. I can leave for hours at a time without worrying about engorgement or emotions getting in the way. I also have tons more energy! I used to have to take naps with my toddler every single day and now I don't. I feel like I should be training for a marathon or something with all this new found energy!
All in all, I loved nursing each one of my babies and wouldn't have done anything differently with the durations or time spent together nursing them. It all goes by way to fast and I will forever cherish those wonderful times with my babies and toddlers. I am so grateful I was able to provide them with comfort, security, nourishment, and love, from the miraculous body God gave me.

I took this photo the first day I was back where I didn't have to nurse him to sleep. Instead, I told him a story about a blueberry muffin family that lived on top of a mountain and had to avoid getting eaten by Ogres and he was fast asleep in no time. Not nursing to sleep was such a crazy, wonderous change from what we had been doing the past 33 months that I snapped this selfie-of-joyous-celebration! Yes! We are done nursing and it feels so good!




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