How could I come up with a better title for this post than the subject line of the email? Jennifer writes:
"I really never expected that I would push weaning. My peanut is 25 months old and I have always believed in Child Led Weaning until a several weeks ago. Suddenly I wasn't enjoying nursing her so much and I was really wanting my body back. The worst of it was that I really became physically uncomfortable with nursing. I would get antsy, and my boobs would itch or they'd feel an uncomfortable tickle while she nursed. At first I thought this was due to my own monthly hormonal changes, but the physical symptoms didn't let up after a week or so. So I decided I would start to set limits around nursing and try to move this weaning process along a bit.
I started with telling her my milk was sleeping when she woke up for her usual 2am nursing, ah my little all night nurser! (We haven't nursed to sleep at bedtime since she was 18 months old.) My logic was that it would be more manageable to eliminate night nursing before her nap nursing because she can fight sleep at nap time. I also started to tell her at times that we could nurse only a little bit and then Mommy will tell her when Mommy is "all done." So now (after 3 weeks of 'moving things along') she only nurses at around 6am, again at naptime, and just a little bit before bed. What I'm experiencing is that her 6am nursing feels fine, I can deal. At nap time I can handle nursing her down, and maybe one wake up which includes nursing on boob #2. After both sides are done I can't do any more, therefore she doesn't go back to sleep which really sucks. The bedtime nursing has been really uncomfortable the last 2 nights, so I limit it big time.
So I have 2 questions:
1) Is this itchy, uncomfortable business what comes with weaning, or is this what I get for 'moving things along'?
2) And what in the world do I do with nap time? She's 2 so she's at the age that she can totally nix a nap but really needs it. It's the only time she still nurses down and I don't know what else to do except maybe go for a car ride at nap time for a few days, and then what? There's gotta be a better way, right?"
Oh, the guilt. I think most of us feel some guilt about weaning, whether we do it at three days or four years. I can still remember being convinced that my older son had gotten a cold because I'd finally weaned him the week before and thinking that made me a horrible mother.
In a perfect world, we'd all be happy nursing until our children were ready to stop on their own. But that's not the way it goes for most nursing pairs. Usually, the mother wants or needs to stop nursing before the baby is quite ready. When I was in the middle of it I felt horrible about putting my needs above my child's needs, but in hindsight I feel pretty good about the way I started to teach my son that other people had rights, too, and that respecting someone else's needs didn't mean he was being abandoned. He could still get the comfort and love he wanted from me, even without nursing.
I think most of us are really circumspect about weaning and the weaning process. Understanding that it's an important part of growing up, not least because it teaches children that someone else has a right to her own body, helps to make the transition easier for the mother. And kids who are given alternate forms of comfort and affection come out of the weaning process secure and attached.
Of course, my musings aren't helping with your itchy boob problem. Frankly, I'm stumped. I'm going to give three guesses, any of which could be true and all of which could be false. In no particular order, I'm going to guess that the itching is a) psychosomatic (because you're feeling kind of itchy about still nursing but also itchy about weaning), b) caused by some kind of minor infection or fungus (like low-grade thrush), or c) caused by dry skin from showers that are too hot or a harsh soap. But as I said, I haven't heard of this and really don't know. If it's still happening a week after you're really done nursing, go see a doctor.
Now I know you think you're joking about just driving her around to get her to sleep without nursing down, but people have done similar things with great success. I don't nurse outside once a kid is no longer a little baby, so when I wanted to cut out all daytime nursing sessions with my older son, I did it when the weather was warm and left the house in the morning and didn't go back home until suppertime. We'd play at the playground, and when it was time for his nap I'd put him in the stroller and just walk around until he fell asleep. It was tiring for me, but it cut out the daytime nursings in a week without his even noticing. I'm going to go out on a limb and say I'll guess that I'm not the only one to have done this. Distraction is really the king of all parenting techniques for the two-year-old set.
Does anyone else want to share distraction methods they used to cut out nursing sessions with a kid this age? Or your own feelings of guilt about the weaning process? And if anyone else has experienced this itchy breast thing, please speak up (anonymously, if you'd like).