Trying To Wean A Toddler
I must say, when it came to breastfeeding, I felt really lucky when Milo was first born because he took to it like Piers Morgan being smug. Obviously I had all the usual pain and discomfort which comes from putting your nipples in the mouth of a teeny, aggressive badger but I wasn’t put through the wringer as I know many of you poor mums are; nipple shields, bleeding, mastitis, poor latch, tongue tie. There’s so much about it which could go wrong and thankfully, we practically sailed.
I hoped to get to six months, six months came in the blink of a very tired eye. Then, well… maybe ten months. Came ‘n’ went. A year seemed a do-able goal; the thought of stopping there seemed crazy. He was still so little! He was still using me to fall asleep at nap time and bed time and for comfort if he fell over and pfffft, just whenever he fancied having something in his mouth other than a carrot puff. After that, I stopped thinking about when I’d push for it to end, because I was still enjoying it, and instead, decided to let him self wean and hoped as he gradually enjoyed more real food, the breastfeeding would decline.
I think we can already detect a tone here reader; Milo remained a steady member of The Tit Club and I was his dutiful cow. In fact, at around twenty months, he reverted back to feeding almost as much as he was when he was a newborn and I thought my breasts would actually just fall clean off. I was waiting for the day I’d wake up one morning and two sacks of flesh would just be clenched in each one of his fists, no longer attached to my body & resembling sad, taupe condoms. I’d have to fill them with lentils, shove a couple of googly eyes on and let Milo use them as door stops. It was around then I started thinking I might need to encourage a little bit of self control.
By his second birthday he wasn’t being fed during daylight hours; he asked and asked and asked and asked for the first couple of days, but I found if we were out and about or I had enough distractions to hand, then he could be palmed off pretty quickly. If it was raining and there was a lot of CBeebies/sofa time, by around 5pm I’d be begging Greg to drive me to the nearest cliff and push me off. Your breasts are RIGHT. THERE, it’s not as though you can hide them from a determined two year old who’s intent on screaming and rummaging around your bra like he’s lost a spanner ’til you get them the heck out. It’s awful.
Now, we’re on to attempting to crack bedtime because it’s still quite a thorn in my side. Milo at 2 years 4 months, co-sleeps and dream feeds, and a good night’s sleep it does not maketh. If truth be told, around a month ago, I was starting to physically recoil if he latched on while I was trying to sleep. The incessant twiddling of nipple-radio with whichever boob he wasn’t feeding from, the yanking, the pulling, the biting; I knew I’d had enough. And I’ve done enough research to know whenever mum isn’t still able to enjoy breastfeeding, it needs to be stopped. Be that abruptly, or delicately. We’re still very early days, but two nights ago I decided to refuse him feeding from when he went down at bedtime to when we got up the next morning and instead do lots of ‘shhhhing’ and cuddling. There was of course some resistance and crying, but it was over pretty swiftly and I didn’t feel any more tired the next day than I did dream feeding. Last night, I did the same; fed him to sleep, then refused anything during the night. A few tiny grumbles, but other than that, minimal fuss and straight back to sleep. I’m very, very surprised there hasn’t been more of an uproar (I really can’t stress how much Milo has always needed to nurse).
Obviously this isn’t a ‘hey, all you need to do is this and it’ll work!’ blog post; all children are different and we’re only dipping our toes in the weaning waters, but I feel like we’ve had a breakthrough and it’s so very encouraging. Of course I can’t wait to get my body back, so to speak, but it would be great to get my two year old to a stage where I know he can be happy staying at the grandparents’ house without me and my badongas along for the ride. I’ll do an update on all of this feeding malarkey once I feel like we’ve made it to the finish line, but for now I thought it might be nice to at least share that a) I know how bloody hard it is to even muster up the enthusiasm to begin the battle of weaning and b) I appreciate it’s daunting. At two, it’s been the constant in our relationship and I suppose it’s an acceptance he’s no longer ‘that’ baby, it’s not easy to just cut the ties.
I’ve popped a few tips underneath which worked for me (but again, I’m no expert, this is just mum to mum) so feel free to give them a whirl too. It’s obvious you’ll feel apprehensive about causing possible World War III and getting even less sleep (is that possible?) but once it’s done, it’s done. No more meaty pepperoni nips trapped in teeth, no more ‘oh I’ll just wear a shirt again because it’s easier for access’ and no more ‘MUMMY, BOOOOOOOOOOOBY’ in heavily populated supermarkets. As with everything else motherhood slings at us; we can do this.
(You wait now; tonight he’ll scream for hours unless I whack out a nip)
- If you’re dropping day time feeds, get out the house or get busy. Anything which stops your little one remembering you’ve got two fun things strapped to your chest is key. If we sat on the sofa or ventured in to the bedroom (he’d see the bed and immediately presume we were headed for sleep) then it was game over.
- I’ve found Milo’s slept better in general since we’ve dropped naps. It might not be do-able if your little one REALLY needs an hour to rid themselves of grump and yes, 4pm-6pm is often grizzly and LONG, but preventing Milo from snoozing in the day has meant he’s fully worn out by 7pm and sleeps soundly.
- If you’re OK with keeping one final feed involved, I’d stick with the one which gets them off to sleep, Milo’s ordinarily lights out after about 10 minutes and I can slip out with ease. I reckon when the time comes, this will be the trickiest one to scrap and for the moment, it’s a big part of our bedtime routine. I’m making sure to keep lots of continuity with bath time, followed by Lady & The Tramp (honestly, I’ve watched it 638431758 times to date) ’til he dozes off.
- If you swap boobs throughout the night while feeding and therefore move child from side to side, do that when it comes to cuddling. Keep the motion the same, even if the feeding’s stopped.
- Shhhhing is a-ok, wouldn’t indulge in any chit chat. Even if you’re trying to soothe, I’d recommend no talking. When I tried to night-wean Milo a while back, I’d reassure him he was OK, Mummy’s here etc. It would wake him clean up and I’d give in just to stop the noise.
- Get up in the morning as soon as your little one starts to stir. Milo asks for boob (often while beginning to cry) before he properly comes to. I’ll (as cheerfully as I can muster) whisper ‘oh good morning!’, which tends to wake him up, I’ll ask him if he had a nice sleep and what he might like for breakfast, then we head downstairs. If I stayed in bed, he’d wrestle my nipples out in seconds.
- Don’t give yourself a hard time if it doesn’t work straight away and don’t feel guilty if you feel pissy about it. Lack of sleep, failure to comply at 2am; it’s obvious you won’t have oodles of patience. Expect the worst and it might just be OK.