Sunday, November 11, 2012

Still Dulce de Leche: Choosing Not to Wean, Again

Some of you may have noticed that I have been in a bit of a blogging slump.  :shifty  I know that real writers say to just write though it, and there probably is wisdom in that, but it tends to just make me grouchy and resentful, and whatever I write is generally not worth reading then.  :still-shifty  I didn't realize the parallel until today, but I have also been wrestling with the whole idea of weaning for the last few months.

I have been breastfeeding for nearly nine years.  Almost seven of those years have been spent nursing more than one kidlet.  I'm a bit tired of it, to be perfectly honest.  I want to sleep and sit down and not have anyone tug at my shirt (only the two year old does that, and only when she is tired, but still...).  Thankfully, food allergies no longer seem to be an issue for any of my kids.  Even so, though, I feel ready to be done.

This is actually the first time that I have had a two year old nursling without a newborn as well, and I find that my supply is really low.  She gets frustrated because nothing is coming out, and I loathe dry nursing.  And quite frankly, I am not willing to do too much about it.  Had this occurred earlier in my nursing journey, I would have pumped and tried to nurse more often and eaten oatmeal cookies by the dozen.  Now the most I will do is halfheartedly take a few fenugreek capsules every now and then.  Well, and eat the cookies, of course.

When my eldest was an infant, I was determined to breastfeed for six months to a year.  It worked well for both of us, and I learned a lot about child-led weaning.  I was learning so many lessons during that time about trusting my daughter, my self and God.  Child-led weaning was just an extension of that.  Even in the deepest throes of nursing aversion, I was determined to keep going.

Now I am nursing a child that will turn seven in a few months, along with a four year old and a two year old, and I find myself examining those early convictions dispassionately, to see if this is really what I want.  My six year old, for the last year or more, has only nursed about once every month or so.  He will ask for a day or two and then seem to forget about it for another month.  The four year old is only nursing about once a week, and has recently taken to telling me to give the baby her side if she is still fussy.  :)  I expect that if I continue to leave it to them, both will wean of their own accord within the next year.

The two year old still asks several times every day and night, and I don't see that letting up too soon.

So I have been evaluating.  Should I push the older ones to wean in hopes that it will be easier to nurse the toddler?  Should I wean them all?  Should I leave it all up to them?  Why am I doing this, really, and is it worth it?

I considered all of those questions honestly.  Weaning the older ones wouldn't make nursing the baby easier--they nurse rarely enough that it wouldn't make much of a difference.  Apart from that, should I go ahead and wean them?  Well, they don't think so, although they are close to being ready.  I can live with their current nursing frequency, and my reasons for respecting their choice are still valid.  So, I am not going to cut them off, although they are very considerate about waiting if I don't feel like it every time they ask.

Why am I really doing this?  All of those reasons that I breastfed them as infants--physical health, emotional attachment, all of those great outcomes for breastfed babies--are still true for older nurslings, even though there are also other ways to meet all of those needs.  Ultimately, allowing them to choose their own weaning was because of my trust in God's design, in the whole process of independence, and in the amazing people that they are.  That is what I keep coming back to.  I still trust that.  I still trust them.  And in choosing to make the sacrifice of nursing, I still find joy.

I read a comment from a poor person who called nursing older children child abuse today.  I felt so sorry for her, because she really has so little info on the matter.  Ann Sinnott's book, Breastfeeding Older Children is a great resource (they have a Facebook page, too!), and of course, Dr. Kathy Dettwyler's work,, Dr. Sears and others.  For any of you who know me in real life, my father in law weaned after he was seven years old, and is a wonderful man of God, a dedicated pastor, a loving father and grandfather and has never had any "issues" from nursing so long.  (It didn't hurt Pele, who nursed till he was five, Michael Jordan, who breastfed more than three years, or any other older nurslings that I know of who were in healthy homes, either). 

I will eventually stop lactating (really, truly, I will!  Before they go to college even!  Maybe before high school! ;) ).  But even when the "leche" part of my screen name is no longer referring to active nursing, it will still be part of my identity because the lessons that I have learned these last few years about trusting my children, about the joy of gladly meeting their needs, along with the confidence in who I am as a mother and as a daughter of God, will forever shape who I am.  I am still dulce de leche.


Angela said...

I have been breastfeeding for 8 years, my youngest just turned two and I see no end in sight. When my first was born I said that I would breastfeed for a year, I grew with him and learned my roll as a mama...he breastfed for much longer. I learned to trust myself and believe in myself as a mama and am much better for it! Only you will know when it is time I imagine but you will always know you did best <3

Susan Miller said...


Leslie said...

Yay Dulce! Yes, you will always be dulce de leche. And your lessons from this 9 year journey will truly last a lifetime. Your journey is a gift to your children and many, many others. I love the way you put your processing out here for us all to see. You are clearing up so many misconceptions with your honesty and vulnerability. I love that you continue to let God guide you in these decisions.

becca:exile fertility said...

ahhhh, thank you. this post came at the perfect time for me - my husband actually handed me the phone (with the post on the screen) to read. I have been overwhelmed lately with my 27 month old's need to nurse - I think some hormonal fluctuations have been increasing my occasional nursing aversion this week - and his 10 month old sister has been teething and extra needy as well. I'm so encouraged by this post and having an example of someone who has given of themselves much more than I have yet. You are so right about trusting God's design for independence - it will come! I've seen my son outgrow his need to always be 'up' in the past few months. He almost always wanted to be in my arms or on my back if I was doing anything interesting - but a few months ago I realized he hadn't been asking, and it's as if that season has past and he's happy to run around and play, or stand on a chair next to me. I met the need and it went away in his own timing. I have to trust that will happen with nursing as well - I can still put some boundaries around myself and help him learn to respect my body and my space but your post encouraged me that I do want to trust God's design. -becca

Ms. Burrows said...

I've been breastfeeding for almost 10 years now. Though I did have about 10 months "off" when my 2nd daughter weaned at 3.5. I got pregnant one month later, lol. I'm only nursing my youngest right now. I made the hard decision to wean my 3.5 year old a few months ago. I'm still torn about that. But it is what it is. I couldn't dream of weaning before 2. I plan on this baby being my last. I can't wait to be done nursing sometimes. But I do hope/plan to let her self wean. That is always my intention. But so far, I ended up nudging all of my girls at some point. I don't talk about it much, because to many the idea of whether or not a 3 or 4 year old is ready to wean yet, is just beyond absurd.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

"And in choosing to make the sacrifice of nursing, I still find joy."

I love how honestly you're talking about this — the ambivalence, the annoyance, the continued love and trust. I also have had people question why I would have continued nursing through pain (in pregnancy) and aversion (afterwards), and it came down to what you said: It was my choice. It wasn't being forced on me, and I had to weigh my options and honestly know I could stop if I chose that instead.

Mikko at 5 is headed toward weaning, though he surprised me by asking again the other day. I'm just glad to "know" people like you so we can all be in this process together! :)

Janine said...

I'm pregnant and (mostly dry right now) nursing my 2 year old. Is it just the worst age for breastfeeding? He is not deterred by the lack of milk at all and is so demanding! I just wish I could have a break until the new baby comes - At least a reduction in how much he nurses.

It feels very all or nothing -- Either you forcefully wean before your baby is a toddler or you end up nursing until they are ready to stop on their own. I definitely have a lot of mixed emotions!

Maria said...

{{{hugs}}} What a journey, and that you still find joy and continue to nurse is indicative of your unconditional love of your children and God. You are an inspiration, and yes, always dulce de leche.