Weaning

Yesterday I worked a ten hour day.  I didn’t get home until after 9pm, which meant I didn’t get to see Levi until this morning.  For half of that time he was with my aunt (his regular sitter two days per week) and with Dawn for the other half.  He wouldn’t take a bottle for either of them.  When Dawn informed me of this, I became suddenly alarmed and near tears:  maybe he is self-weaning!

I should mention that the night before, he had slept through the night.

I should back up even further and explain the nighttime weaning process that we created for ourselves and have been implementing for about a few months now.  First we committed ourselves to making every nighttime feeding take place in the nursery (no more co-sleeping at all).  I would take the 11pm(ish) feeding and Dawn would take everything thereafter with a bottle. Eventually we agreed that she would take ALL the feedings up until 4am (yes, I do have the world’s most supportive partner!!  Lately she even does the 4am feeding, if necessary).  This has resulted in Levi sleeping for much longer periods of time than ever before.

I should also state this it was my plan to breastfeed for one year.  Yes, one of those “plans” that I formed while pregnant.  One year.  No more.  No less.  (I also said that I would never co-sleep, but that is another story…).  I have written here about how I have also been wanting to end my breastfeeding relationship with Levi (as planned, right around the year mark), but it is complicated.  For one thing, it is much easier to continue breastfeeding than to wean.  This is something I hadn’t considered before.  I had assumed that like other goals that I have achieved in my life, I would develop a system, apply it, and voila – a weaned child.  But if there is one thing I have learned in my short year of motherhood, it is that systems cannot be applied to living, breathing, self-individuating toddlers.

So there is that, and there is also his health.  (Please do not allow me to jinx us here…).  We have one healthy little guy on our hands.  This winter has been terrible in terms of sickness for most of our friends with kids.  I, of course, cannot prove causation between his good health and continued breastfeed, but I do believe that has a lot to do with it.

And there is also the bond of breastfeeding.  It is that bond that I believe caused me to react with such alarm when I thought that perhaps Levi was weaning himself:  suddenly the thing that I thought I wanted felt all too real and too sudden.

I remember going to La Leche League meetings early on in Levi’s life.  I would spend an hour getting myself and my tiny newborn out the door in the cold of February, March, and April, and I would be sweating by the time I strong-armed his carseat into the meeting room.  I remember the group’s leader talking about how “you never want to know that it is the last time that you’re breastfeeding your baby.”  I remember thinking how she was right, I wouldn’t want to know that — how terribly sad — but also that scenario seemed so very far into the future.  In fact, it seemed like something I would never have to actually face.  But here I am.  Facing it.

Luckily (or not?) Levi was just having a day where he didn’t want to take bottles.  He is still nursing with me and still takes bottles from Dawn and sitters.  We are down to about 5-6 feedings in a 24 hour period.  When he nurses now with me, he isn’t guzzling hungrily the way he was from about 8 months on.  Instead, it is our quiet time together.  Sometimes we look at each other.  Sometimes we laugh.  Sometimes I kiss his feet.  Sometimes he stares into space, and I read on my phone.  Usually we do a combination of all of these.  He relaxes into me and takes his time, gently suckling.  When I look into his eyes though I think, I don’t want to know if this is the last time….

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