Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

My third baby is 32 months old, and she was weaned this last month. Sometimes I feel sad when I think about it, she has always been a super sweet little baby, and loves to snuggle. There was something special about her still being able to get instant comfort from her mama whenever her day was going badly. I nursed her all the way through my fourth pregnancy, and tandem nursed her and her brother for a year. This is the longest I have ever nursed, and I had planned on letting her decide when she was done nursing. But in April of 2012, I made the decision to start encouraging weaning.

Ms Pooky has always been a picky eater, and at 2 ½ she would still request to nurse several times during the day and woke up twice every night to nurse. It was starting to wear on me. Her nursing was more intense than her brothers, it seemed like she could suck harder, and sometimes her teeth hurt a little too. And she didn’t just want a little snack, she wanted to nurse for 20 minutes or so. I had really enjoyed being able to nurse both my babies, but I had noticed in the last few months a difference in how I was feeling towards my older nursling.
I was starting to avoid being around her, almost subconsciously, afraid that she would want to nurse. Sometimes I wanted to cry while she was nursing, not because it hurt exactly, but because I felt so touched out I could hardly stand it. While she nursed I felt like I was gritting my teeth and waiting until she rolled off my lap and ran away. I found myself doing everything I could to detach my mind from the process until it was over. I still had those moments when she was sad and her request for “umdoo” made everything better, and I loved that. But those moments were few and far between, and I was becoming more and more distressed by the whole thing. I tried to shorten the amount of time I allowed her to nurse, trying to break it off in about 5 minutes instead, and she co-operated pretty well. But it didn’t help me much, and it seemed to increase the amount of times she requested to nurse during the day and night. I found myself really wanting to wean her, but worried that she would take it as rejection since her baby brother was still nursing.
I tried to soldier ahead, hoping that things would settle down on their own, but I was getting more and more frustrated and my relationship with Ms Pooky was suffering, to the point that my spouse noticed I was unhappy and she asked me what was going on. I broke down crying and explained how I felt that weaning was impossible, but that I really needed to stop nursing so that my relationship with Ms Pooky could recover, I hadn’t even realized how overwhelming the whole thing had become for me until we began talking about it. I had really enjoyed tandem nursing, and extended nursing, but I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.
So together, we came up with a plan, and the next day we went to the store and bought an assortment of everything Ms Pooky had ever liked eating. I even let her pick things off the shelf. We bought fresh strawberries and animal crackers and cheese sticks. We bought chips and salsa and granola bars, and since she had never liked cows milk, we picked up some soy milk and vanilla almond milk, to see if she would drink either of those. As walked out the door with a cart full of snacks I was feeling more hopeful, maybe weaning was possible.
I started that same day. When she crawled into my lap I stood up and walked around while I snuggled with her, I found when I was standing she was far less likely to request to nurse, and we could still snuggle. When she did request “umdoo” I would ask if she was hungry and carry her to the kitchen and we would search for a snack which she found very exciting. The daytime nursings turned out to be incredibly easy to eliminate, she was thrilled to have a special toddler friendly snack on request, and seemed to forget all about nursing. I tried to nurse her brother when she wasn’t around or take him into the bedroom so she wouldn’t notice. I knew the most difficult hurdle would be bedtime, she was used to nursing before going to sleep.
At bedtime I filled her bottle with the almond milk that she seemed to like, and we did our usual bedtime routine. She went to bed just fine and giggled and played quietly with her sisters as usual. About half an hour after bed she called me from the bedroom, requesting her usual “umdoo”. I went to her and walked around the hallway snuggling and talking together. I suggested that we go to the kitchen and find a top secret snack and she chose two strawberries and took them into bed with her smiling ear to ear. I tucked her in and left her munching her strawberries. And she went to sleep!
She woke up to nurse in the night as usual, and I complied, but it was easier for me emotionally since she hadn’t been nursing all day long. So for the next two weeks, we continued that same pattern, lots of walking and snuggling, snacks periodically, and sometimes a special snack in bed. She was still nursing once or twice in the middle of the night. She was doing really well, and I noticed my relationship to her improving right away. I was reading books with her and cuddling and goofing around instead of avoiding her in hopes that she wouldn’t ask to nurse. I no longer had that anxiety that had been creeping into the parenting of my toddler in the last few months.
We had a few rough spots. The most painful moments of weaning were the handful of times she was very tired and asked to nurse and when I tried to re-direct and she burst into tears and said “(Baby brother) gets umdoo and I don’t!” I wanted to cry too, I felt so guilty for denying her. I hugged her and talked about how much I loved her and how special she was and all the things she could do now that she was getting so big and we made it through. Sometimes she felt better if she could have her bottle of juice or milk in my lap while I rocked her and sang “her song” to her. I was surprised by how well she handled life without the magic cure-all nursing had been for her so long. She seemed to be doing just fine with lots of snuggling, singing, and reading books together.
After a few weeks, she stopped asking to nurse during the day or at bedtime, and even her bedtime snack was able to be shifted to before teeth brushing.  She is eating more at mealtimes and snack times during the day, and waking less during the night. I still nurse her here and there in the middle of the night if she wakes up and asks for it, but she is sleeping better and better at night, and those middle of the night nursings are happening less and less. She is still the same snuggly, happy-go-lucky baby who exclaims “I wuv you!” and often tells me “you my best fend”. I’m very happy I was able to nurse her for as long as I did, and I’m happy to have made the choice to wean her gently when it was right for me.

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

Fight or Flight
Children of an Atheist talk about God
Rather Dead Than Queer
Re-post: I am Not My Parents