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):

Rather Dead Than Queer
Re-post: I am Not My Parents
Fundamentalist Approved Feminist Literature
What I Understand
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17929419706844211906 plch

    thank you very much for this post! I have a son, he's almost 2 years old and I'm nursing him, mostly just before sleeping and once or twice during night/morning, he's also a very picky eater! I could eat just bread and water, doesn't like anything sweet and anything with some kind of 'texture'… it's going to be a long way to weaning but you gave me hope :)

  • http://codenamemama.com Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

    I love how you so consciously shifted those loving nursing moments into loving snuggling moments – good for you, mama. And breastfeeding is a *relationship* – both of you have needs, and it is healthy to honor your own needs as well as your nursling's.

  • http://lotuslandfineart.com/velvetrope W. Lotus

    I like how you took your needs into account, too, in deciding how and when to wean her. That is healthy parenting!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14718357472343295031 Hippie Housewife

    What a beautiful picture of continuing to nurture your child's needs in a new way while also valuing your own needs. Thank you for sharing!

  • http://fidgetface.blogspot.com cd

    Thanks for your story! When I wrote my submission, I was afraid I was the only one who had similar feelings to yours about nursing and about weaning. Maybe my story will sound more harsh (I hope it's not harsh! But it's hard to be objective about our own weaning stories, isn't it?) Anyway – I am loving that through this carnival I'm reading about a lot of not just celebration of nursing, but also, validation of mother's feelings – the good and bad – about nursing and knowing the time has come to wean. I think we spend too much time second-guessing what our bodies are telling us. It's still a challenge to balance all of those feelings. Your post is so great – thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15300702154669290410 Hannah Barnhorn

    I think you did a great job of handling the weaning and nuturing of Ms. Pooky. As I read the posts, I find it interesting how many mothers get the "touched out" or aversion feelings. It makes me thrilled that I am not the only one who just wants snuggles and cuddles from their little one rather than feeling like I am always "on tap." Thanks for your story and how you handled your situation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01641970264436339191 dulce de leche

    (((Hugs))) You met her needs in such a loving way! I love how you modeled listening to you own body with tenderness and respect for her, as well.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    What a wonderful story! It reminded me of this story of a mother who realized how much she wanted her older child to stop nursing, and what a positive difference it made in their relationship.

    My son weaned at 28 months. It seemed that his body did it for him when he no longer needed the milk–he began to have trouble latching and would point to his mouth and say, "Wrong shape." He also knew what he needed to do instead: "I lie on you tummy, Mama." I would lie on my back and he would lie on me, very gentle and still, for about the amount of time he would have spent nursing. It seemed to give him the connection he needed. He did that at bedtime and sometimes at other times, for a few months, and then he lost interest.

  • http://alivingfamily.com/ alivingfamily.com

    So much of this reminds me of my experience. I am grateful that you have shared, since you have experience with more babies and children than I do. :) Thank you for being open about your whole experience, the hard and the joyful. ~sheila

  • http://gentlemamamoon.wordpress.com/ gentlemamamoon

    What a wonderful story, thank you so much for sharing. I thought your idea to stash-up on all Ms.Pooky's favourite snack foods. I found also coconut milk and almond milk sometimes satisfied my sons milk need when my milk supply disappeared.
    One thing that really touched me was when you shared that sometimes you wanted to cry when the nursing became too much for you, because one thing only my partner knows is that I did burst into tears a couple of times while trying to nurse (shortly before weaning my 28 month old). I was also scared my son may think I was rejecting him and did my best to explain that it was in no way his fault that I was so upset. It seemed to work, as a month down the line he seems as secure and happy as he has ever been :)
    So great to read about how supportive and understanding your spouse was, it makes such a difference doesn't it!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17967070182847617840 kisekileia

    If the picky eating gets to the point where he's clearly not eating enough or anything close to a balanced diet, or where he's dropping down the curve on the growth chart, get him to an occupational therapist with experience in sensory integration/sensory processing disorder, okay? I'm adult with sensory processing disorder whose childhood growth was seriously stunted due to picky eating, and stunted growth has some quite negative social effects, so I know how important it is to not listen to the people who tell you "all kids eat what they need to grow" if your child's not actually growing properly.

  • http://ahaparenting.com Dr. Laura Markham

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. You knew that nursing was taking a toll on your relationship with your little girl, you listened to your own wisdom, and you acted on it. I love how you and your partner worked together to figure out a plan to meet everybody's needs, yours and your daughter's. And the image of your little one so happy to discover the top secret strawberry snack is priceless. Stocking those special toddler snacks is such terrific advice — something most of us probably wouldn't think of.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18394341758645911698 Amy Phoenix

    Another sweet story of weaning. I appreciate that you were aware of a breakdown in the relationship and willing to do something about it. It can be a challenge to transition to other forms love and yet very satisfying when the time is right. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18086154584279483389 Claire Lindstrom

    I've really worried about how to wean Peanut when Twig is still nursing so often. I love your idea of toddler friendly snacks. I'll have to try that. Also the walking and cuddling. Hopefully things go as smoothly for me as it seems to have for you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    plch- Ms Pooky has always prefered me to everything. We had a time at around 18 months where she was eating almost everything, and then she slipped back into prefering nursing instead. I also found that I was more likely to just nurse her when I was super busy, instead of asking if she was interested in a snack of some kind, especially when we didn't have any of her favorite snacks on hand.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I don't think you sounded harsh at all. I think as mothers our bodies can clues us in as to when we are ready to stop nursing, like you said, we can spend too much time second guessing what our bodies our telling us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Awww, the laying on your tummy sounds so sweet.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    A suppportive spouse does make a huge difference! And I never would have thought about the snack connection without her helping me brainstorm.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Claire- It has gone amazingly well, and I never thought it would be possible to wean her! She nursed once in the night like 10 days ago, and then again in the middle of the night about 3 days ago. She doesn't request it during the day, and sleeps through the night (finally!) most nights. The standing up to snuggle with her and stocking the snacks really seemed to make the difference.