Monday, January 5, 2009

A Breastfeeding Debate

I believe in extended nursing (nursing beyond one year). I also believe in child-led weaning (weaning on the child's schedule as opposed to pushing my own weaning agenda).

With Teagan, I was very strong and certain on those ideals. Stuck to them, fought for them.

With Zach... second child syndrome may be setting in.

I nursed Teagan until she was 25 months. I was pregnant with Zach when she weaned. My pregnancy caused nipple issues and it was very painful to nurse. One night, I offered her a cup of warm milk instead of the boob. She refused, went to sleep, never asked again.

My Zappy... he only night nurses. He nurses at bedtime. Then he nurses through out the night.

The dilemma... I know that I will have required business travel in the next few months. I have desired personal travel this fall. Both will require anywhere from 2-4 nights away from home, without my kids. At this point, I can't imagine Zach not with me at night. I can't imagine being away from him like that. But I also feel that he doesn't NEED to nurse anymore. He's 14 months old. I think it fills his tummy and mostly provides a lot of comfort to get back to sleep. The plan formulating in my brain is being met with resistance from my heart. But my gut says it is the right thing to do.

Our typical evening is to put Zach to bed around 7ish. He nurses on both sides and usually sleeps until 10 when he wakes to nurse again. I am usually heading to bed at that point so I generally bring him to bed, nurse, fall asleep. We co-sleep so it's easy. Then he wakes however many more times throughout the night and nurses as needed.

The plan? I have to discipline myself to get up, nurse him, put him in his bed and go back to my own bed. In some ways, this will be easy because he now has his twin size bed that he is already sleeping in. In some ways, this will be hard because he has that twin size bed that I can sleep in! So do I fight the urge to stick with the easy route? Part of me says that doing the work now will make it easier when I have to be away from him later. I don't really want to fully wean but at the same time, I'm ready to be done. I almost even fantasize about him being an independent little cuss who self-weans cold turkey one day.

I don't feel any guilt about this decision making process, thankfully. Having made it a full year and beyond is awesome and I know it. There isn't some glory prize if we make it to 18 months or 2 years. I don't believe there will be any harm to him if we wean. I just want to be certain that we are making the right choices for the right reasons. I've reached a point in parenting where I don't think the sun rises and falls based on the choices I make for my babies. I used to defend my choices to breastfeed and co-sleep as though our lives depended on it. A real "mama bear." But now... I dunno. It changes. I guess because those things were so new and so hard the first time around, I felt like I needed to defend my choices to myself, too. To convince myself that I was doing what was best, to prove it to myself and the world that I was capable of making good choices and sticking with them. But now... I feel like I know what I'm doing (kinda). I'm no expert but I've certainly relaxed since Teagan's babyhood, as has Jeff.

I'm happy to hear input from my fellow parenting readers- and my non-parenting readers. All opinions are valid and welcomed!


Garret said...

I have no idea. This is a subject I'm not familiar with. I'm not sure when the average mom stops breastfeeding but I think I'd be one of those chatty people in the corner pointing and wondering why you still breast feed, or the kid still uses a pacifier or drinks from a bottle. Meanwhile, my judgement is only passed based on the size of the kid. Not very scientific, I know.


SoulfulMom said...

I can totally relate. I at that the crossroads too!

Boozy Tooth said...

In my humble opinion, your little guy should be sleeping through the night. It sounds like the nursing regime is what keeps him waking up throughout the night. If he doesn't need the nutrition (which it sounds like he doesn't) it is strictly a security for him. That can go on endlessly. It's obviously your call, but when breastfeeding is no longer "required," and you have conflicting issues, I think that makes it the perfect time to experiment with weaning and see how Zach adapts. If he's cool with it, you have your answer. Same with if he's not.

Maybe you should just get peggers and have baby number 3 while you're still in nursing mode. :)

mimbles said...

I think you're right that at 14 months weaning is no big deal. I know the WHO guidelines recommend breastfeeding to 2 years but we don't have the issues of an unsafe water supply to contend with which I'm sure is one of the main reasons for that recommendation.

I can certainly understand not wanting to lose the intimacy of the night time feeds, especially when you're apart for so many hours during the day but there's a lot to be said for undisturbed sleep both for you and for Zach.

With my lot I was well and truly ready to quit by about 12 months, I'd cut David down to just one feed in the mornings by then (I was 3 months pregnant) and then one morning when we were on holidays with my parents he decided playing with Grandy (my dad) was more interesting than being in bed with me and that was the end of it! With Caitlin I kept feeding her till she was 14 months because she was a very picky eater and seemed to need it more. Tom got about 14 months too I think, don't even really remember the end with him, like I said, no big deal :)

Does he feed first thing in the morning as well as through the night? If so, my one suggestion would be that if you want to start the process of weaning but you or he aren't quite ready to let go entirely, get him sleeping through the night first, then drop the bed-time feed but keep the morning one for as long as you want. You could even keep up your milk supply when you're away for those trips by expressing each morning.

Jeff said...


A big "NO" on number 3!!!


Eternal Lizdom said...


Mim- Thank you. I think I just need to hear that it is ok to push a little in the direction that I want. I was so focused on following T's lead as a baby... and I really think that is or at least can be the best way with some babies... she was close to being high needs, not at all like Laid Back Zach!

Soulful Mom- Glad I'm not alone in my boat! Feel free to share more- maybe we can help each other?

Garret- You promise not to judge my parenting and I'll promise not to judge your habit-that-is-not-to-be-mentioned. Deal?

Mel said...

Wow! It looks like I will be the extreme voice on this one. I nursed my son until he was 32 months old and my daughter until she was 4 1/2 years. I was also a breastfeeding counselor/educator/pump renter mentor for about 6 years. I would have to say that if he is only nursing at bedtime and during the night, this may be a great time to wean him especially if you are comfortable with the idea. I would recommend the book "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler" for great weaning advice for his age. Good luck!

And feel free to email me privately.

Garret said...

OK. (rocks back and forth in corner)

Anonymous said...


The one thing that I'm sure you've been told over and over again by those offering advice and tips on parenting is this: follow and trust your gut. I firmly believe this to be the #1 rule of parenting. It seems pretty clear to me what your decision is...just follow your gut. You're an excellent mom who has done all things right by her children and you're not going to stop anytime soon. Trust that instinct - don't discount advice, but in the end it's all about what you feel inside.

Joanie said...

I actually only nursed my 2nd child of the 3 kids I had. With Gina I had no desire to nurse, but with Tim, I wasn't sure if he was the last baby I'd have, so I decided to try it. If I didn't like it, I could stop after a day. I nursed him for about 3 months. I tried to nurse Danielle but my milk never came in. I wasn't real big about nursing for a long time but that's just me.

Anna Lefler said...

Sounds like he's ready and I bet he'll sleep through the night just fine.

Good luck - I bet it'll be a smooth transition for you both.

:^) Anna

C. Beth said...

I relate to you a lot here. I nursed Chickie for 29+ months including through an entire pregnancy and including 3 months of tandem nursing. She will be turning three in five days. That means I have been breastfeeding for THREE FREAKING YEARS. Uh, I mean for three years, yay! And that pretty much sums up how I feel about it--I have loved breastfeeding and still do but I'm also getting tired of it. I definitely want to keep going with Zoodle, no temptation to wean yet (he's a little over 9 months) but I just don't know that I'm going to want to breastfeed him for almost 2 1/2 years.

I think every kid is different, and you as a mother are different with every child, and your family dynamics change with every child. It sounds like you may be coming to a natural end of nursing, and that's okay. I do think extended breastfeeding is fantastic. But people would ask me, "How long will you nurse her?" and my response was, "Well, it's working for both of us; I'll keep going until it stops working for one of us." It stopped working for me before it stopped working for her...but it was a remarkably smooth transition!

Good luck! Sounds like the transition is already going quite well based on the bit of reading I did before clicking on this post.