Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Getting Someone Off My Chest

This morning Westley asked for breastmilk and I told him no. He cried. I felt like a bully. It sucked. Or rather, it didn't.

When Westley pointed to my chest and said "molk," I realized I didn't remember the last time I breastfed him in the morning. He hadn't asked in at least two weeks, but I guess this morning was different for him. He woke up crying for "Dada," and it's usually "Mama" he wants first thing after he wakes up. Rob was in the shower, so I got Westley out of his crib and brought him back to bed with me. And that's when he noticed my boobs.

I told him, "No, you're a big boy. You don't need to do that any more." He gave me a look like someone had died and tears started rolling down his cheeks. "Would you like a sippy of milk?" I offered. He cried harder, insisting, "molk!" and pointing.

"No, punky. Lie down." I helped him put his head on my pillow. "You can have Mama's hair if you want." He cuddled my braid until Rob got out of the shower. Crisis averted.

Big and strong

I've wanted to wean hundreds (thousands?) of times, but I never felt completely comfortable with starting the process myself. You hear things like "breastfeeding is a two-way street." They say it should be a mutually satisfying experience for both mother and child. But I just can't get on board with that! I never had a need that was met by breastfeeding in the same way Westley's needs were met by getting breastmilk. In my experience, Westley's vote on whether or not I would breastfeed (and for how long) was much bigger than mine. They may be my breasts, but it's his milk.

I vowed to nurse Westley for a year, if that's what he wanted. When he showed no signs of self-weaning around 11 months, I re-upped my commitment. It's not the end of the world if he nurses 'til he's two, or even two and a half, I thought. Now that two is around the corner--and Westley is way too tall to lie down in my lap--I can't imagine nursing a two-year-old. I think I would go crazy. The weantime is upon us.

Contemplating a picnic lunch

Now, here's the thing about weaning your toddler. There's all kinds of talk and information about how to breastfeed, but it's all crickets chirping if you want to know how to wean. You'll hear things like, "Wean when you're both ready" or, "You might want to reduce the number of times you breastfeed rather than weaning completely." But no one says, "Here's How to Wean."

Of course, that's because--like breastfeeding--there's no one way to do it. Obviously, weaning is a whole different ballgame if your child is still getting most of his nutrition from breastmilk. But weaning under those circumstances is a little easier for me to imagine; offer a bottle of formula, a cup of non-breast milk, or some solid food (depending on your child's age and preference) when you'd normally breastfeed him. Weaning a baby or a younger toddler is a straightforward process, in theory. At least, it is in my mind. But what do you do with a strong, energetic caveman child who eats almost everything you put in front of him but just Loves. To. Nurse? Yeah, I'm stumped.

Weekend morning (milk-free) cuddle

But I'm moving forward with weaning, stumped-ness and all. And, much to my amazement, it's working pretty well. I adopted a "don't offer, don't refuse" policy for a few months. That was a good start to weaning in that it revealed a surprisingly predictable breastfeeding schedule: first thing in the morning, after nap, and before bed, with a few scattered requests throughout the day. Because Westley just Loves. To. Nurse. so friggin' much, I eventually shortened the policy to "don't offer." This meant I was telling him "no" every now and then, but he was always (mostly) fine with it, especially if I offered him a sippy cup, a toy, or something cool to look at. When it became clear to me that the post-nap boob-time was really just a way to get a longer nap, I started soothing Westley back to sleep with his blanket and his bobo (pacifier) and one of his many dolls. And when he wakes up for real? Sippy cup and cuddle time, sometimes with a little "Sesame Street" thrown in for good measure.

Food from a fork

Now, the morning seems to be taking care of itself, with the exception of today's little, uh, disagreement. Usually, Westley will accept some up-close-and-personal time with my ponytail in lieu of breastfeeding. He likes "hay-uh" (hair) almost as much as he likes "molk." And I like rolling over and going back to sleep with him next to me much better than balancing uncomfortably on my side, trying to breastfeed lying down in bed while being irritated about not sleeping.

Frustrations aside, it makes me kind of sad that I don't remember the last morning Westley breastfed. That nursing time sort of disappeared without my really noticing it. It makes me think that breastfeeding will probably just fade away. Rather than having a date etched into my memory--"that's The Last Time I nursed him"--I'll probably just pause one day and realize, I haven't nursed Westley in a while. Actually, that seems like the best way to go. After all, if I don't really realize I've stopped breastfeeding completely, it will mean a very natural, gradual transition for Westley.

On the other hand, not breastfeeding any more, especially when I wanted to quit after only a few weeks, feels like a Big Fucking Deal. Something that calls for a little ceremony maybe, or at least a champagne toast and some cake. Maybe I'll throw a weaning party--for myself. Because who doesn't love a boob cake?

(And if there were ever a celebration for which a boob cake is totally appropriate, this is it.)