Thinking about weaning, and thinking about not weaning

I always thought I would let Annika nurse until she was done. When Annika was an infant, I had no intentions of even night weaning.

But this past week I’ve been seriously considering weaning completely.

This topic has been no different for me than all of the other choices I have had to make when it comes to parenting. One minute/hour/day/week I want to go one way, then I think about it and I can’t decide if that might be harmful for my child. So, I put off making a decision. Then I get frustrated with it all and go back and forth, back and forth.

There are no easy answers for these things.

I didn’t read up much on nursing because I thought I knew it all. My mother was a La Leche League leader when I was a kid. Ever since I can remember I heard how great nursing was. I was nursed until I was 3.

I thought my decisions on nursing were set in stone. It was a relief to think that at least ONE thing I didn’t have to make a decision about.

The idea of mama-led weaning seemed laughable to me. Until this week.

Annika still nurses as much as seven or eight times a day. She’s been sick this week and it has been that much or more on the days when we are home most of the day. I did not think that Annika would still be nursing this much at this age. I had always heard that during the second year kids usually drop down to two or three times a day, usually surrounding sleep. I thought that was the natural progression.

Even in my peer group, where most of my mama friends still nurse their toddlers, it’s not typical to see them nursing in public.

Some moms make a point to stop nursing in public in the course of the second year.

I never even thought I would do that. And I haven’t so far.

For the most part Annika rarely asks to nurse when we are out and about, which is why most toddlers aren’t seen nursing in public. They just don’t think about it. If Annika does ask for it, it’s because she sees another kid nursing and even then she only nurses for a minute or two. If we do nurse out of the house, it’s usually in the car before leaving somewhere.

But lately I have gotten so frustrated with nursing that I started thinking about weaning.

I picked up a couple of books (How Weaning Happens and Mothering Your Nursing Toddler) from the South Austin API book library. It’s a local group I’m a member of.

I only read the first page of How Weaning Happens and I started to cry. All of a sudden all my frustrations began to become reality. What got to me was a passage that said weaning was equivalent to a mother’s rejection of her child.

It had taken some time, but I realized that what was frustrating me was not that Annika still wants to nurse. I think it’s that I’m not doing something right or I’m missing something.

I don’t know what it is, or if that’s even the case.

But I wonder if Annika is getting all the nutrition that she needs. She must be missing something if she still wants my milk so much. She also refuses to eat enough solid foods. Or maybe I’m not giving her enough attention, or the right kind of attention. Being with a toddler all day is exhausting. It’s not the same kind of exhausting as a baby.

Babies are at least easier to interpret. Babies need four things. Food, sleep, diaper change, or holding. Toddlers need those things, but they also need mental stimulation. They want you to sing with them or to them. They want you to dance with them. They want you to give them food. Then they throw it on the floor. They want you to play games and read books. They want to leave the house. But then when you are ready to go they don’t want to leave. You spend all day cajoling, helping, stimulating, feeding, dressing and undressing.

And then on top of it all, parenting experts tell you that you have to set “loving limits.” What the hell does that even mean??

So I wonder if I’m setting the “right” limits around nursing. I don’t want to give Annika the wrong signals. But I also don’t want her to think I’m rejecting her.

As I write this I’m still at a loss. A big part of me says that I should just continue down this path and let her determine when she wants to nurse. We’ve night weaned and even though she still asks to nurse at night, she has stopped fussing and mostly it seems to be mumbling in her sleep out of habit, and not actual wakings.

So that’s the one limit I’ve set and I wonder if I should be setting any more limits. After all, they grow out it.