Salt Lake City Based Photographer Timbra Wiist owns/operates Landslide Photography & Photographs the Journey of Motherhood (see bottom of page or sidebar for more info. . .depending on what this blog is choosing to do for the day).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weaning the Wii-ones

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Blog Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Timbra Wiist landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today's post is about The personal journey of Weaning. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed in the comments section at for today's guest blogger on the Breastfeeding Cafe site The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!

The journey of breastfeeding that has gone down this winding path, was not one I ever thought I would be taking, certainly not one I purposed or intended for.  I've told my story more than once. . .

Before I was ever a mother, I thought I would nurse a baby for six months, move to formula and bottles, move her out of my room, never share a bed with said baby. . .blah blah blah.  Instead, I nursed my first child beyond her fourth birthday (we'll leave it at that), sleep with her every single night, to date (she turned six last month), tandem nursed and am now nursing a second toddler. Because I wrote this posts in the past, when I was feeling the feelings much more intensely, particularly as the time of weaning was heavy upon us the first time I wrote about it. . .I will leave this post alone then add my recent experience at the bottom. . . written in August 2010, when my first daughter was just past her 4th birthday and my second was about to turn 1:

It's been a journey, I can say that much. But I realized early on, that I was not going to have a child who easily gave up nursing. And that I was not a mom who was up for regimented scheduling, for the possible tears, and for deciding to, in many ways, push her when she was as yet, unready. And so, as time has gone on, I've become less willing to nurse her in public, except for in front of a few "safe" friends. And I've surrounded myself with a community of women and friends who support the relationship that my daughter and I have, even the part that includes continuing to nurse well beyond what is accepted as "the norm." I don't think my husband has been resistant to continuing to nurse, though I know he's had his questions, his doubts, but ultimately he and I have decided together to let our daughter lead us through the process of weaning.

This post will be thoughtful, but I know what most people want to know is. . .doesn't it make your kid (or you) WEIRD to breastfeed "too long?" I don't know. . .she LOOKS pretty normal to me. . . and I think she'd be weird either way. . I mean, she has ME as a mother ;)I really thought it would happen while I was pregnant. She turned 3 during my pregnancy, surely she was old enough to realize there was no milk and only needed it for the sake of "tradition" at that point, and would eventually just give it up right? NOPE! I was fine with that. I NEVER EVER in a million years thought I'd be nursing two kiddos at one time, but here I was. . . this journey was just leading me to places I never dreamed of. But in so many ways the transition into BIG Sisterhood was made easier by those late nights of nursing together, holding hands, knowing that mommy had enough love (and milk) for both of them. I thought it would happen soon after little sister came. . . again. . .NOPE. . .

Her need is deeper. And through child lead weaning I have learned SO much about my first daughter. As she approached 18 months, I found myself reading "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler" and loving every word. I loved, particularly, the section that spoke to my heart, about not forcing dependence. A child who KNOWS(and I'm paraphrasing here) that mom (or dad or both) is a safe place, will gain independence, knowing that there is someone she can always return to whom she trusts. But forcing an unready child out into the world without that emotional stability leads to a lot of unstable and confused, co-dependent grown-ups.

Some moms don't have kids like this. Some kids ARE ready to wean, stay with a baby-sitters, go to school. Mine was not. She was nearly 3 years old when she finally allowed me to leave her in bible class BY HERSELF on Sunday mornings (a whole 45 minutes of separation). . . with kids she'd been in bible classes with since the age of 9 months, with teachers she'd been with for a year! I think through breastfeeding, I have become so much more able to understand my child's needs and to let her know that I trust that she knows who she is. . . I am not making her who I want her to be, I am letting her show me who she is. I have learned acceptance, patience, trust.

We had a lot of discussions about her weaning up until her recent birthday and she was on board, after she celebrated her birthday, she would be big enough. Okay. . . maybe after her party 6 days later. . . "When I'm as big as you mommy". . . so I just rode it out. . . and I started to feel that it was just part of the nightly ritual, but I suppose I was downplaying that a bit. I always have called her my "child of ritual" so perhaps the ritual was not JUST ritual, it's part of who she is, she NEEDS that constant in her life. Then one night, after all of the other nightly rituals she sat up in bed, looked at me (in the dark) and said "I don't need milkies, because I'm 4!"

And then two weeks later she asked to nurse again. . .and something that a friend recently said stuck with me. . . something about weaning not being a "hard and fast" rule. . . so we nursed for our usual round of "twinkle twinkle little star." (And I'd like to interject here that basically for several months she has nursed ONE time/day at bedtime for the duration of TWINKLE TWINLKE LITTLE STAR. . .nursing a child of her age takes about 12 seconds of my day). . . And the next day we talked about "no more milkies" again. . . it's been another week or so, we've had a random request here and there, but last week we had a little bit of a more prolonged session, NOT at bedtime, and then the requests stopped. At the same time little sis started taking longer naps, and allowing me to put her down during these naps, so my time with big sis is more free, we can play a game, cuddle, read a book. . . I've had to remember to replace those TWELVE bedtime seconds, with a half hour of focused attention during the day.

I DID NOT EVER EVER EVER plan on this being my journey! I feel secure in the knowledge base I have regarding breastfeeding, that this choice is a fine choice and that it was the right one for us. I have helped my daughter feel secure, loved, allowed her rituals, and am helping to shape her INdependence. She knows who she is, at four years old, I believe she knows and trusts herself more than most adults learn to trust their own instincts, thoughts, feelings, etc, in a lifetime. I want to nurture that. I want her to believe that I trust her, that I listen to her, that I accept her.

And I wonder where the journey will take us from here. . . both with my oldest daughter, now weaned (or so it seems) and my youngest daughter and I having a one-on-one nursing relationship, which may last just as long, or may end earlier than I'd like. . . . but I know that through it all, I want my daughters to believe that I "hear" them through their nursing needs.

2012 Update. . .I can now say that at the time, my oldest daughter was not fully weaned. . .I thought she was, we'd lead up to it peacefully and thoughtfully, talked about it, planned for it. . and two days after her 4th birthday, she got her first ear infection of her life. . .so obviously, that "hard and fast" went out the window as she nursed and then cried that "it was broken" (she was in so much pain she really just couldn't latch properly).  After this it was a more drawn out process that sometimes took me by surprise.  After months of not nursing, requesting to once again, one night even suddenly and slowly escalating from sadness and lament to tears and full scale crying because she was so sad that nursing was behind her, so I let her nurse.  Moments of illness would bring it on. . .one of those little leftover indicators. . .one time she asked to nurse after months of not having asked, and the next day fell ill. . .I should have known.  Nursing has given me a deeper understanding of my children.

As I said, I am now nursing my second toddler, my first COMPLETELY weaned in such a gentle and comfortable way for all of us.  And my expectations are just so different.  Each stage of her life she seems so much younger and littler than my first child did at the same age. . .certainly, their personalities and approaches to the world are different, which lend to this feeling, but I believe it's just because with a first child, every new turn is a turn you are making for the very first time and it seems so much bigger than the turn you made before.  With a second child the road has been mapped and paved, you can look back and see how small that first child really was in each situation.  I have let go of expectation. . . I am not worried about the perception of others. . I have become comfortable in my own mothering skin.  And I know now that child-lead weaning is the choice for us. . . .this child is altogether different than my first, except for her distinct love for "moties" aka "milkies" . . .this is one truth that is unshakable in this family :)  At nearly 3, I sometimes wonder when she will begin to wean, her attachment to me being vastly different (and oh so much more intense) than the one her sister had at this age. . .but I know that it will be right for us when it begins and we will both work to be ready together.

In case you're wondering. . .there is absolutely NOTHING normal about this child :)  It's to be expected!

1 comment:

Krystyna said...

Thank you for your honesty, Timbra! Our older nursling is turning three in a few days and he shows no signs of being ready. You have lent me the courage to just keep riding this one and trust that when he weans, it will be the right time for him.