I so very rarely publish back-to-back re-runs, but this is life right now. I first ran this post two years ago when AJ was a 1.5 and still nursing. I've been feeling all nostalgic for those days lately, so it seems timely to re-publish this sage advice from one of my most dear mama mentors:
As I've shared in my SortaWhat? post, I practice child-led weaning. Dacey weaned just after her second birthday, and at twenty months, Aliza Joy is still breastfeeding. AJ is, in fact, a much more enthusiastic nursling than her big sister ever was as a toddler. When Dacey was this age, she nursed only before nap and bedtime; she was never what you would call a comfort nurser.
(She was however a total paci addict and didn't give up her paci completely until she was nearly three and a half. Clearly the need to suck was still there, it just manifested itself in a different way.)
AJ is very much a comfort nurser. She wants to nurse before nap and bed, when she is hungry, when she is thirsty, when she is hurt, and a lot of the time I think when she is just bored. Lately this has become quite physically and emotionally exhausting for me, and I've been seriously considering initiating the weaning process with her.
I asked some friends for advice, and my mothering mentor Karen (wise and gentle mama of seven) offered me some helpful insight. I wanted to share parts of her response with you:
As someone who has been a human paci for 7 kids, I can relate. Sarah and Amanda didn't really have that problem, because they weaned around fourteen to fifteen months because I was pregnant. But the boys (and now, Hannah) all went through a phase like that. It will pass, but until then, what I would do when I couldn't (or just didn't want to) nurse, is tell them - "Mommy is busy, now. When I am done, you can have milk." And follow through.
What this most likely is, is that you are her security blanket in the ever-widening world, and she needs to touch base every so often. It's not about the milk - it's about her feeling safe. Does she have another comfort object that you can offer her, maybe? Some of mine did - some didn't. Hannah hasn't attached onto anything yet, and it's frustrating me. You could, when she asks to nurse, offer her said object, and tell her, "Here. You can have this until Mommy can give you milk, but I can't give you milk right now." She does need to learn that she can't have everything she wants all the time, so a few tantrums aren't going to be the end of the world.
If you are starting to resent the time she's taking from you, it's perfectly okay to put limits on things. Just make sure you understand that she is most likely doing this because she still needs that security from you, and be mindful of that. But she's old enough that you don't need to be held hostage by her endless demands for your boobs, either. One of those lovely situations where you need to balance your needs with hers... It is okay to NOT give in every time she wants a nip, though... Just make sure she understands that you will be there when you are able.
And she will mature a bit, and she'll no longer need to have you so close. This stage won't last forever. And by gently encouraging her that she can get by without Mommy every other second, she'll become more and more confident, and the need should diminish. But it's perfectly acceptable for you to want to be DONE. And if you want to work in the direction of weaning, that's okay, too.
This was exactly the feedback I needed at exactly the right time. Her words brought me such comfort and understanding. I still haven't decided where I am in this process; there are days when I lean heavily towards weaning, but at the same time, I'm not 100% sure I am quite ready for that next step yet.
Anyone have any insight you might like to add?