At three o’clock in the morning, my two-year-old daughter screams bloody murder. Be strong. Be brave. I silently chant to myself in the bed.
Pease don’t cry. I want to tell her. You can soothe yourself.
After thirty minutes of non-stop crying, she finally breaks me, and I go in and give her what she wants. The breast. I stroke her tired sobbing face.
Could she be independent enough to handle weaning? Can I handle not being needed as her only nurturer?
I weaned my first at eighteen months without a hitch, but nine years had passed since having a baby, and I had to relearn the weaning process. At two years and four months, my girl and second child, a mighty vociferous bundle of energy and a force to be reckoned with, would not accept “no” without putting up a fight. Since I didn’t have this kind of problem with the first, I now needed strength to go through the weaning process.
When she was a newborn, each nursing session perfected our love bubble thanks to being high on the hormone oxytocin. Garbage trucks would roar, and neighbors slammed doors and shouted in a foreign tongue, but I cocooned our precious bundle. That love bubble carried me through Mom’s death and the stress of moving into our new home.
Each time she’d grope for my shirt, I’d pull her silky head closer. Her mouth knew what to do. On a bus en route to New York City, I’d cradle her with our non-verbal language. Happy sucks and murmurs would soon follow a litany of murmurs: “I’ll protect you. I’ll comfort you. I’m here. Mommy loves you.”
At three o’clock that morning, I finally realize though how much my body craves a break from nursing on-demand for the past two and a half years. I need to reclaim my “me” time.
What follows from that first weaning attempt is a nightmare – a toddler who wants to suck incessantly – using me for comfort not sustenance.
Two hours later, she cries again for the breast, and this time, I bar her from pulling up my shirt. She throws both hands up in hysterics. I silently moan. This is going to be one heck of a journey. My first born never pouted, cried or screamed. I show her funny pictures. I offer milk and a banana. But they don’t help. Neither does massive amounts of hugs and kisses.
What follows from that first weaning attempt is a nightmare – a toddler who wants to suck incessantly – using me for comfort, not sustenance.
At five o’clock in the morning, I seek weaning help from Doctor Google and instead of looking for information on how to stop weaning, I find myself racing through the section, “is this the right time to wean?”
I quickly learn that the World Health Organization recommends nursing to a minimum of two years old. On the site healthychildren.org, my eyes fall on the words: “The simplest, most natural time to wean is when your child initiates the process.”
Well, clearly, that was far from happening. She was far too enamored with the breast, and hesitant me didn’t want to rock the boat. Insecure me is looking for confirmation as to whether breastfeeding on demand is practical and sustainable. But on the Internet, I can find data to support or refute anything. This search flip was initially a subconscious choice to get a green light to continue nursing.
I decide to stick with it and again, a few days later at three in the morning, she screams, “tzi-tzi, tzi-tzi!” (“Tzi-tzi” is the Hebrew word for breast.) My husband carries her down the stairs, arms failing, cries menacing. I remember what I read the other night online. “The simplest, most natural time to wean is when your child initiates the process.”
What do all the mothers do with this crying – wait it out? With my oldest, I stopped breastfeeding him one day, and he simply accepted it. I never had to struggle with screams or cries.
One mother said she breastfed until her daughter turned three and another vouched for breastfeeding until three and a half. But between the Internet and listening to other mom’s stories, I struggle to stay abreast of the situation?
At that stormy moment, I turn to my intuition. What was more important — preserving our breastfeeding bond or getting my body back? Between sobs and sleep, I take time to finally get quiet. “You need your body back. Get your body back,” the voice says.
With this need now clarified, I move forward with the weaning process, but I don’t research proven, kind ways to wean online. Instead, I continue with my Doctor Google route in the event I need to validate my decision to stop breastfeeding. I can always go back to breastfeeding.
Before settling in for the night, I find myself resisting change. I didn’t want to lose my breastfeeding baby to the forces of the outside world. So I cling to the thought she is my baby, and she won’t change.
I go through three weeks of theatrics, hysterics and tantrums – in short, a living hell. I curse and mutter, shout at myself, my husband, my son.
There is no short cut to the madness – just hugs, cries, tears, and frustration that leave me eating a chocolate bar and drinking wine at the end of each day. Off I go each morning, owl-eyed to work. I long for longer chunks of “me” time away from her cries.
And then, one night as if by magic, the madness stops. I wake up the following morning,
These days, she roams the backyard, playing with toy cars and her baby doll. My latte warms my hand. Is this what it’s like to emerge on the other side of the weaning tunnel, emotionally stronger? Is this the same child who cried hysterically on my arm, screaming for my breast? In retrospect, it isn’t selfish or damaging to wean my child from the breast even if she didn’t initiate the need to wean.
My decision has been empowering for both of us.