Sunday, April 8, 2012

Twice as Nice

So last month Chase, our youngest nursling, turned 16 months. This is not a milestone birthday like 1 year, or 18 months, so why am I telling you this? Because I have officially now nursed Chase twice as long as I nursed Aiden! So many things were different this time and as I have come across challenges, we have overcome. In some ways nursing my 16 month old IS twice as nice. I really love not having to worry about his health if he goes on food strike due to illness, teething, or just plain toddlerness. It is a great behavior modification tool (hahaha!) and a handy way to get him to sleep. I also can really appreciate how much it has taught me that children this age are really STILL BABIES. I'm so fortunate to have supportive and passionate friends around me. I was able to learn a lot of lessons about breastfeeding an older baby just by being around them. I was endlessly grateful when Chase went on his 2 day nursing strike 8 months ago because it was extremely stressful for me...particularly given the timing. I needed reminders from my experienced friends about handling nursing strikes...funny how being IN a situation can make you forget what you know about that situation.

I'm going out on a limb here, however, because I think what I'm about to tell you about is going to be relevant to a lot more moms than many breastfeeding advocates would like to admit. As much as I am proud of nursing Chase to 16 months, and as enjoyable as it has been, I find myself completely fed up now. It's hard to admit that here, I know a lot of our followers are staunch breastfeeders and firm believers in "child led weaning." But I am not. I do not object to older nurslings, and if not for several factors, I wouldn't have a problem with it for myself...but there's a lot going on here that I'm struggling with at 16 months.

Chase remains a hard teether. Except with this round of challenging teething (we are cutting 4 molars right now) instead of going on nursing strike...he's nursing as much as he did as a 4-month old. Day and night. We were attempting to sensitively night wean him after the first of the year since he was nursing SO MUCH at night and chasing me all over the bed. We had some success and he was down to 1 time a night most nights and was in his own bed most of the night. Several weeks ago we moved his bed up into Aiden's room where they will both sleep moving forward. The first couple of weeks were BLISSFUL! Then something happened, and I didn't figure it out until last week. Chase started waking up at night more and more, DEMANDING to nurse 3 to 5 times every night. We discovered he was pushing molars now...Aha! The demon revealed. Chase has been pulling and pulling and pulling at the breast, it is no longer a restful and pleasant thing to nurse him at night. Despite giving him advil before bed, he is still waking up multiple times a night. I could handle 1 time at this age, but not 4 times. Night weaning has to happen for us now, I'm just too tired. I am a firm believer in the "mutual" in "mutually beneficial" and if I'm not getting any sleep, then it's not "mutually beneficial" anymore. I'm mostly just resentful about night nursings at this point and I feel guilty about feeling that I'm telling you, all our readers, because I think I feel guilty because I have this "idea" that I'm supposed to love every minute of it. It's not true. I'm not the only mom who feels this way!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned before but he is a serious groper. He gets very angry with me if I stop his busy hand from rubbing and running anywhere he can reach. This is a BIG issue for me. I've been working with him on it since he was 7 or 8 months old and am not having much luck. Any time I have worn a nursing necklace, he has beaten me with it, so this hasn't helped. I usually have to wear a tank top under a long sleeved shirt to limit his access. Why the trouble you ask? Because the sensation is SO uncomfortable for me on SO many levels. It gives me MAJOR heebie jeebies and always has. It's just too much touch on sensitive skin all at once for me and I find myself gritting my teeth just to get through it.

The frequency of Chase's nursing has become a nuisance for me. Our daytime nursings are easier for me than the night ones. I enjoy them more by a long shot. Chase is a happy and goofy kid most of the time. He is a championship gymnursetics baby if ever there was one and I get a real kick out of it. The drawback is that the second I sit on a couch, he wants to nurse. Even if he just nursed 5 minutes ago (how I *wish* I was exaggerating). In the mornings after breakfast I can expect him to nurse at least 3 times in the next hour. This, in and of itself, would not be a bother if it didn't remain at that pace for the next 4 hours until nap time! For a while I was trying to turn him away once in a while but I think it made the problem worse. So for the time being I'm allowing nearly unlimited access to nursing in the hopes that he will feel secure enough to NOT ask several times an hour.

While I still mostly enjoy breastfeeding him, it has become trying at times. I am resentful about night time nursing at this point, and I'm not all in love with nursing my 16 month old anymore. I've started reading Mothering Your Nursing Toddler and I think it has helped me A LOT in appreciating the role that nursing plays in Chase's physical, social, and emotional development at this age. This understanding brings me new patience and a better comfort level. I'm still annoyed though. Like I said before it's a sentiment I wanted to share here because I think moms need to know that if they are feeling that way, they aren't bad moms. I'm not a bad mom because I REALLY dislike nursing at 10pm, midnight, 1am, 3am, 5am, etc etc! I'm HUMAN! And if you are feeling this way too, don't worry. You're human too. Another thing that is helping me sort out how I'm feeling and what to do(or not do) is attending my local La Leche League meeting and having conversations with one of our leaders about it on the side. She reminds me that this is such a departure from how we did things with Aiden(early solids, pacifier, sleep training, etc) that it's understandable for me to have mixed feelings about this now.
I think about weaning. A LOT. I had a goal setting out to get to 18 months but that I wanted to wean by 2. What?! That's right, this is the TGL blogger who is NOT on the Child Led Weaning bus. I support Child Led Weaning, but it's really just not for me. I will probably talk more about weaning and what I'm learning in the coming months. I want to support those of our readers who are not on the Child Led Weaning bandwagon. Chase will probably nurse to 2. He's that guy for sure. But i'm  not that mom, unfortunately for him. At some point I will wean him, probably *around* age 2.

In closing, I thought I would share my first negative encounter about nursing. I was on the phone with a family member and happened to mention something about nursing Chase as I often do since it is just a part of my life. Her response was "You're still nursing him? I thought you were going to put and end to that." Yes...yes I will put an end to that. ::eyeroll:: I responded with "well, we're hoping to get on a National Geographic Special" and politely ended the conversation. I chose to be snarky, but it was appropriate for this particular family member. LOL! What experiences have you had with your family and your nursing toddler?

ETA: I actually wrote this blog a month ago and never got around to sharing it. I reached a breaking point in the ensuing weeks and we decided to begin night weaning last Wednesday night. Since then I have not nursed Chase at night and through that one night at a time. The wonderful thing is...I'm not as annoyed and touched out anymore with daytime nursing and I think this maneuver has bought Chase several more months nursing. I'll write more soon about our decision to night wean, how I'm feeling once it's done, and my personal preferences on weaning in general.