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Weaning Naturally

Angela LaCour
Zebulon, North Carolina, USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, 11 No. 1, January-February 1994, pp. 8-9

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

When I first decided to wean my daughter Kelly, she was nine months old. I had been thinking about it off and on for a few months. After spending five long years either being pregnant or struggling to lose weight, I felt tied down at home raising my two daughters.

It started when Kelly was six months old. I began to have an identity crisis. I feared losing myself. Who was I anyway? I was a wife and mother, but what else? My dream was to be a writer, but how could I do that when I had no time to myself? I thought if I stopped nursing all my problems would be solved.

The housework was easy. I'd become a real pro at that. My three-year-old was fairly independent. She still needed me, but she could stay with a babysitter without being traumatized. Things were fine for me until Kelly got to be a little older and didn't sleep as much. With her being awake all day except for a two-hour nap, I felt trapped. I could not go anywhere without her because I was nursing. She wouldn't stay with a sitter--I actually tried that once--because she needed me to nurse, which she seemed to do continuously. I couldn't go out for a few hours by myself because her father wasn't good enough; he didn't have breasts.

I was incredibly frustrated. I couldn't have any time at all for myself. Her two-hour nap would have been enough for me, but I almost never got both girls to sleep at the same time. What about my needs? I was desperate to wean Kelly. Resentment set in and then guilt. How could I think of my needs? Couldn't I just wait for a few more years? I tried to be patient, but I still felt frustrated. I decided to wean.

Weaning—the word made me wince. I got a strange feeling in my stomach just thinking about it. But I had to have a life. Weaning became my focal point for a while. I asked advice from the few people I knew with breastfeeding experience.

Kelly's pediatrician said not to give her a bottle, but to substitute a cup one feeding a day for a few days, then substitute a cup for two feedings a day, and so on, until she was completely off the breast. I didn't feel good about it, but I did try it. She got angry and confused when I tried to give her the cup. It was painful for both of us. It was so simple to just nurse her, so we continued nursing.

Over the next few weeks I tried substitute bottles. I knew her doctor advised against it, but in my heart I knew Kelly had a strong need to suck. I couldn't deny her something she needed so much. She hated the bottles. Just the sight of a bottle made her cry. One day she actually drank a few ounces out of one of the many wasted bottles, and I was hopeful for about an hour. Then I realized that for her, nursing could never be replaced by a bottle or a cup. Her need to nurse was much more complicated than just sucking and drinking milk.

As the months went by I observed Kelly carefully. I was pleased to see a happy, wonderful girl. Her eyes sparkled with a never-ending excitement for life. She was very loving, giving us kisses even when we didn't ask. She showered affection on her dolls and toys as well. By this time, she was fifteen months old, and she was a delight. I felt guilty for wanting to wean her, even if everyone we knew thought she was too old to continue nursing. People said, "She doesn't need to nurse anymore. She's manipulating you, that's all." Others said, "You're still nursing?" These comments made me angry. I guess it never occurred to these people that my nursing Kelly was none of their business.

Society seems to think that if you nurse your child past one year, the child is manipulating you. The constant negative remarks I heard made me defensive. Nursing was great! Don't knock it until you've tried it, I wanted to say.

There is nothing in life comparable to the joy nursing brings for mother and child. I would recommend it to anyone. In fact, I loved nursing Kelly at fifteen months old. I just wanted a little time to pursue my own interests now and then.

I started going to La Leche League meetings and was surprised and overjoyed to meet women who supported my decision to put off weaning. There were nursing babies and children there from seven weeks to three years old. I learned about baby-led weaning. I borrowed a book, entitled MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, by Norma Jane Bumgarner, from La Leche League's lending library. I read the entire book in a few hours. I was at peace again. I learned that nursing children when they're older is perfectly healthy and good for mother and child. In some cultures it is unheard of for women to wean before a child is two years old. I found my answer to weaning. I relaxed about weaning her when I realized I had been weaning her all along. From the moment she started on solid foods and drank from the cup, she had been weaning gradually. I realized how successful I had been at nursing and I felt proud of Kelly and me. I decided to let nature take its course and nurse her until she no longer needed to nurse.

Now Kelly is two years old and we are still nursing. Most of our friends have no idea that I nurse Kelly. She only nurses at nap time and bedtime. I don't hide it from anyone, but unless they ask, I figure they don't need to know. It's between Kelly and me.

Now that Kelly is older, I am able to go to meetings or spend the day away from home if I choose. I have plenty of free time now, with her father's help. We have some close friends with whom we swap babysitting occasionally. My life is not limited by nursing. In fact, there are many ways that nursing makes my life easier.

Kelly nurses for about fifteen minutes at bedtime, and she's asleep for the entire night. On those rare occasions when she wakes during the night, I give her a drink from a cup and she's back to sleep again. When she is sick she nurses often, and I'm happy to comfort her so easily. I don't know when Kelly will decide she doesn't need to nurse anymore, but it doesn't matter. We are both happy, loving each other, and living life to the fullest.

Last updated 11/12/06 by jlm.
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