Hey Pinterest, you’ve failed me. I can find diaper bag packing posts, birth plan posts, c-section posts, how to make certified, organic, FDA approved baby food posts…but where are the WEANING stories? Oh, sure I found some buried in the deep pile of sanctimommy sites with more steps on weaning than my son’s LEGO Avengers ship instructions.
But I am talking the worn-out mom to exhausted mom posts on how truly sucky weaning is…there’s a pun for ya!
Three weeks ago, I jumped off the full-time breastfeeding train determined to get my absurdly dependent one-year-old into the first stage of “adulting,” in other words, eating something besides me and the nutrients I need. After 24 hours, I sat gingerly trying to not move in case my shirt brushed against my painfully sore chest and searched for a post, a meme — anything, really — to know that I could get through this time of misery…and found nothing.
Weaning is a pretty bad gig, especially when you have to make your child stop eating and nature doesn’t do it for you.
It’s like going through the first few weeks of breastfeeding backwards, except your newborn now weighs 25 pounds, has teeth, and can attack you like a mini T-Rex who hasn’t seen meat in a month. I didn’t even want to look at my neck, face or chest after the first time trying to get him to sleep without nursing…there might still be some scars forming.
The worst part is that my little dude doesn’t take pacifiers or even suck his thumb; I was the soothing method and apparently I am irreplaceable. The first week consisted of ibuprofen, gritted teeth and two-hour stretches at night of back patting and sleeping bent over his crib. I honestly thought I had reached the limit of how little sleep I could get, but no, weaning brings me to a new level! And you would just think — “you” as in a person who doesn’t have kids and thinks logically about how things should work — that a teeny tiny T-Rex who has been up all night, screaming and fighting, would want to sleep in or have a long nap perhaps. Yeah, no. In addition to not sleeping at night, we now rise very early and nap for half the time. Logic should never be presumed in the care and keeping of a toddler.
I did have to break down and pump about every 24-36 hours. Yes, all the 47-step weaning posts told me strictly to NOT PUMP or DO ANYTHING TO PROMOTE LEAKING, but at some point you start to seriously consider that your breasts might actually rupture and that just seems like something you don’t want to play chicken with. Since the angry dinosaur was refusing food as some sort of maniac protest, I let him have a bottle of pumped milk to keep him hydrated. He lay back with his eyes closed and drained that thing to the dregs. Never mind that he hated bottles up to this point — remember, no logic at all.
By about day 12, he had made peace with me.
I would no longer be his human pacifier, his constant supply of hydration; no, I’d now be The Only Person with Whom to Fall Asleep, The Only Adult by Whom to be Held, and The Person Who Needs to Always Be in the Room. The constant clinging and hugs may have been more convincing if he hadn’t been trying to tear out my eyes a few days earlier. It was a well-played move to make me feel more guilty about weaning, followed by an even better move of catching a pitiful cold to make me wonder if only my fortified human milk could make him feel better.
Since I could not draw from the authentic experience of internet strangers, I had to seek advice and fist bumps from my actual-real-life friends and mamas. They convinced me to stay the course and that he was going to be fine — all toddlers catch a cold after all — and he was too smart to let himself starve below the 80th percentile in weight. Thanks for nothing, internet strangers; thanks for everything, mama friends! What it came down to was that sometimes mamas are too tied to the emotional behaviors of our kids and to our own sentimentality or guilt, and it’s pretty tough to sift through what we hear and read for encouragement. We need someone in front of us, beside us even, who isn’t riding on a high-speed train of emotion to tell us to stay in the battle.
Weaning is a small struggle in comparison to those I’ve faced in motherhood and it had me searching for a friendly “just keep swimming” pep talk. It’s nice to run across someone else’s words in a moment of need, but even nicer when those words are spoken to you from a friend, from a veteran of the toddler trenches, and from a mama.