Bionic Mamas

you're not losing a vagina, you're gaining a son

Cutting Back


Hi, Internets.

When I sat down to write this post, I found one I’d started on Friday.  I’m too sleepy to write that one now — it’s a rant about the sanctimonious label on the Bean’s formula package, and rants require pep — but you’ll get it someday.  Meanwhile:

I’m worn out partly because of ill-timed insomnia (is there any other kind?) and mostly because the Bean hit no fewer than four destructive and dangerous developmental milestones just this morning, continued to polish up some he picked up this weekend, and then melted down for most of the afternoon.  Bedtime could not come soon enough, yet when I finally popped him off my breast, instead of his usual routine of crying and scrambling to find it again (despite having looked asleep seconds previously), he sort of rolled over on my lap, looked up at me, and smiled.

So he lives to fight another day.  They are fiendish clever, these creatures.

He’s done lots of cool new things in the past week, too.  After months of merrily climbing up any stairs he sees, he has finally learned to go *down* them, too, carefully turning around and lowering his legs first, rather than pitching headlong off of them and face-planting.  He realized very quickly that he can use the same technique on slides, which means he can now go down them alone.  He is extremely pleased with himself.





On Sunday, we observed a crucial NYC rite of passage: Baby’s First Dim Sum.  It was an unqualified success, possibly because the Bean loves the friends who invited us, possibly because there were chopsticks and a booster seat that looked like a throne, possibly because countless waiters and waitresses and hall managers came by to flirt with him.  He ate a ton, attacking the unfamiliar food with a gusto generally reserved for small rocks.  (That’s right: the child literally prefers rocks to my cooking.  A mother weeps.)



All of that was a great deal more fun than the previous weekend.  Saturday a week ago, I pretty much lost my shit.  While attempting to recover some semblance of composure (read: whimpering in the shower), I came to the conclusion that the step that would most improve my life and temper is partially weaning the Bean.

Prior to the Bean’s birth, I had no particular designs on nursing past one year.  Then the first two unmedicated months were so horrible that I could barely imagine gritting my teeth through six months.  (I had this vision I knew was insane but needed to believe that the Bean would somehow go from no solid food to 100% solid food in, say, six hours.)  I laughed bitterly at the very idea that people were less than thrilled to be done breastfeeding; if it hadn’t been for native stubbornness and a healthy dose of Earth Mother guilt, I would have given the whole thing up at six weeks.  (Which would perhaps have been wiser, I thought once blessed nifedipine showed me how much better and more patient a mother I am when not in excruciating pain day and night, but that’s a story for another time.) Even once things were better, the Bean nursed so very, very much of the time (always far more than the books said) and breastfeeding carried such power to provoke anxiety in me (Why is he so skinny?  Is it because I don’t make enough milk?  Is my milk not rich enough?  Why does he need to eat so often?  Am I starving him?  et cetera)  that I wasn’t exactly sorry to think of being done.

But a funny thing happened after six months or so, when he started eating more food: I started to like it more.  I still don’t feel blissful or existentially fulfilled the way some people describe, but as a year got closer, I realized that I didn’t especially want to stop.  For one thing, I’d like to build more of a store of pleasant memories to offset the others.  The Bean, who had seemed fairly wean-able at nine months (which was right before we were traveling for Christmas and Hell, No, I was not about to lose that magic pacifier quality) had regained interest, too, and since my breasts seem to do fine with my not pumping when I’m at work, there wasn’t any reason to stop.

But.  For the last month or so, the Bean has been adding and elongating nursing sessions, such that, left unchecked, he will soon be nursing more than some newborns.  Until that started, he was nursing 4-6 times a day, for something like 30 minutes each (more for some, but less for 5 and 6, when he added them).  That was fine with me, but suddenly he started demanding more and more sessions, and it would often be more than an hour before I could remove him without wailing.  We joked that he had heard a rumor that something called “weaning” existed and was making damn sure he didn’t become another statistic.

I started remembering why I hadn’t liked nursing.  It’s exhausting, physically and emotionally.  I don’t like feeling like my body never belongs to me, that I can’t decide what to do with it when.  The hormone surges make me feel out of control, and making all that milk just wears me out.

So.  I’ve decided that while I’m not ready to wean, I am ready to lay down the law.  Four sessions a day: first thing in the morning, before each of two naps, and before bed.  No more “more.” He already eats tons of food, but I guess he’ll just have to replace those calories with more of it (and/or rocks).

But it turns out that I don’t know how to do that: everything I’ve heard and read about breastfeeding is all about how you always have to do it on demand, which obviously is more about the first few weeks than my situation, but I’ve nevertheless internalized that mindset and am having trouble shaking it.  I’ve gotten some advice that seems very sound — about giving him milk in a cup when he asks to nurse, making sure there’s still lots of cuddling (which he’s more into now that he’s older), distracting him with trips out of the house, and so on — but the past week’s battle of wills has been neither fun nor pretty.  Naturally, I also wonder if I’m being horrible, though the Bean’s nascent toddler-ness does harden my heart a bit: I do NOT like being yelled at.

So far, he’s resisting the whole scheme pretty hard.  I’ve only given in a couple of times, but not for want of being yelled and grabbed at.  Non-stop party over here.  The first day of the rest of I-don’t-really-want-to-know-how-many years, I realize.

Any advice, commiseration, moral condemnation?

17 thoughts on “Cutting Back

  1. Bug’s record for nursing? 3.5 hours and I finally popped him off. You can bet I weaned that child. He would probably still be nursing now if let him (3 next week). He would assault me for 2-3 hours every night. It was kind of awful. (And then 6 mos after I weaned him I had another kid and it started all over again!!! Hah.)

    By 18 months it was morning, nap, night, and then it was morning-only shortly after. It was too much. The endless boob-nomming! The lack of two hands! The shirt-pulling in public followed by 30 seconds of nursing once I finally found somewhere to sit! And, my personal favorite, when they see/hear something and YANK around without letting go, owwwwww. Those things are not made of rubber.

    Around 14 mos, right after I quit my job, Bug also went from largely indifferent, to all mama milk all the time- three nursing sessions to ten, overnight. I attributed it to the boobs being home, but Bean is doing the same; maybe it’s developmental. After a couple weeks I firmly buttoned my shirt between naps.

    Also, Bug still prefers soy, almond, or even coconut milk to cow milk. And when I was first no-more-on-demand-ing him (around 15 mos? after the formerly-working-mom guilt wore off) he wouldn’t drink any kind of milk in a cup. Maybe Bean isn’t such a fan either. I gave Bug watered-down juice for a liquid distraction.

    (Sweet heavens it is slow typing with one hand! Because… I’m nursing.)

    • I have got to get more shirts that button. Mine are stretchy, and he just yanks them down. Very classy in the grocery store — lucky it’s the hippie coop and no one’s allowed to say anything.

      The Bean actually likes cow milk quite a bit, just not instead of nursing. Now that we’ve moved past the cup-holding power struggles (which entailed my refusing to hold his cup anymore and his impersonating a particularly flacid jellyfish), he happily drinks from his shot glass at meals. But if it’s nursing he wants, cow milk is OMG POISON. Lucky he gets his stubborn streak from me — if that were from the donor, I’d be totally screwed.

      The end of day nursing session is something I mostly enjoy — Sugar plays the piano (which is in the Bean’s room, because, NYC apartments), I read a trashy novel on my iPad, there’s not too much rubber-nippling — but the thought of doing that for hours every night…. No, thank you. You are a nicer mother than I.

      • I meant metaphorical shirt-buttoning, but perhaps it would help in a literal sense as well. Mine were largely of the stretchy-yank-down persuasion too.

        Well, the Bean has good taste. Mama milk IS, after all, the tastiest stuff ever. But tough, kiddo.

        Nicer didn’t have much to do with it. Insane, maybe.

  2. P.S. Most adorable mischievous look on the slide!

  3. My assecdotage (assvice based on anecdote, you know), is that babies Bean’s age are Like That. If it, whatever ‘it’ is, from Mummy’s boobs to that ornament your favourite aunt gave you, is in view, they will want, and they are not developmentally mature enough to understand ‘no’, or ‘later’, or ‘only four times a day’. To them, all of the above mean NO NO NEVER AGAIN THWARTED DOOM DESPAIR. Cripes, who’d be a toddler again? The ANXST.

    To tame my baby sister’s SCREAMING fits of WAAAAAAANT, we had to put the whatever-it-was out of sight. And then, she forgot all about it and was delightful(ish). Much much much much much much harder to do with your own self, though, so this is doubly assecdotage because it’s no help at all, ha ha. But, basically, he doesn’t NEED to nurse that much. It’s just, nursing is lovely and tastes good, and he’s old enough to know and remember this, and old enough to grab for what he wants, and NOT old enough to know he’s not really hungry right now, or that he can have it later, and he can see the Good Thing right there, so….

    On the other hand, you need your breasts back so you can, you know, have a life. I think in this case your need to exist without weeping in the shower trumps his need to gratify his nomming whims on the instant. Assecdotal evidence shows that being thwarted is necessary for a child’s intellectual and empathic development. Assecdotal evidence also shows that no child goes to college still breast-feeding. This too shall pass. No, really, it will, I promise. And then we’ll all feel wistful because Bean is a Child not a Baby, don’t they grow up so fast? If the wistful gets out of hand, re-read the breast-feeding nipples-of-agony saga, and have a stiff drink.

    • I keep thinking there’s a rump parliament joke in here somewhere, but I can’t quite formulate it.

      I like the thwarting as helping idea. Very Much. I will run it by Starhillgirl, who I am sure will agree. She thwarts toddlers professionally, after all.

  4. It sounds totally reasonable to refuse to be a 24-hour milk bar. And if part of your reason for continuing to nurse is to build up positive memories of it, letting yourself be nommed on all day long doesn’t sound like it achieves that goal. The Bean will really truly be okay with fewer nursing sessions.
    I agree with May that it’s totally developmentally-appropriate for him to throw massive fits when he doesn’t get what he wants. It doesn’t mean you are big mean horrible person who is harming your baby–it’s just him doing what he’s supposed to do. Hang in there! My guess is that if you stick to your guns about only doing it 4x/day there will be frequent power struggles for a little while, and then the morning/nap/nap/night schedule will become just The Way Things Are.
    Thanks for the adorable pictures! It’s clever of kids to be so cute.

  5. OMG, Bean is just gorgeous and when did he get so big?

    As for weaning, it sucks but stay strong. He’s old enough to understand a lot of what you say so explain to him what you are doing. It may seem silly but I did that with my middle son and some of it seemed to sink in. I also found the cutting back/weaning drama didn’t seem to last much beyond a week. Good luck.

  6. no advice. we’re at the nine months cutting-down-someday-seems-slightly-possible stage.

    bunny still nurses to sleep, but can only do so in the bedroom. if he’s in a room with distractions, he will be distracted. and then he’ll look around, grin at me, and start playing with/pinching my nipple. uh, no. that’s when the boobie goes back into the bra. and, yes, he is SUPER demanding. he hasn’t learned how to lift my shirt yet, thankfully (or to unsnap my nursing bra). anyways, my hope is to wean him to morning/nap/bedtime when i’m off work this summer. we’ll see how that goes…

    these breastfed boys, they are a bossy lot.

    i don’t know if you read glamcookie’s blog, but her recent saga of weaning her two-year-old is my great fear for bunny. and yet, it worked. her son is now weaned.

    • ps: always love the bean updates. the slide is super cute.

      and fingers crossed that our skinny little boys (bunny has dropped to 20th percentile) with high metabolisms somehow skip the only chicken nuggets, peanut butter, and oreos stage of eating.

  7. I love the pics. He looks SO grownup at the restaurant. Wow.

    I have absolutely no assvice for you, given I am currently dealing with the exact opposite problem. (E. has dropped all day feeds, will only nurse during his two night feeds, and if I offer the breast during the day will lunge at it, bite down HARD and then yank off. There has been a LOT of weeping over here as well.) But I definitely think when babies are over a year old their parents have rights and needs too, and it is OK to upset the baby when it is something you really need. It sounds like he’s getting more than enough milk from a nutrition standpoint and it is more about comfort. Sounds also like you are doing all the right things. I agree with what someone else said above that if you can stick with it, the 4x a day thing will eventually become the routine. I hope it gets easier soon.

  8. I don’t really have advice. Just support and sympathy. I hated that feeling of yanking my boobs out every 5 minutes (and since I was always tandem feeding, I really did have to expose ALL of myself) and the feeling that my body was not my own. Yet when it came time for weaning, I worried a lot that I would be really sad/wistful/miss it, etc.

    I can say, having been fully weaned now for about 5 weeks, that it really was easier on me than I thought it would be. I loved that I was able to feed the turtles for a full year but I’m equally okay having moved on from that now. I was ready to be done.

    So, you have all my encouragement as you drop some of these feedings. And my hope that you will feel similarly liberated and at peace with it.

  9. I have a great many opinions…but I’m so distracted because, OH, BEAN, you are so perfect! I want to feed my child with chopsticks forever on the off chance that she’ll look so sweet just once…

    RIGHT! Well, as you know, the important thing is that you feel as bad as possible, both physically and emotionally, so you just have to find the choice that best balances those needs.

    For serious: as everyone promised me, I am rapidly getting over the emotional aspects of moving towards me-led weaning. I enjoy the morning and pre-bed feedings now, since it only hurts at first, and I don’t have to dread the others. And oh, the not pumping! It’s like being in heaven! Like the others have said, knowing he’s going to make it hard but doing it anyway seems like the only route, I’m just sorry it’s so unpleasant. Also, I finally got the Ellyn Satter book, and while I don’t really love it, it’s very pro-weaning. I was kinda surprised by this, but it doesn’t really even allow for the *possibility* that you might want to extend breastfeeding. So hey, if you still haven’t read it, perhaps now’s the time, to bolster your confidence! And if all of this is just pointless reiteration of things you know, loads of sympathy! LOADS!

  10. First, I gots to see this kid in person, soon. Second, this post does not make me hopeful that L will ever stop nursing all the damn time. Third, well, you rock.

  11. I got nothin’ for you. The girls got breastmilk for a year, but Zazie pumped that whole time (whoa! she’s a saint!). Bean is super cute though. And hey! I recognize that playground! We usually go to Vanderbilt on the west side of the park…

  12. My three month old has a n1pple in her mouth pretty much all day so no condemnation here and I fought through gritted teeth to BF this time and there is no damn way I am stopping before I am damn well ready to (which will probably be when I have no choice in a few months and go back to very stressful full time workarama) and yet I have no logical explanation as to why I am passing up perfectly good work NOW in favour of sitting and acting as a front-opening shirts only human pacifier all damn day when I also have a freezer chock full of expressed milk (to the point have just donated two shopping bags full of the stuff, go low supply boobies). Because I could sure do with the cash.

    Oxytocin is an awesome drug and I wonder if the act of being the nursee is similar and that’s part of it? Because if that is the case I can see Bean’s point 🙂


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