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?