Weaning

Well, this is overdue, but I do feel it’s worth writing about, even if almost all of my readers know all of this already.

In early June, my mom offered to watch our kids while Jon Boy and I went on vacation for a week. She would be in Utah in early July to drop my youngest sister off at EFY (Especially for Youth, which entails religion classes, dances, and activities at BYU for teenagers), and then would have to stay out here for five days until EFY was over.

At first I was speechless. I didn’t know how to tell her how grateful I was for her offer or how much I’d longed for at least one night away from the children. In early June, I was still horribly sleep deprived, so the thought of one night’s uninterrupted sleep sounded like heaven, let alone time alone with my husband. I said yes. Then she reminded me that I’d obviously have to wean Duplo first.

Oh.

Suddenly my excitement deflated. There was just no way. He was nursing a good six times a day or more, including two or three times at night. He hardly ate anything healthy, which I didn’t worry too much about since I figured he was getting lots of good nutrition from the enormous amounts of breastmilk he was consuming. But if I were to try to wean him, somehow I’d have to also get him to eat fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and whole milk. Also, I was pretty sure I’d read that you should try to eliminate one feeding a week or so, and that meant it would take at least six weeks to wean completely. I had four.

But I was determined. It’s not every day you get an opportunity like this when you have young children. Even if Duplo was still nursing twice a day by the time we left, maybe it could work. I would certainly have excess milk if I was eliminating feedings, which I could pump and freeze. I would bring my pump on vacation (glamorous!) and keep up my supply. Maybe we couldn’t go for the whole week, but I wasn’t sure I wanted that anyway. Even just a night or two away would do wonders.

The next day, I worked really hard. Every time Duplo wanted to nurse, I gave him a meal or a snack. I encouraged him to drink juice, water, or milk. He did pretty well, only nursing three times during the day, and then twice at night. One feeding down, five to go, I thought.

I kept him down to five the next day too and remained optimistic. The next day, though, he started biting. Every time I sat him in his high chair, he’d nibble a little and then fuss to be let down. Immediately thereafter, he’d cling to my legs and bite at my pants, sometimes nipping skin too. This was his signal that he wanted to NURSE, not eat solid food. I tried not to give in, but eventually I got tired of getting mauled and bitten all the time. That night, he nursed a lot all night long, every two or three hours. The all-night buffet continued for the next three days, and I finally decided that I’d give up on eliminating feedings during the day and work on nights first.

I read Elizabeth Pantley’s The No-Cry Sleep Solution, which really resonated with me. I could see myself using most of the suggestions, and I agreed with her basic assumption that babies cry to express needs. I set up a plan to improve Duplo’s sleep and put it into action. While his sleep did regularize, which was a big plus, he continued to nurse six times or so a day. We weren’t making any progress with weaning, and we were quickly running out of time. I think we had about two weeks left by this point.

I started to realize we might not be able to go at all, or if we did go, Duplo would cry almost the entire time. Still, we reserved a room at the bed and breakfast where we went on our honeymoon. It was only a twenty-minute drive away, so if I had to go home right before Duplo’s bedtime and nurse him to sleep, I could. I could even return in the morning when he woke up. We would have enough bottles frozen to last him during the day, hopefully, if I pumped every day.

A week and a half before we were scheduled to leave, Duplo got sick (yet again . . . *sigh*) with a high fever. Lego had had a fever a few days before, so I knew it probably came with a sore throat. Duplo was also teething: all four bicuspids at once. The result was a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day for both of us. Duplo refused to eat anything and screamed almost nonstop because he was hungry. He was hot to the touch, and holding him all day in our too-warm apartment was not my idea of a good time. The house was a mess, but I left everything undone to care for my sick baby.

Who would. Not. Nurse. I tried over and over and finally managed to get him to take a little pumped breastmilk in a bottle. All night he woke, expecting to nurse, but wouldn’t even latch on. Then he’d fuss and roll around, not sure what else to do to get back to sleep. Finally, after half an hour to an hour, I’d put him back in bed. An hour later, he’d be up again.

The next day, his fever was gone, but he still wouldn’t nurse or eat anything else. I started to get worried because his diapers stayed dry for quite a long time. I pumped milk and put it in open cups and basically dumped it down his throat. That night was basically a repeat of the last, and I was exhausted.

But sometime in the night, when I offered Duplo milk in a sippy cup, he just took it and gulped it down. The whole cup. That was a turning point, after which he decided it was okay to drink large quantities from cups and bottles. It was still not okay to nurse, apparently.

He must have been exhausted too because the next night he slept a six-hour stretch, something I hadn’t seen in over nine months. And the next day his appetite was ravenous. Over the next few days, my once-picky eater changed into the best eater in the house. He ate nearly everything I presented in amazing quantities. Sometimes I can’t believe someone so small can eat so much (tonight, for instance: 1 egg, 1 slice lunchmeat ham, 1 oz. cheese, 3/4 plum, 8 oz. juice, some Cheerios). He eats five times a day, as is typical for toddlers. Maybe all toddlers eat as much as he does and I’m just not used to it because of Lego.

Six-hour stretches at night became seven, then eight. The night we were gone, he slept eleven hours, from 7 p.m. to  a.m. Apparently my mom kept waking up wondering if she’d missed hearing his cry.

Now, he doesn’t do eleven hours every night. But I think he’s done at least six every night but one since he weaned. This makes for a very happy mommy.

The only downside, really, is that weaning so quickly seems to have shocked my hormones quite a lot. Everything I’ve read about sudden weaning advises against it because it can cause intense mood swings, headaches, and even depression in the mother. I’m not depressed, but I have definitely had my share of intense mood swings, both up and down. I feel like my mind and emotions have been taken over by someone much crazier than myself. I just hope everything evens out soon for the sake of my husband and children.

3 Comments

    Wow. I had a somewhat similar experience with my second child, although probably not quite as dramatic/fast. He began to have multiple ear infections (that antibiotics were not working against) and it seemed to make him uncomfortable to lean back to nurse – hurt his ears — probably fluid. So at just over six months he weaned himself just because he seemed to find it painful to be in a nursing position, and because we were fighting the fevers and all that came with the infections. I had planned to nurse him for up to a year after birth.

    I’ll pray your hormone shift goes more smoothly for you.

    Wow, I hadn’t heard, actually. That’s great that you got some time to yourselves.

    (Also, thanks so much for the stroller. That was really nice of you guys.)

    Holy cow. That was sudden. I’m glad guys got your vacation. And that’s awesome that Duplo eats such a variety of things and sleeps so well now. Hope you feel better soon.

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