This weekend after almost 23 months of nursing Owen, I managed to gently wean him. Every mom has their own point when nursing starts to seem like a drag – for some moms it’s 6 months, for some it’s a year, and for some it’s whenever the child is ready. Somehow I suspect that both of my boys would have decided to nurse until they were 4 if I left the ball completely in their court. But when both Will and Owen began approaching 2, I’d pretty much had my fill of the sleep-deprivation that comes with continuing to nurse kids who don’t night-wean easily. For the past several months, I’ve been getting up twice a night and dragging myself into Will and Owen’s room to nurse Owen, who was quite happy with the arrangement, since he just nursed right back to sleep.
Day nursing has always been fine – Will loved it as much as Owen since it was a time when I could read longer chapter books to him without Owen cutting in and demanding a picture book more his speed. It was a great way to help Owen past emotional rough spots -- and there were a couple times over the past year when Owen was sick and refusing all other forms of food and drink that I was grateful to still be nursing. But the night nursing was finally wearing me thin. And I have an easier time weaning when I can truly communicate with my kids.
So I gathered all my emotional resolve to tell Owen no when he wanted to nurse beginning on Thursday. I braced myself for some long cries and generally fussiness for several days. Instead, when I began denying Owen’s daytime nursing requests and offered to read to him instead, he pretty quickly accepted “read book” as an accepatable alternative.
And when I told him on Thursday night that we weren’t going to nurse at night anymore because Owen was getting to be a big boy like Will, he agreed: “I not nurse.” That night he woke up with a terrible fit of coughing and crying and I relented and nursed him. Friday night, though, we made our resolution together again. “I not nurse” Owen said and laughed. You say that now, I thought, but what about when the middle of the night rolls around?
That night when he woke up crying to nurse, I reminded him we were all done nursing. He promptly swatted me in the face and sobbed and screamed all the more furiously. So restraining his arms just a bit, I took him out of the bedroom he shares with Will so that he could do his high-volume screaming. That lasted all of two minutes before he relented and asked to go back in his room, back to his crib, where he promised to lie still and quiet.
So there I sat beside Owen, reaching through the crib rails to gently cover his eyes and stroke the bottoms of his feet (a routine I’d established as an alternative to nursing him to sleep at night). I realized then that this was going to work. After three minutes of protesting, Owen was going to return to sleep without nursing and I would never nurse a baby again.
I got so simultaneously nostalgic for this era of my life with the boys, and so grateful to Owen for making the transition so easy for both of us, that I started crying silently – tears, tears and more tears, all of them quiet, all of them sweet, for the ten minutes or so that it took for Owen to drift back to sleep.
Last night, after a birthday-party-filled day, Owen slept solid from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Now he is taking a nap. He said, "I nurse" a couple times but after a reminder from me that we're all done nursing, Owen changed his words. "Nose, nose" he said as he pointed to my nose, laughed and started a game of pointing to parts of my face. And it only took a book and a half to get him drowsy enough for some afternoon sleep. We will be reading a lot together in the days and months to come. And that will be perfect.