Friday, December 20, 2013

Goodbye milky – weaning a 2.5-year old

Find mommy, see her in bed, climb in under the covers, time for milky!
That had been Pickle’s mantra since she could get out of her bedroom by herself in the mornings.

While I had cut out the afternoon and evening sessions gradually over the summer and fall (oh yes, this has been a process months in the making), it had been difficult to persuade her to do anything but latch on to me first thing in the morning. Maybe because I also enjoyed snuggling with my tiny girl. Maybe because I’m nocturnal, and I’m always the last to be up from bed every morning so every time she comes to my bedroom, I’m still in bed, and her Pavlovian instincts kick in. Find mommy, see her in bed, climb in under the covers, time for milky!

But during these past few weeks, Pickle had often been distracted and fidgety while nursing so forget the sweetness and cuddling. With 18 pearly whites, it wasn’t the most pleasant experience for me either. It was mostly business for the both of us, so it was time.

I didn’t think it would last this long, what with her sister weaning at 13 months, but I was also working full time then and pumping more than I was nursing. The change wasn’t drastic for Little Miss, who was already on the bottle more than she was on me.

Having stayed home for Pickle all her life, it was harder to justify weaning at an earlier stage. The World Health Organization recommends nursing until two, and I didn’t have any place to be other than to be right there for her, which was how we arrived here, 2.5 years and still nursing. Just to be clear, I’m not defending myself as it’s every mom’s personal choice; I’m merely presenting the facts so when the girls read this some day, they may understand why there was a difference between them.

I wasn’t nursed, and the only reason I was given was that I didn’t like breast milk, and to this day, I am mystified by that. But that’s my mom’s decision, and I didn’t want to question her – if it felt right to her, then it had to have been. Sometimes we all do what we can, and sometimes, we do what we must. And whatever led her to that decision, I know, having gone through this on my own, must have been a difficult one.

When I finally decided that this was it, I knew I had to do something drastic.

And that’s why I agreed to wake at 5AM every day with My Guy last week. Trust me, for someone who’s always last in the family to rise from bed, that decision was colossal.

My Guy finds his peak productivity in the first two hours of the morning, before the girls wake, but recently, he was having a hard time waking on his own, and who can blame him? We’re all afflicted by the hibernation effect of winter, especially when it’s so cold and so dark, so early in the morning.

I asked (fully knowing the answer), would it help if I woke with him every morning, and he didn’t hesitate, Yes! It would!, and it was perfectly understandable. I wouldn’t want to be the first to wake from a warm bed to work in a cold room either.

And that’s what we did, changing our sleep pattern by going to bed at 10 the night before, which is unheard of for night owls like us. For as long as we’ve been together, we’ve always been nocturnal, so this was another huge step for us in addition to all the changes during our Big, Big, Week. He probably thought, wow, what a partner. I was thinking, I have to break this Pavlovian cycle for Pickle.

I was right; it worked.

When she saw me working at the dining room table and not in bed the first morning, it didn’t even occur to her to ask for milky. It happened the next morning, and the next, and the next. Wake up, see mommy in the dining room, time for breakfast!

It seemed like the only thing I needed to do was to remove the trigger, which, for her, was seeing me in bed each morning. She didn’t even mention milky until Day Three, during naptime, when she asked, “when I wake up from nap, I drink milky from yours boobs?”

I skirted around the answer, “But it’s the afternoon; you’re just going to nap, it’s not morning time when you wake up.”

And she didn’t say anything more. Whew!

The 5AM mornings were working out on many levels. My Guy was right; it was peak productivity time when this part of our world is quiet, and we could focus with our coffee in hand, which he always prepared the night before and programmed it for the morning so we were always greeted with caffeine.

That was my condition – no coffee, no dice. And he kept his word. He always lured me out of bed with coffee – I feel like a cartoon character, floating on the aroma until it finally settles me on my dining room table, in front of the computer, where I quickly perk up—alert and productive.

More work less milk production. Two birds, one stone.

Last Sunday, Day Seven, however, we decided to sleep in, and I was a little late in getting out of bed. Pickle came upstairs just as I was leaving my bedroom, but even though I was dressed for the day, something about seeing me in the bedroom must have triggered a reaction in her head because the first thing she said was, “Mommy, I want milky from yours boobs!”


Then I scrambled to pull every trick I could find to distract her from it. In the end, the only thing that worked was chocolate. I know, not my best moment, but I did what I had to. Here, want a treat? I asked as I pulled a Hershey’s Hugs from the pantry, and her toddler instincts quickly replaced Pavlov. It’s like you could see her brain switching gears and suddenly, she’s honed in on a different obsession. Thank you, chocolate. 

Don’t judge.

Since then, she’d perhaps asked for milky once more, out-of-the-blue, and again, distraction worked, although I didn’t have to call upon the mighty powers of chocolate then. Today is Day 12, and I’m pretty sure the factory has shut down altogether. There may even be some bats living there.

I’m often informed by Pickle that she’s ready to step up, rather than the other way around. In a way, it’s a good thing, and I’m grateful. Less tears are shed and less work on our part too. But when it happens unexpectedly, I have to brace myself for the inevitable pang of a parent unwilling to let go.

One day she’s my teeny, suckling baby and the next, she drinks milk from a glass cup and doesn’t even realize herself that she’s no longer nursing. Except I’m keenly aware. I’m both proud and jubilant at the ease with which we’ve arrived at this point, yet a little despondent now that we’re finally here.

You know, the regular emotions of parenting. You always celebrate a milestone with such bittersweetness—happy to be done with a particularly hard stage, yet sad, knowing that this is it. You can never have this back again, especially with the last baby in the family.

With every achievement, every new stage, you applaud with your hands when they see you and clutch at your fragile heart when they don’t.

And you do this over and over again, for as long as you live.



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