Monday, May 21, 2012

Weaning due to anxiety

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning - Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

One of the things that surprised me about being a gentle parent was that my kid still hits, pinches, and pokes me. She screams, and tries to call me names. Since we don't call her any names, her vocabulary for such things has been pretty limited until quite recently. Usually just "AAAAAAAARGH!" which I admit is something I frequently say to keep from calling her a name. The normal developmental stages of a child will always include a long period where they are working out how to express their frustration, sadness, and anger, and because their vocabulary is limited, it starts with physical expressions. Alfie Kohn reminds parents to treat their kids like they would treat a stranger, but if strangers treated me this way, I would kick them out of my house and call the cops.
It had always been my intention to breastfeed until my kids were at least 2. To get through the stage where they are most likely to either want to eat everything in sight, or not eating anything. One of the major benefits of extended breastfeeding in my mind is that you don't have to worry about caloric intake while your child is still figuring out how to get the food from their plate into their stomach. Moira was one of those ravenous children, frequently eating as much or more then we did at a single meal.
But she also didn't sleep through the night. Even after night weaning she was still waking up three or four times a night at 18 months. And when she woke, it would take over an hour for her to go back to sleep. And because I have insomnia, I frequently couldn't go back to sleep no matter how tired I was. At about the same time as we night weaned, Moira started insisting on only nursing on one side. With her feet in my face.
Almost done
Lack of sleep has always made my anxiety disorder kick in. I started feeling on edge constantly. Every time she touched me, I flinched. It didn't matter that she only wanted to nurse for a few seconds and then run off to play, or eat something. I felt bruised, physically and emotionally. I was crying by the time Walker got home most nights. I knew that one of two things were going to happen, I could wean, or I could break down. So we weaned.
It was actually easier then I expected it to be. She was really interested in food, so offering something else every time she asked to nurse worked pretty well. The next thing I did was to create a nursing chair, which completely (with the exception of a couple of falls) cut out nursing in public. I also really pushed the other things we could do together, reading books, snuggling, and playing together. Then we started spending more of our day out of the house. By the time she was 22 months, she was only nursing once or twice a day, and sometimes not at all. This happened to coincide with my annual weekend with friends, so I just left her at home. When I got back, I think she asked to nurse once or twice more, but that was it. She was happy to accept the fact that they were gone.
We talked a lot about when she nursed while I was pregnant with Davis. At that point she didn't remember it much at all. She did remember that she has "Drank all the nommies up," and that they were gone. She told me a few times, "They were so good, I drank them all up at once! Yum!" After the baby was born, she was really interested in the mechanics of what he was doing and asked to try it again, which I agreed to. The first two times, she didn't get anything, but the third time, she actually figured out how she was supposed to suck, and got a little bit of milk. She was immensely pleased, and asked a couple more times, but always while I was busy, so it never happened again, and she hasn't mentioned it in almost 4 months.
I'm sad that things had to end before she was ready, but I'm glad I did it. Weaning enabled me to stop the panic attacks, the encroaching depression, the anger and resentment I was starting to feel towards her. And she didn't really seem to care, once we got to the end. I know I wouldn't have been a very good mother to her if we had kept going.

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):


  1. Shannon- Thanks so much for sharing your weaning story. Yours is such a perfect illustration of the best way to make parenting decisions: What's best for everyone involved? You faced the truth -- you'd be a better mom if you weaned your daughter -- and you stepped up to the plate and took responsibility for making it happen. AND you accomplished it gently, so that she wasn't unhappy about it. You rock, Mama!

  2. I agree with Dr Markham, this story is very inspirational, Shannon. To a mom who has this journey ahead of her its given me some guidance and a glimpse into what I can expect. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. It is tough to balance our needs as mamas and the needs of our children. It sounds like ultimately you keep both of your needs a priority as you knew you could be a more loving, present mama if you weaned. I'm glad that it happened fairly easily, too. Thanks for sharing your story! ~sheila

  4. It was so brave of you to wean based on YOUR needs! We, as mothers, are so used to putting our children's needs and wants ahead of our own that it can be hard to put our needs first. I've had a hard time of it myself.

    Good for you!

  5. I wish I wasn't so conflicted about Kieran weaning. I don't necessarily feel resentful, but it doesn't feel like the same connection as when I was frantic for it to continue. I truly appreciate you sharing this story, it is what I needed to read.

  6. Thanks so much for telling your story. It really is important for parents to know they can prioritize their own health and wholeness, and that doing so can be good for their kids.

    I really appreciate Dionna's comment there, too, because that's pretty much exactly how I feel right now. Thank you for sharing.