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Focus on Fathers

A Father's Weaning

Jennifer Morris
Babson Park FL USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 1, January-February 2004, pp. 26

My husband has been weaning our son, Sam, who is almost four years old. No, not that kind of weaning-Sam stopped breastfeeding during my second pregnancy, when he was about 27 months old. Now, Sam is weaning from an important part of his bedtime routine.

As of the summer of 2001, Sam no longer nursed to sleep, and at first we wondered what would happen. Sam was always one to fight sleep, so we crossed our fingers and hoped that he'd fall asleep. I had come to rely on quickly nursing him to sleep and having the rest of the evening free.

Since he weaned, one of us, usually me, would sit with Sam, holding his hand until he relaxed his grip and drifted off to sleep. Sometimes, this would take over an hour and a half, and I'd often come out of the room exasperated. We wondered if the process would ever speed up.

As the due date approached for our second baby, my husband, Erik, took over the bedtime routine. We knew that a new baby would probably not adapt well to my prolonged absence at that time of the night.

Before long, Erik was the exasperated one. We wondered if we'd done the right thing all these months. Did nursing him to sleep leave him without the ability to fall asleep on his own? Once in a while, we tried other techniques, but we quickly dismissed these ideas because they didn't fit with our parenting style. We simply could not leave the room until he was deeply asleep.

We realized that he'd wean from this need, just as he weaned from his need for nursing. He needed to fall asleep with someone holding his hand, just as deeply as he needed mother's milk as a baby.

The time that Sam required Erik to hold his hand grew shorter and shorter. Eventually, Erik discovered that he could leave the room for brief periods. Occasionally, though, Sam would call out for his daddy or come out of the room to find him.

Then, just last night, Erik remarked, "Wow! He doesn't need me so much at bedtime. It's hard to believe. He used to need me to sit with him for at least an hour. Now, he's happy for me to sit with him briefly after stories and a kiss goodnight. Our little guy is growing up."

I think my husband feels the same way that I did when Sam stopped nursing. It is bittersweet when a child weans. The sweet, tender memories are forever etched in our hearts, and the frustrating times are quickly forgotten. Erik and Sam shared many precious moments as they sat holding hands. Their bedtime routine ended gradually, just as our nursing relationship did-gently, and with love.

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