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A Surprise Self-Weaning

Nan D.-M.
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 4 July-August 2001, p. 135

When my son, Liam, was born I knew I would breastfeed him, and I thought I would do so for about a year. As he got older I was surprised how truly wonderful and convenient it was to nurse a toddler. We didn't struggle over naps or bedtime. Instead, Liam seemed to look forward to this time we shared, so we continued our nursing relationship. I had heard about the idea that children and do wean themselves, have to admit I was dubious. Sure, I had watched Liam gradually decrease his nursing as he became more interested in the world beyond his mama, but I imagined that someday I would have to be the one to wean Liam.

Two months after Liam's second birthday, I became pregnant with our second child. I decided that I would keep nursing. I had to endure some nipple tenderness, but it was worth it. By nursing him to sleep I was guaranteed a much-needed nap. My fatigued, pregnant body demanded much sleep. We nursed throughout the pregnancy, and I expected to continue to nurse Liam after the birth. Many LLL members I met had accounts of their older child nursing with even more gusto postpartum, after getting a taste of the more plentiful milk. I also thought that nursing Liam after his baby sister arrived might prevent the jealousy or resentment that often accompanies the birth of a sibling.

Much to my surprise, Liam did not ask to nurse after his sister, Erin, was born. He would watch her nurse and I expected him to ask for his turn. He never did! He was really enjoying his new role as a "big, tall brother." The down side was that he stopped taking naps! After three non-napping days I tried to get the very grouchy little guy to sleep by asking him if he wanted to nurse. "Okay," he said, settling into his favorite nursing position. As the milk started flowing, he stopped suddenly. "What's that yucky stuff?" he asked. Liam wrinkled up his face. "I don't like it," he stated emphatically. That was the last time I nursed my son. I guess Liam had gotten used to drinking his milk cold from the refrigerator! I have to admit I was really surprised. I was a little relieved too. Liam weaned himself without any coaxing on my part. He does still have a soothing device that is attached to me: my hair. Now when he's feeling tired and is ready to sleep, he tells me he wants to "have hair." Weaning him of this habit may present more of a challenge. My husband jokes that we'll most likely have to send him to college with a wig!

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