Always on her own terms

6 03 2014

Evanny is in her room right now, talking quietly to her toys and herself as she lies in her crib with her favorite music on, putting herself down for a nap.  Naps usually–almost always–start with an unconscious baby at our house, and one-hundred-and-nineteen times out of one-hundred-and-twenty, that unconsciousness is achieved at the end of one of my nipples, but not today.  Today, she chose toys and stillness and her own devices, and when I offered, she latched on for a second and then changed her mind and turned away.  She didn’t look upset, wasn’t offended; nothing about the gesture felt like she was rejecting me.  She just wanted to do something different today.

I had no fixed plan about how long I was going to nurse her–as long as it worked, I said, and when, at 6 months, we did a little supplementing, I feared I’d fallen far short of my goal (since a fixed plan is one thing, and a WHO recommendation is another).  I had every intention of getting at least a year out of the practice, 2 if I could pull it off; I was delighted when she started rejecting bottles a month later, ready to live on me and solid foods (plus that was the end of pumping–halleluiah!).  I have friends who only just managed, at 3 1/2, to get their daughter to stop, and they liked to make it sound like a horror story (Matt did too, and didn’t hide the fact that he found the idea of me tandem-nursing her and a newborn more than a little creepy to imagine), so I was more worried about how I would handle cutting her off–which I really couldn’t picture myself doing, ever) than about her deciding to stop.  She’s still an avid fan of the boobs, after all, and they’re not only an excellent sleep-inducer, they’re the source of comfort she goes to when upset and the first thing she asks for most mornings.  This morning, when she was inexplicably awake at not-yet-5 (I’ve since discovered that her heating vent had been closed, so I suspect she was just cold), they’re the only thing that would soothe her and settle her back down for another try at sleeping til a decent hour.

I picked this one because it's one of the last pictures I have of us nursing: E's about 7 months old here.  And also because it's OUTSIDE (last May or June) and there was GREENERY in the world, hard as that is to imagine when it's -8 on these frigid March mornings.

This is one of the last pictures I have of us nursing: E’s about 7 months old here. Also, I picked it because it’s OUTSIDE (last May or June)–just imagine! (She says, gazing out at the deep, deep snow…)

So she’s not done-done.  Cold turkey doesn’t really seem her style, when she likes a thing, but she’s changing up her habits, shifting more from needing to nurse to liking to nurse when she’s in the mood, and she might not know that that’s a sign of growing up, but I do.  Most nights, she still nurses, but she’s often still awake when she’s done, and practices putting herself to sleep then too.  I don’t plan to stop offering, certainly not at bedtime, until or unless she makes this an entrenched pattern.  But I’m following her lead–which, really, is and always was the plan, as much as it was possible, and I’m pleased with the direction her lead is taking.  We didn’t have to stop too early, and  it looks like she’s planning to stop on her own, by or sometime near the recommended age of two (she’s seventeen-and-a-half months at the moment).  And that’s good.  A little bittersweet, too, of course.  No matter how much a mom may hate on the boob-gnawing and the roaming poking-fingers and the enforced isolation and the sitting-still-when-there’s-so-much-to-do of toddler-nursing, there’s still nothing else that will even convincingly approximate that warm little closeness, the snotty breath on your skin, the little hand resting sweetly on the curve of the new-growing belly, the limp loll of the soft-haired head collapsing into the curve of your arm on surrender. But there is, if I’m honest, also a part of me that’s perfectly okay with the idea of having my boobs to myself for at least a month or two before we start again, and I’m sure it’s easier this time, because there is a start-again coming; this isn’t the end of nursing, it’s just the impending end of nursing this baby.

The other morning, when she would normally have been nestled next to me in our bed for at least 20 minutes, waking slowly, switching sides repeatedly just to drag out the process, she got distracted after one side by something Matt was doing, and when she asked to come back to the other, although I said “sure,” she then said “no?” and turned toward the door.

Sassy miss toddler, trying out a new approach to wearing her brother's fire hat.

Sassy miss toddler, trying out a new approach to wearing her brother’s fire hat.

“Would you rather go downstairs and have cow’s milk and breakfast?” I asked her, fixing my clothes to reflect the change of direction.

“Yeah,” she said, in the excited tone that is the only way she says the word.

“Are you outgrowing me?” I asked, just for good measure.  (The other room, now, by the way, is silent now, as she’s succeeded at her mission, not needing me for this naptime business after all.)

“Yeah!”

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One response

6 03 2014
Angie

Oh goodness… I laughed and cried reading this. Nursing was one of my favorite parts of having babies! I nursed my first two exclusively for 11 months then weaned them at 16 months or so when I was pregnant with the next. Audrey girl needed supplementation at 9 months because there was *something* wrong with my health and I couldn’t produce enough milk–that started with pleurisy and then you know where things went from there. At 13 months when the doctor told me I had to quit cold turkey, it was horrible… Bri took her down the hallway while she screamed for me over his shoulder. All that to say, I’m so very, very glad Evanny is making her own decisions about when she is ready to stop. And I’m so glad she finds you, her source, so comforting. You will have some sweet, sweet memories. I sure do! But this growing up thing–not ready for that no matter what stage they’re in. 🙂

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