Bored Housewives Network

Getting through the day, one bonbon at a time.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More fun with nipples

When I posted this picture a couple of days ago, Libby wondered in the comments section if I have any weaning plans. Of course, gracious soul that she is, she prefaced her question with the hope that it wasn't too personal for the internet. And maybe it would be a personal question for some people. But since I've written in the past about my firsthand experiences with post-partum incontinence and baby constipation, it's obviously not too personal a question for the likes of me. Also, Sam long ago made my boobs part of the public record without asking my permission, so why stop now?

Here's my weaning plan:
I don't have a weaning plan.
I thought about couching my lack of planning in some groovy terminology about "child-led weaning" and "organic development," but all of you who know me in real life would immediately call shenanigans. And you'd be right to do so.

Something I'm learning about myself in my mom role is that my parenting philosophy seems to go something like this:
If you're not sure what to do, do nothing.
It's great! It's kind of like procrastinating, but I'll let you in on a secret: it kind of works.

Oh, it didn't work on our sleep issues. I'll freely admit that. And I have a feeling that potty-training isn't going to take care of itself. But almost everything else? Not too shabby. Some for-instances, you rightly demand? Okey-dokey.

1. Tummy time. Sam hated it. Screamed his fool head off every time we tried it. I gave up. No more tummy time. Oh, maybe if I was at a playgroup and all the other moms and babies were doing tummy time I'd make a token effort for show, but that was it. And what do you know? Sam still figured out how to crawl on his own.

2. Solid food. "Hated" is too strong a word, but Sam definitely didn't see the use of it. I didn't push it at all, even though a well-meaning public health nurse told me that if babies aren't eating lumpy foods by the time they're eight months old, they'll never want to eat it. I could've fretted and stewed about this, which wouldn't have been unlike me, but I let it go. And lo! And also behold! At around the nine-month mark, Sam's dining motto suddenly became "I'll have what you're having." This philosophy extended to veggie sushi, Indian food, and lumpy mashed avocado. (I should point out that none of these foods had crossed my lips until I was at least 25 years old. My boy, the epicure.)

I could try to conjure up a third example, and it kills my expository-essay-loving soul not to do it, but I want to get back to my point about weaning. Or one of my points, anyway. Which is this: of all the women I know, everyone has handled weaning in her own way. And from my (admittedly total outsider's) perspective, every one of these fabulous moms has handled weaning in the way that best suits her and her baby. That's all any of us can do, right? This is what we're told: that as moms, we're the ones who know our babies best.

And yet... and yet...

Why does our culture seem to support this mom-knows-best belief on the surface, while at the same time completely negating this belief any time the public is challenged to accept something it finds discomfitting? And man oh man, do people ever have strong opinions about if and when you should stop breastfeeding.

There are, of course, the people who think you should never breastfeed at all because it's dirty and wrong and perverse and bestial and something that only happens on the pages of National Geographic. And then there are the people who think you should definitely do it for the first few days or weeks so that your baby can derive all the powerful benefits of early breastmilk, but then you should quit. If you soldier on, though, people seem okay with leaving you alone until the six-month mark, and then the questions start again. And once you get past THAT hump, you get another nice, long unmolested stretch, until you start homing in on one year, and boy, people sure come out of the woodwork then.* You can almost see what they're thinking: "But... if she doesn't stop at a year, when will she stop? Will she keep doing it... FOREVER?"

I have to confess to a perverse feeling of glee every time I see this anxiety flicker behind someone's eyes. Hee.

The great thing about still nursing past a year is that I feel like I've got this wildcard aura about me. As if all the people who might've challenged the value of breastfeeding early on are too daunted by my crazy extended-breastfeeding schedule to make a peep of protest.

Or maybe I'm overthinking this. It's been known to happen.

Something I learned during the first six months of Sam's life -- when he seemed permanently attached to my boobs -- is that, well, he really, really likes nursing. I've always gotten the sense that, for him, breastfeeding is only partially about food-related nourishment. He passes through phases where it's obvious that he gets powerful emotional sustenance from nursing as well.

I know that, as a parent, my job is to teach him ways to bolster himself, and this is a responsibility I take seriously. But as a pre-verbal one-year-old, he's just not there yet. Right now, nursing is by far the most powerful tool I have in my mothering toolbelt, and if I take it away, I don't know if I have anything comparable with which to replace it. And trust me, happy little clam that Sam generally appears to be, I'm constantly aware of the tempest that is always simmering in that innocuous-looking little teapot. Until Sam is more verbal and -- let's not mince words -- amenable to reason, my boobs are on standby.

There are trade-offs, of course. While Sam only nurses around four or five times a day (this may sound like a lot to some people, but it's a lot fewer than the BAJILLION times a day he used to nurse), this means that I don't stray far from home without him. It means that, when we go to parties or restaurants, I'll maaaaaaybe nurse one weak cocktail all night long. It means that I have to drink umpteen glasses of water every single day, because if I miss a day I wake up the next morning with skin that has the approximate texture of an alligator purse.

I sort of lied earlier. I actually do have a very rough plan to think about weaning at around 19 or 20 months. Of course, I was the person who originally didn't think she'd even have children. Or breastfeed. Or breastfeed past the first couple of weeks. Or the first six months. Or the first year. So you might want to take my words with a grain of salt.

If I become one of those moms with a three-year-old hanging off my chest like a baby possum, I do have one regret: that I can't travel back in time and freak the shit out of my 25-year-old self.

*I'm not referring to you guys. I'm talking about people with whom I normally don't discuss my breasts.


  • At 9:44 AM, Blogger Melissa said…

    I am right there with you! The only reason I'm thinking about weaning is that we want to have another little one at some point, and my period hasn't returned yet.

    Like you, I use nursing as my go-to soothing method. I don't know what I'll do when she wakes up screaming in the night and I can't nurse her. Plus, it comes in handy in other ways. Last night A threw up four times, and the advice nurse told me to give her Pedialyte OR breast milk. It's magic! And a lot cheaper than Pedialyte! And she actually likes breast milk, unlike Pedialyte, despite its enticing grape flavor!

    We're down to three nursings a day, which feels like a picnic. Still, it's not going to be easy to give it up.

  • At 9:57 AM, Blogger landismom said…

    I think your weaning plan is right on (as someone who's weaned two kids on that same model).

  • At 10:04 AM, Blogger Rachel said…

    As an expectant first-time mom (due Aug. 12th), I am getting conflicting and judgemental "advice" like you would not BELIEVE from just about everyone. From people who didn't breastfeed, from people who did, and from people who wouldn't have any idea what they're talking about (i.e., MEN).

    If I don't have to go back to work immediately (say at least a year), then I plan to breastfeed that entire time if the baby goes for it. If I DO have to go back to work right away, I will probably bottle-feed. This makes me sad, but my office is not in any way mom-friendly, so I'm sure there will be no tolerance for me having to pump every few hours, much less a place provided where I can do that.

    In discussing this, a woman I work with just mentioned that her neighbor is still nursing a five-year-old. As open-minded as I like to believe I am, that still skeeves me out a LOT.

    I fully plan to listen to my instincts with this upcoming baby and act accordingly, and everyone else with their conflicting and judgemental "advice" can suck it (hee).

  • At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think every baby/mama pair should do exactly what works for them.

    At the time that I was thinking about getting pregnant with #2, I was too chickenshit to try tandem nursing, so Kid #1 and I started moving toward weaning and finished up when she was about 14 months old, and I was nearing my second trimester. She never did care much about where her nourishment came from...boob, bottle, cup--breastmilk, formula, whole milk, whatever. She never associated breastfeeding with snuggling, either--it was always snack, and GO.

    Kid #2, I'd still be breastfeeding her right now if she wanted (she's 23 months old), but eventually I started only nursing her when she asked for it, and by 18 months she was totally over it. Somehow it felt like a mutual decision, my part of it being "Do what you want, kiddo".

    My entire parenting philosophy is "whatever works". It's never failed me.

  • At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    First, you are a rock star for answering my invasive, online-requested question. Hooray for you!

    Second, I TOTALLY agree that there is no better way to go than trusting instincts. At some point in dawned on me that I don't consult a book everytime I have any issues or new experiences with friends or Daniel, so why would I assume that the Baby Whisperer knows what to do about my kid? So, I think your weaning un-plan is terrific.

    Third, just to throw my own personal tales in the mix, I think Jonah and I did the weaning thing when both of us were ready. We gradually reduced until it was just over, and I have never gotten the impression from him that he wishes it hasn't stopped.

    Fourth, I STILL can't drink more than a single beer or whatever!

    You are awesome, D! ;)

  • At 9:04 PM, Blogger adventures in disaster said…

    wow. This takes me back . My daughter is now seventeen so I have the proof that my way didn't screw her up.
    I just waited until she didn't want to anymore.
    It seemed when she became ambulatory she wanted ambulatory food.Boobs being locked to mom were limiting so she quit and then demanded a bottle at bed time. I wish I had never introduced that bottle though..weaning from the bottle made me crazy...I finally pretended that bottle had to go on an important trip by bus and I took her out to the bus stop to wave goodbye to bottle. I couldn't put my boobs on the bus so thank god she gave them up voluntarily.
    I never got into the potty training thing either..I just kept the bathroom door open and let her know how the thing worked, eventually she asked to have a go at it and the rest is history.
    She is now a gifted student finishing high school a semester early that loves to drive and do model UN and underground ska/punk concerts.
    When your kids discover the world and start getting really busy they don't want moms boobs anymore.
    It made me a little sad honestly but I got over it really quickly.

  • At 12:57 PM, Blogger Anne-Marie said…

    I'm with you in your non-plan although the last 2 mornings, I've realized that I 'forgot' to nurse Sam when he woke up and guess what? he survived! We're down to 2 nursings a day but for some reason, find it hard to think about getting rid of those. And this is coming from the woman who wasn't sure she wanted to breastfeed but thought she should at least give it a go so the midwife wouldn't lecture her...

    Melissa - gotta ask - how old is A? She's older than 1 right? The only reason I ask is that I too have yet to get my period and Sam's almost 1. Everyone I know (I think) has already gotten their back. Lucky them or lucky me?

  • At 4:15 PM, Blogger Tammy said…

    Anne-Marie, Sam seems to be able to take or leave the morning session, too. I only do it because if I'm lucky he falls asleep in bed with us and we get another half hour of precious sleep.

    And Rachel... heh, yeah, breastfeeding advice from men. Take it for what it's worth: pretty much nothing. Some of them mean well, though.

    And Patti, "Whatever works" seems to becoming my motto, too. Heheh.

    And Libby! I can't actually drink more than one drink, either. Now that I have a good excuse, I just get made fun of less. Everybody wins!

  • At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am surpised that you actually feel that people look at breastfeeding negatively. Don't you travel in pretty liberal circles? Some people feel societal pressure to quit I guess, but I can't believe that they would do something that would make strangers or acquainances feel at ease over the well-being of their child. I think they just use it as an excuse to quit something they don't enjoy.

    My son only wanted to nurse for nine months, but I would have done it for as long as he liked.

  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger Tammy said…

    I am surpised that you actually feel that people look at breastfeeding negatively. Don't you travel in pretty liberal circles? Some people feel societal pressure to quit I guess, but I can't believe that they would do something that would make strangers or acquainances feel at ease over the well-being of their child. I think they just use it as an excuse to quit something they don't enjoy.

    You're probably partially right about some people projecting their own mixed feelings about nursing on to others and using this as an excuse to stop.

    But there definitely are people (not nursing mothers, but other people) who get squicked out by the idea of children nursing past a year. As I mentioned in my post, there was a long quiet spell where the topic of nursing/weaning never came up, and it was between 6 and 12 months. You mention that your baby self-weaned at 9 months? If he'd continued past a year, I bet you would've gotten the same askance looks I've received in the past little while. Not that it affects my decision-making one whit, as I mentioned, but it definitely happens. Not among the "liberal circles" (heh) in which I travel, but there are a surprising number of people I would only consider acquaintances who still have no problem asking me personal questions about parenting and breastfeeding. I could just say "That's personal, actually, and I'd prefer not to talk about it," but I'd rather just answer the question and look so ingenuous that they're not quite sure how to respond, no matter how judgmental they might feel. I'm somewhat passive-aggressive that way. Heheh.


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