So after working a short closing shift at the store tonight, I came home to a sleepy Alex who wanted mama snuggles. I welcomed him with open arms but attempted to put off the insistent "nursies" requests. You see, while I strongly believe in child-led weaning, we are at a point where I must set limits. The nursing relationship should continue so long as both parties are happy with it. I wasn't happy where we were at but I figured there was a happy medium between nursing CONSTANTLY at 2 years old, and weaning completely.
So, I've implemented a few "rules" for our nursing time. This is for both of our sanity. Mine, so that I don't resent the nursing relationship and can enjoy it until it naturally ends and him so that I don't loose my mind! HAHA
That being said, I never saw myself setting limits on nursing behavior. I figured that in the first year I would nurse 100% on demand with the exception of certain rare circumstances; and I did. After the first year, I continued to allow him free access at all times, but as he grew a little older I noticed that instead of nursing less at night and gradually dropping night feedings, he was nursing ALL night. After observing and taking some time to think about what was going on, I realized that he was such a busy toddler during the day (playing, rough housing, etc) that he was literally too busy for nursies. Here he was burning all this energy and then making up for it at night. Now of course, I always offered him a full course of meals throughout the day, but he was not too big on eating, still isn't that big of an eater.
This was where I started to question natural full-term nursing, maybe it wasn't for us. But, I kept reminding myself that there had to be a way to make it work, I was going to give it that minimum 2 years. Perhaps part of my drive to continue nursing was subconciously due to not nursing my other 2 children. Nonetheless, I wasn't going to call it quits without putting forth some effort.
So, at around 16 months I tried to offer him to nurse more during the day, hoping this would decrease those night time feedings. That proved unsuccessful. I ended up nursing more during the day, and just as much at night. Can we say "ouch"?
The next course of action was to try other methods of getting him back to sleep when he stirred. It makes sense, it's a logical choice. So I'd pat him and rock him, and he'd cry for nursies. I'd have my husband try to soothe him, and he'd cry for nursies. Now, you'd think that after just a few minutes of being loved and cuddled and crying he'd go back to sleep. No. This kid could literally scream for hours for nursies. Oye. After a few nights, my husband and I could not take it and we gave in to the nursies.
It seemed to let up a little, he wasn't attached literally all night long. I could live with a few night time feedings. However, out of nowhere it seemed to start up again, this time he was almost 20 months old. I couldn't stand it. Like I said, I was beginning to resent nursing, as a whole, because the night time nursing seemed so out of hand. But I couldn't let him scream all night either, I have 2 other children to take care of in the day and need to sleep!
My local La Leche League had some good tips: Talk about how nursies go to sleep at night and he can have them when the sun comes up, refuse a few times and put it off before giving in, keep doing what we were doing and within a week or two he should get it, etc. Ok, great. New game plan, let's do it!
I talked to him about how the nursies have to go to sleep as well and then when the sun comes up, they are awake again and he can have them. He liked to talk about this and we showed him the sun through the blinds and kept watching as it set, then we'd exclaim "Bed time, nursies!" and let him nurse one last time. This ended up not working too well. I could put him off a little in the middle of the night, for the first few wakings, but by 4am he wanted them, no questions asked.
This has been an ongoing battle and we've at least gotten it to the point that he's not nursing all night long, only a few times to fall back asleep. We lay him to sleep in his little bed after he's fallen asleep and he comes joining us that first time he wakes up, I just wish I knew how to keep him asleep all night...perhaps it's an unreasonable expectation. Maybe he inherited my poor sleeping habits. It might be due, now, to the fact that I am working part time away from the home. Whatever it is, it's one of the ongoing battles we face as parents. I *know* that nursing him longer will provide better health now and over all for the rest of his life. It's not that I mind, regardless of the difference in opinion of many peers and even family members. The science can't be argued because of personal opinions and comfort. For Alex and myself, it's just something we have to work on, much like a biting face or pants wetting.
After all, I'm sure I'll get a good night's sleep in about 18 years...right?
(Ironically enough, I stumbled upon this shortly after writing this blog. Hmm.)