how to wean your toddler
I didn’t plan to breastfeed Percy for as long as I have but here we are.
I knew that weaning him wasn’t going to be as straight forward as it was with Che and Poet. Percy’s birth was challenging, his first few months were very unsettled and now he’s asserting himself with a defiance that is both admirable and confronting. It’s safe to say that birthing and parenting him has been an entirely new experience for me. Weaning him has been much the same.
Just before we went overseas I decided that I would wean as soon as we returned. I wanted to feed him in Bali to keep his immunity boosted and to ensure he was settled on the plane trips. My plan worked. But what I didn’t anticipate was that the new environment and humidity would have him feeding like a newborn. He really was on me all. day. long and I was exhausted as a result.
A few Balinese women suggested I put something bitter on my nipples to deter him. Turns out that was the only thing that would work.
As soon as we returned I lazily attempted to wean him but he wasn’t having a bar of it. And then I discovered I was pregnant and predicted that my milk would change flavour and he would wean on his own accord.
Not a chance.
And then the exhaustion of the first trimester took hold and feeding him meant fifteen minutes of peace and the opportunity to lie down. So I took it, gratefully, all the while knowing that I had to wean him…and soon.
My supply started to deteriorate, I began to experience breastfeeding aversion and I was getting absolutely fed up with the toddler doing acrobats while feeding. The nipple tweaking was starting to wear thin, too.
But then one day I just decided that enough was enough. I needed sleep, energy and a few months break between breastfeeding my toddler and my newborn.
And just like that I discovered an abundance of patience and with Daniel on board, we embarked on the weaning process.
Years ago someone told me that it only takes a baby three days to make or break a habit. With that in mind, we persevered.
I’m not going to tell you it’s been easy because it most definitely hasn’t been. It’s been tough. Late, unsettled nights punctuated by persistent screaming, 3am wakes with more screaming and consistent requests for milk.
The first thing I did was put apple cider vinegar on my nipples. “Yuck,” he said. And yet he still asked for it…for days.
And so I kept refusing and Daniel would pour him a cup of water or milk to distract him. And then he’d take him for a walk or play with his trains or read him a story. Watching them form a new relationship – where I’m not required – is the silver lining of this experience.
We let him stay up well past his bedtime (and we’re pretty strict with the 7:30 in bed – no excuses – rule around here) and read him stories, sing him tunes and rub his back. Eventually he would surrender to sleep. But the night waking and screaming continued.
Two nights ago, at 4am, I realised that he was probably hungry so I got him a banana and watched him eat it till his eyes closed. But then my eyes closed and it was only when I rolled onto a wet, squishy thing in the early morning that I remembered. “There’s too many bananas in the bed!” I exclaimed.
What advice can I give you?
Summon up all your patience, replace milky with milk or chamomile tea (or bananas), read endless stories and sing lullabies till you think you can’t sing them anymore.
Percy has, quite literally, been grieving for the past week. There’s no other way to put it. But last night when he woke he was happy to snuggle under my arm and place one hand on my chest. No screaming, no requests for milk. And today he’s been much happier.
When I weaned Poet I sang her all three verses of Twinkle, Twinkle.
But Percy has settled best to Hush Little Baby.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing,
Mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring.
If that diamond ring turns brass,
Mama’s going to buy you a looking glass.
If that looking glass gets broke,
Mama’s going to buy you a billy goat.
If that billy goat won’t pull,
Mama’s going to buy you a cart and bull.
If that cart and bull turn over,
Mama’s going to buy you a dog named Rover.
If that dog named Rover won’t bark,
Mama’s going to buy you a horse and cart.
If that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little boy in town.
So hush little baby, don’t you cry,
Daddy loves you and so do I.