I never thought I would be breastfeeding a toddler.  In fact, when I was pregnant, I figured I would nurse for 3 months–you know–for bonding.  Then I’d return to work and pump for as long as I could handle it.  Then we’d switch to formula(I had mistakenly thought formula was as good as, or better than breast milk).

Then I took the baby care class offered at Kaiser Hospital.  The early middle-aged male pediatrician gave all sorts of useful information, but when he got to breastfeeding, I was shocked when he said that babies should be breastfed until at least age 2.  WHAT?  I would have expected that from my midwife, but not this man.  He proceeded to tell us that “science has not yet identified, much less been able to replicate, LITERALLY hundreds of components of breast milk.”

I didn’t even realize there were hundreds of components of breast milk!

He went on to discuss vital immunological functions of breast milk, how important breastfeeding is in establishing a baby’s sense of fullness and thus reducing later occurrence of eating disorders–but I’d sort of tuned out.  I had NEVER heard that the American Pediatric Association recommends breastfeeding until at least age 2 and learning just how vital it truly is for the lifelong healthy development of the little tiny person that was growing inside of me turned everything I thought I knew upsidedown!

Two years seemed like such a massive amount of time that I promised to stick with breastfeeding for 6 months and see how it went from there.  After the initial difficulties of the first 6 weeks (it’s unfortunate how many moms quit breastfeeding during this time, thinking it won’t get better), it was pretty much smooth sailing, so I said I would go to a year and see how it went after that.   Well, after that, it was a part of our life and was easy and sweet and I knew I could make it to two.   Luckily, I’ve been able to stay home with our daughter, so that’s helped.

Now she is two and a half and weaning has been the challenging part, because she really loves to nurse for comfort and it’s what she’s known all of her life.  I really started weaning about two months ago, when we dropped the post nap nursing and replaced it with sitting on the potty immediately upon waking.

She’s also gone through phases of sleeping all through the night and then waking for several nights in a row, wanting to nurse.

We are slowly weaning now and, to my great surprise, weaning from night feedings turned out to be relatively easy and painless, though I initially did it because of pain.

I had already stopped the post-nap nursing, just to get her used to the idea of waking up without “muk.”  This had been nearly two months.  Before I night weaned, Mylah had become EXTRA needy for a couple of weeks and was nursing all the time.  At night, she began to wake at least once per night to nurse and, for about 4 straight nights, she woke 2-4 times per night and would cry and protest when I would try to put her back in her crib, from our bed.  It would have been all too easy to just let her sleep with us, but that would demolish the idea of separate beds and none of us sleep well when she sleeps with us.  When she wouldn’t be kicking one of us in the head or throat, she would want to stay latched on to me all night.  The 4th and final night of this was it.

After nursing before bed and screaming when I would put her in her crib–then nursing her a little more in hopes of calming her down–then having her wake up 2 hours after going down and again 2 hours later and screaming when I tried to put her back to bed, I just let her sleep with us.  She sucked all night and by morning, I felt like a wreck and my “muk” were so raw and sore that I couldn’t nurse her if I wanted to.  That morning, when she wanted to nurse, I told her, “Mama’s muk is ouchy–it’s broken.  You had too much muk last night and now it’s ouchy and broken.”  I knew she would understand that.  Throughout the day, when she would ask, I would just remind her that the muk was ouchy and broken.
By night time, they’d had enough rest that I could nurse her before bed and I put her down.  When she woke up a couple of hours later, I told her muk was ouchy and broken and she wasn’t having any of that.  She fussed but I put my foot down and let her cry it out.

The next night, I decided to try something different, because I’m not a “cry it out” fan.  I’d read some posts by moms who night weaned and most said what worked like a charm was offering water–not milk, formula, a snack or anything fun–just water, quiet and a hug.  Those moms said this worked in just a couple of nights.  I’d tried the water and hug thing before and it didn’t work–she had just screamed louder and more angrily.  This time, with her knowing the muk was broken, when she did wake up, I came with a bottle of water and took her into our dark living room so we could sit quietly(my past experience was if we had stayed in her room, she would just scream more).  She had some water and asked for muk.  She wanted daddy, tv, toys.  I told her, “It’s night time. It’s time for sleeping. Daddy’s sleeping. Toys are sleeping, TV is sleeping.  Mama wants to sleep, too.”  She whimpered, but had some more water and said, “Want my fan.”  She’s been wanting to sleep with her fan on–I think she just likes the noise because I don’t actually point it toward her.  So we returned to her room, let her admire her night-light, turned on the fan and she went back to sleep.

That’s been what I’ve done for over a week now and some nights she sleeps straight through, other nights she might wake once.  This also helped us drop the pre-nap nursing.  So now, she nurses when she wakes up in the morning and for a few minutes, before going to sleep at night.  She occasionally asks for “muk” during the day and, if there is time, I usually let her nurse at random times.

Last night she awoke at 3am, crying for water(“Want my water!”).  When I woke up and took her to the living room, she said sweetly, “Want muk, Mama.”  As much as, in that moment, I really did want to nurse her, in the quiet darkness, I told her it wasn’t time for muk, it was time for sleep. “Want fan, Mama.” And with that she quietly went back to sleep.