Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To Wean or not to Wean?

It really was a big question. By the time we reached Benjamin's 2nd birthday (May 22, 2011), the question of how long I would continue to breastfeed began to surface more and more. As I've written previously, there were months and months that weaning was not an option since my son was not able to obtain and adequate amount of fluid intake from a cup. I loved nursing, but the desire for a second child was (and is) growing in me. I knew that I would probably be more likely to conceive once he was weaned and my hormones had the opportunity to re-align themselves again. Benjamin was well on the road to holding his cup independently, and we were already down to only two nursing sessions a day: first thing in the morning and right before bedtime. My sense was that these were more for comfort than anything, but it was still a difficult decision to make. The bond I had with Benjamin through breastfeeding was so precious, especially considering how hard I had to fight to be able to nurture him in this way. It wasn't something I wanted to relinquish until I felt sure of my decision, for once it was made, it would be final.

After Benjamin's birthday, we continued with our twice daily nursing sessions for the entire month of June. A little way into July, I decided I was ready to complete the weaning process. I thought the easiest session to cut first would be the evening one. So, one night, instead of nursing my son, I offered him a cup of milk in his highchair. Shawn and I wondered if he would be fussy when we put him to bed that night, but to our surprise and relief, he slept the whole night through. We continued our morning nursing sessions for two more days, but I knew that at this point he wasn't getting much milk from me anyway. On July 15 I decided to take the final step in the weaning process. Shawn got Benjamin up and changed his diaper, but instead of bringing him to me in the living room, he took our little boy straight to his highchair where I was waiting with a cup of milk. At first he cried and didn't want it. He is very much a creature of habit, and he did not appreciate this change in routine! However, when we offered him some cereal, he happily gobbled it up and then contentedly drank his milk. It was so much easier than I had anticipated! I knew my son was ready, and though there was some sadness, I was ready too. I wrote in my journal the next day "Benjamin was officially weaned yesterday. It was and is a bittersweet relief."

In the days and weeks that followed, I experienced some different emotions, but I always felt at peace with my decision. I missed the cuddle time that nursing afforded the most. For the majority of our two years of nursing, Benjamin would cuddle with me when he was done eating. I would make faces at him and give his kisses; he would make faces back and squeal with delight. However, during the last few months of nursing, this routine was already shifting. As soon as he was done, he was done, and he would begin pushing against me to get down on the floor where his toys were. He was already starting to gain a greater measure of independence, and he needed to. In fact, only 3 days after Benjamin was weaned, he started his own version of a belly crawl (more on that later)! He was quickly leaving his baby days behind him and venturing into the world of toddlerhood! I was relieved by the greater measure of freedom I had a well. If Shawn and I wanted to have someone babysit Benjamin while we enjoyed an evening out, I didn't have to be back at a specific time to nurse him. We could simply leave a cup of milk, and he was happy (most of the time)!

Benjamin continues to gain more independence in his behavior and personality. He is very much a little boy, and he is so much fun! He is still a Mommy's boy (much to Daddy's disappointment), but he is becoming more and more his own little person. I have to take advantage of what cuddle time I can get now, usually when he's sleepy, because he is a little ball of energy, eager to play and explore (as long as he knows I am close by). I'm so proud of him! He still enjoys his milk in the morning and evening, though we have since smoothly transitioned from cow's milk to soy milk, which has done wonders for his digestion. I look back with gratitude and affection for the two years of breastfeeding I enjoyed with my son as well as the good nutritional start I was able to give to him. I look forward with excitement and pride at the little boy he's growing up to be. And, to be perfectly honest, I look forward with eager anticipation to building a special bond with baby number two, whenever he or she graces our lives in the future!

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