Looking Back: My Attempt at Mother-Led Weaning

shutterstock_80895445-2Sheila Davis, Alabama

Originally published in January/February 1982 issue of La Leche League News

Editor’s Note: The first issue of La Leche League News, the bimonthly publication for members, was published in 1958. The name changed to New Beginnings in 1985. New Beginnings continued to be published until 2014 when it transitioned to its current blog format at www.lllusa.org/blog/.

I have two older children besides my little Valerie. With each pregnancy, my mother would tell me how much closer you feel nursing a baby. Each time I would reply, “I can hold my baby just as close feeding him a bottle as I could nursing him.”

Well, I have no idea what prompted me to nurse this last baby, but during the whole pregnancy, I felt very positive about nursing.

I needed several weeks to adjust to a nursing baby. I think Valerie could have nursed 24 hours a day. But after we got into our routine, we both loved the time we spent together. As a matter of fact, I came to really look forward to being able to stop and nurse her. I suppose nursing gave me the excuse I needed to stop and rest.

I enjoyed nursing Valerie for about 18 months, but then I started feeling confined. My husband kept talking about a weeklong trip—“just the two of us.” And I started feeling a need for freedom to do what I wanted to do. So, since Valerie had cut down on our nursing time, I decided to “help her along.” Oh, I tried everything to distract her. Then, when that didn’t work, I just told her that we weren’t going to nurse anymore.

Sometimes she would get so angry at me she’d beat her tiny fists on me and cry. Then often I would go ahead and nurse her, but sometimes I wouldn’t. This went on for a couple of weeks, with her asking to nurse less and less frequently.

But I had the grouchiest baby of anyone around. People had always mentioned how even-tempered and good she was. But now my baby had turned into someone I couldn’t relate to. She began having tantrums and hitting and biting anyone who crossed her. Once cheerfully independent, she became a “clinger,” clutching at my skirt and whining all the time. She seemed afraid to let me out of her sight.

A few weeks later, she came down with a virus and asked to nurse. I tried to tell her that my milk was gone, but she wanted to nurse anyway. Thinking that she would nurse for a minute, get discouraged and quit, I allowed her to nurse. She nursed for 45 minutes!

Since I probably had little milk, it dawned on me that all she had wanted was me. So after thinking about it, I told my husband if she needed me that badly, then she was going to have me. And I will continue to nurse her until she wants to stop.

Oh, by the way, I’ve got my good-natured little girl back again!