Sunday, December 2, 2007
Aidan's Weaning Celebration
I debated on whether or not to blog about this, it's something that not everyone that knows me knows about. Then I decided that it is an important event in my son's life, one that we are happy to celebrate with him and I should share it.
The night before Aidan's fifth birthday, he and I shared the end of a very special relationship. We talked about his upcoming birthday and how special it is to be five years old. I told him that when you are five, you are old enough to go on special playdates with your cousins without needing mommy or daddy there. You are old enough to start Kindergarten in the Fall. You are old enough to sit in a booster seat and use the seatbelt. You can have sleepovers at grandma and nana's house. You can go bowling. You can swim in the pool with your floaty and go down the waterslide. Your baby teeth will get loose and fall out, so that you can grow grown-up teeth. And you are also old enough to not need mommy's milk anymore.
Aidan and I have been following a long path of child led weaning. Before he was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. My mom always called me her "breastfed baby", the only one of her three children she nursed for awhile. My sister, Tanya, had nursed both of her sons for a little over a year each and my mother-in-law had nursed her sons about a year, too. I felt confident that Aidan would nurse "at least a year." At the first La Leche League meeting I went to, I saw the group leader nurse her then 18 month old daughter and was surprised to see a walking, talking toddler nursing. It was the first time I had the idea that weaning didn't have to occur at age one.
Once Aidan was born and we began our nursing journey, I quickly realized that it was easier to think day-by-day about how his life would evolve instead of year by year. When we had difficulties in the beginning, I cried to Doug, "This isn't fair! It isn't supposed to be this hard! I give up, go buy some formula!" He'd rub my shoulders, hug me, try to calm Aidan and I down, then I'd try again to nurse. We made it through the early hurdles, we made it through teething & sleepless all night nurse-a-thons, we adapted when I had to take a job away from Aidan and send him to daycare at nine months of age. For every rough patch, there were long stretches where I loved every minute of watching my son grow thanks to my milk. Where he looked into my eyes and showed me how much he loved the warm, taste and comfort at my breast. For all the times he fell while learning to walk or had his feelings hurt and was unhappy, nursing was the magic bandaid that soothed his soul.
When we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant with Sean, I thought my milk will dry up and Aidan will wean. He didn't. Instead, we took a sippy cup of water to bed and he'd alternate between the breast and the cup to drift to sleep. So many times during that pregnancy I thought, "I can't take it anymore! It's giving me the heebie-jeebies! It hurts." We would try to settle him down without nursing, but he just couldn't, he needed to nurse, he needed that comfort. Day-by-day we got through it.
After Sean was born, Aidan went from nursing three times a day to nursing as often as he could. I needed to pump breastmilk for Sean until he was strong enough to nurse, and Aidan nursed one side while I pumped the other. My supply was enormous to feed two babies on demand day and night. Sean was four months old when he started nursing well and the boys would hold hands or pat each other's head while tandem nursing. Every so often, I would think "I can't believe I am doing this. I never would of imagined sharing this experience with my sons."
I put together a photobook called Aidan's Nursing Journey when he was around 3. It has photos of us nursing and talks about how one day he will be ready to wean and we will have a weaning party. Aidan couldn't grasp the word weaning, so we call it the "All Done Milkies Party." He liked the idea of a party, he would tell us he wanted it to have cake, balloons, his friends and family. We said we'd go to a special favorite place, and that place has changed over the years. We'd ask him when he thought he'd be all done with milkies, the age would change also. When he was 3, he said "when I am 6." When he was 4, he said "when I am 8."
Last Spring, Doug and I were blessed to find out that I was expecting again. A baby due right around Christmas. We were so excited to have another child. I noticed that my milk supply slowed down immediately and it was difficult to nurse. We didn't tell the boys that a baby was growing, but Aidan seemed to sense the change and night weaned himself right away. Sean also cut down in the amount he nursed. Unfortunately, I miscarried in May. Gradually, I felt back to normal, but the boys maintained the limited amount of nursing.
On the morning of his fifth birthday, Aidan woke up and asked to nurse. I asked him if he remembered what we talked about the night before, about how it might be time for him to be all done with milkies. He smiled and said "Oh yeah! I'm five today! It's my birthday!" He bounced off the bed to wake everyone else up. Since then, he has occasionally asked to nurse, but I have reminded him that it's okay to be done. He isn't having as much difficulty falling asleep as I thought he would and he isn't clinging to me more than usual.
I asked him if he was ready to have his All Done Milkies Party and he said yes. We decided to invite Uncle Curt and Cousin Mackenzie to join us at the indoor water park this Saturday. It was a cold, rainy November day, but a very warm, happy celebration.
Congratulations, Aidan! We are so proud of you for making this big step!