Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Crisis of Weaning


So, it's come down to this. My dear, sweet, beautiful boy has got to be weaned if he's to live to see his second birthday. Van, alas, is a nipple biter. It's fun to bite them, and funny to have Mommy scream "ouch!" and push him away by his face (yes, I know the smother-him-with-your-boob trick, but when I tried this with Van, he nearly bit it clean off.) This is not the loving, respectful interaction I always imagined.


As many of you know, we have, to date, been living the joy that is tandem nursing. If you want to know my opinion about tandem nursing, it's don't do it. Friends, I have loved, and do sometimes still love, nursing my children. It's sweet, snuggly, and oh so convenient, but I must tell you that after three years plus of nursing, and a year and a quarter of nursing two, a lot of the time I just wish the little parasites would let me go. If you're enjoying your tandem nursing experience, please let me and everyone else know how you did it. I'll raise my glass to you. If know what I mean when I say I want to go hide somewhere where nobody is touching me, you can come over here and sit by me (but not too close!). If you're knocked up and on the fence about this, my humble advice is to wean the first one while your milk is out. You'll be supermom anyway. Trust me.


La Leche League Ladies, I love you, and I love your work. I'm just saying...


And yes, I know Montessori is outwardly opposed to extended nursing. Nursing past about 9 months, according to Montessori and Silvana Montanaro (Understanding the Human Being--my post about it here) prolongs the child's dependence on the mother unnecessarily, and both agree that weaning to a cup should take place immediately after solid foods are introduced, I don't know if I would go that far. Montessori was weaning orphans from a bottle, and Montanaro extrapolates this to weaning a baby from the breast. I do think there is some emotional bonding that occurs after 9 months for extended nursers that is valuable, even if it's not indispensible. So, while I have already made several posts as an extended nursing apologist, the time has finally come for me to cry "uncle".


So here I am ready to sit down across the table from Drs. Montessori and Montanaro for another crow sandwich and a slice of humble pie. As I've quoted before, Montanaro asserts that we late weaners hang onto nursing out of fear that that children will take off into the environment and leave us, unneeded and cast-off, in a corner somewhere to wither and die. I must admit that I live with another fear: I am afraid of the hell my peaceful house will be with two screaming weaners in it. Patience with shrieking infants is not something that comes naturally to me. That, fundamentally, has been the driving force behind my extended nursing. There is a lot I am willing to do for peace in the house.
Epilogue:
I left off the last paragraph at least three weeks ago, and we are still nursing--all three of us. Peace reigns, more or less, and we have sort of worked out a way around the biting. Even now, in my better mood, I would caution all you girls who are pregnant with a second one and still nursing the first, this is no small feat, nursing two. I'm doing it now, but I would have done it differently. We'll continue to work the wean in our own way, and if it's ever done, I'll let you know. The minute...

16 comments:

Gracie's Mom said...

Bless you, darling. I don't know if I could have done it for so long. Gracie's abrupt trasnplant weaning was hard on me (especially since I STILL HAVE MILK) but it is one of the small blessings that came with our circumstances. I found that carrying around sippy cups of milk and juice were not nearly as big of a PITA as finding a quiet spot to nurse was. :)

Making of a Montessori Mum said...

Hey there - Good luck with it. We just had a great weaning experience at 20mths. Ive popped a post up about it for others interested. Best of luck.
http://montessorimum.blogspot.com/2009/03/breastfeeding-and-weaning.html
(:

H said...

As a Montessorian and now a soon-to-be first time mum (i'm 36 weeks pregnant with my first) I have always struggled with Dr. Montanaro's take on weaning. While I can follow the logic of the period of exterogestation, and the child's need to turn away from the mother and towards the environment...the 9-month cut-off seems a little quick to me, and perhaps not in the child's best interest. It's interesting to see that "following the child" with weaning doesn't seem to be working for you, though. You and I seem to have a similar philosophical/conflicted Montessorian take on the subject. I'll be waiting to see how things turn out for all three of you -- in hopes to benefit from your insights. Good luck!

Melissa said...

I tell you, I was De-lighted when#1 spontatiously weaned the week I found out I was preggo with #2-- I, too, have yet to meet a happy tandem mommy (even my crunchy, LLL, lactation consultant friends, by the way-- the idea of it-- bliss. The reality. Yeah, not so much.) Good luck with this journey.

By the way, I recently discovered Joel Dewberry fabrics, and noticed that Miss Nuvy wears a lot of them. Do you, by chance, sew?

Amy said...

As you know, Gus nursed until I had to go back on my lipitor... when he was 32 months old. It KILLED me to wean. I loved my quiet times with him, and the ease of getting him to get into bed ( by waving my boob around singing.. " come and get it!!") It really was bliss for us both. That being said: currently he can't fall asleep without putting his " eye on it."( or his cheek, or his chin, and sometimes his foot.) I realized after some time ( because I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack) that Gussy didn't want no stinkin' blankie, or teddy bear. I was his walking talking, warm security blanket. In a moment of desperation, I bought him a set of breast forms from a tranny website. He loves his "gummy boobs." They are definitely where he finds his security. He tells me he likes mine more, but he loves the falsies nevertheless. I have had lots of people wrinkle their noses at his love for his boobies. I say Go scratch peeps. My boy uses his boobies for good, and when he grows up and he's in college and he can't fall asleep, I'm sure he will find some big bosomed girl in the co-ed dorms who will be willing to let him put his eye on it in a most loving and plutonic way.

Testdriver said...

Melissa--

Yes, I sew a little, and have started a small children's clothing manufacturing concern, www.babynv.com (something else to blame for my spotty blogging) whereby people who sew much better than I do are doing most of the sewing these days. I do love Joel Dewberry, and I used a whole lot of it in my last season, but, as much as it pains me, I am going to have to stop sourcing from celebrity fabric designers, since everyone who knows anything about fabrics can recognize my prints in an instant!!! :)

For the same reason, I swore I would never make anything with Alexander Henry "Mocca" (that big pop-arty brown, yellow, and red floral everyone had two years ago), which I also love, because it's everywhere. Must shop harder!

do you sew, too?

Testdriver said...

Amy, you are, as ever, a screaming riot.

It has often occurred to me that there's a reason why people introduce "lovey's" when the kid's pretty much right out of the box. I am the security blanket extraordinaire, and Nuvy will have none other. Van, I daresay, is even worse. Me, all I get out of it is about 30 minutes of extra sleep in the mornings, provided I'm willing to lay 'em out like a sow with my brood of suckling piglets. It's all very National Geographic.

I love the tranny boobies! I'll bet the world would be a happier place by far if all little boys were given a set to love at the age of three. Perhaps they'd be more respectful at 14...

Marcy said...

Hi, I just found your blog. I am a fellow Montessorian (AMI certified for 3-6yr olds) and am trying to apply the Montessori philosophy to my own home now that I have a 13 month old son.

I remember reading Montessori From the Start and while I loved most of the advice in the book, I simply cannot understand the stance on weaning at 9 months. It seems diametrically opposed to the idea of "following the child" and also makes little sense practically-- the recommendation min the US is to not give cow's milk until a child turns 1 year old, so if you wean to a cup at 9 months does that mean pumping all day long to produce that milk? Going with formula (I have nothing against formula itself, but if you've got a possibly superior alternative why not use that)? Weaning my son at 9 months to a cup would have meant a lot of work and frustration on both our parts, not to mention an already skinny kid getting even skinnier from not getting enough milk (surely).

I'm running off on a tangent and preaching to the choir, I know... but I guess wanted to just extend out that I also disagree with that notion of early weaning, especially when most health organizations recommend nursing for at least the first 12months. BTW I don't think giving up on tandem nursing is in any way acknowledging that the "montessori" view of weaning is correct. My son nurses twice a day now, and we'll probably stop sometime in the next few months. I'm going by the timeline that makes sense for us, and for him, and in the end I think that's all that really matters.

Melissa said...

I do sew, and I'm wishing I could do what it sounds like you are doing while I stay home with my babes (and contemplate selling a kidney to write that big, fat check I'm about to sign for Toddler at our local Montessori. Then I get remember that I have three more cycles to write checks for and sort of feel like crying...)

Anyway-- here's another question. We have chosen our very best option here for Montessori-- it's not like your area, where there are multiple true-to-the-method programs available. And now I have to take off my teacher hat (I just about fell over and DIED when I saw one of his potential teachers flip her mat open instead of unrolling it. I still shudder about that one) and put on my "let's not be the world's most annoying parent" hat. Do you have any advice for how to handle it when the classroom doesn't live up to my high standards? Help!

NOLA mom said...

Don't you dare take one bite of that crow sandwich! There is a big difference between ignoring the goofy advice to wean a 9 month old off the breast, and weaning your toddler and preschooler when they start looking more like leeches and less like the apples of your eye.

I have a lot of respect for your ability to commit to your Montessori beliefs and still think for yourself and do what is right for your family. Good for you, putting your babies before your ideology! It's not as common as you might think! Though I imagine it is the very type of independence the Montessori method is supposed to cultivate.

But all this talk about breast feeding reminds me of something that has been tugging at my brain a while: what else does Montessori say about feeding one's children? I recall a while back when reading some of Montessori's writings, she had some other ideas about feeding children, something about the importance of broth--specific kinds of broth, I believe--for one (do your gurus insist on that as well as formula in a cup?). It seemed she had some specific ideas about nutrition (makes sense considering her students were from housing projects and institutions), and I was wondering if that is still stressed in Montessori teachings today. Also, how does the Montessori method address picky eating? Or do they?

Glad to see you've worked through the biting issues. We've had to deal with that too. And the post about using tranny boobs as lovies is HILARIOUS! Amy, I don't know you, but you are a genius.

Agnieszka said...

I nursed my older daughter, then 2 and a few months, on demand during pregnancy, then we had a 2-week break when I was in hospital with my newborn. And since arriving home, I still nursed both, but never both at once. I just didn't want to. The older one was limited to nap-time and bed-time, while the younger one is still nursing on demand (approaching the age of 2 now).

And I told my older daughter that when she's ready she'll no longer nurse and then we'll throw a party to celebrate her being such a big and independent girl. So after a few months of preparation, soon after her 3rd birthday, she decided she wanted her party, so we invited a couple of family members to celebrate. After that, I just needed to remind her a few times that she's big now and already had her weaning party and she was settled.

So I've been nursing for almonst 4.5 years now and I think I'll need my own party and georgous new bra wardrobe when it's finally over. ;)

NOLA mom said...

I just thought of another food dilemma. What to do when your toddler puts food in his open cup, or pours contents of cup in plate? Correct him? Take the cup away? Let him do his thing? I supposed there is some value in experimenting this way, but it sure is gross, and it doesn't seem very graceful or courteous either!

Nury said...

Too bad we threw in the trash that lovely big-boob doll. Lesson to be learned NEVER throw anything away.
Seriously, if they only nurse at night you could try what Ann-Marie did. She simply disappeared from her bedroom for a week and let Daniel handle Yann. After the week he had totally forgotten about nursing. Could well work with Van. As to Nuria...
See you soon. BABA

Testdriver said...

You're all right. It's not the same to say "Montessori was right, and you should all wean at 9 months", and to say "I really wish I could get this three-year-old off my boob so the one-year-old can have a crack at it, and then they can both let me sleep". Point taken.

Incidentally, my mother-in-law, Nury, referring to the "lovely big-boob doll" is talking about a blow-up sex doll my husband once brought home from a bachelor party. (Who do you think was the last person to type THAT?)

What's extra funny, is that for a second it actually did occur to me to give it to the kids (in fact, didn't we make a joke about that?) and run away! Perhaps a combination of the Amy method and the Ann-Marie method would work!!

Oh, and Nuria actually responds pretty well to "no" at all times except naptime and bedtime (when she sees Van nursing and thinks it would be appropriate for her, too). She does not wake me up to nurse. I think I've convinced myself to just cut her off. Now I just have to pull the trigger.

Melissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mel said...

Hiya, I've just come across your blog and I've enjoyed reading it so much! The community here just cracks me up :) You've got some great followers and your dialog is very engaging!

Your post on weaning and the following conversation was delightful. I've only read "Montessori from the Start" and was a bit perplexed at the notion of weaning at 9 months. I'm glad I wasn't alone in rejecting that piece of advice. There are times I think my son might be weaning himself, but then he'll have three day marathons, nursing all day and night. Not that I want him to wean, but I would like to sleep a bit more at night. I am very close to following some of the ideas mentioned for getting a good night of sleep (either Anne Marie's or Amy's). What I don't understand is how he went from sleeping 8 hours at night when he was 9 months old, to waking up every few hours from 12-6 now that he's 1... but I digress.

I love how you are able to blend the best aspects of Montessori with what works best for your family. My son is 13 months old, and I'm working on integrating Montessori in our home. I'm learning as I go since I have no training in education. I'm looking forward to reading more on your blog.