I’ve been trying to wean Bo for over a month now, or is it two? I can’t keep track. I’m struggling. I hear all these stories of babies who wean themselves and I just can’t imagine Bo ever doing so. She asks for milk about ten times a day, no joke. She would happily be curled up on my lap attached to me 20 hours a day, including every 1 – 2 hours all night long. Seriously. It’s intense. I was always happy to say that I would breastfeed as long as Bo wanted me to. But now I’m here at almost 18 months and I’m exhausted. My body and mind are both exhausted and I need my body back. I’d be very happy to continue feeding her once or twice a day but every couple of hours is just too much for me now. So I started weaning. I started just saying no more. I started offering milk or water. I started offering cuddles instead. I started trying to distract with other activities. At first it seemed like things were going well. We had a week where sleeping got better and wake ups became less frequent. We had weeks where during the day she was easily distracted and her eating became better. Then, it seemed, the penny dropped and we went right back to the beginning again.
It’s been a pretty intense month for us. With the new house came a transition to Bo’s new room, which was going really well. Until it stopped going so well. I slept on the floor in her room in the cold night air for over a week. It didn’t make much difference. I tried to not feed her during the night. It didn’t make much difference except making both of us tired and cranky… and tired. Did I mention TIRED?
The other day I tried to put Bo down for a nap (and nap time has been just as hit and miss as it has her entire life, if not worse of late) and I fed her and cuddled her close, and she wouldn’t go to sleep. So I told her calmly that there would be no more milky and put her down in her cot sleepy but awake. Sometimes this is fine and she’ll go to sleep, sometimes she just shrugs and rolls over… Not this day. She screamed and kicked and punched and screamed and demanded that I feed her. To which I responded with a calm, not right now, now it’s time for sleeping. Her anger and her determination shone through and she fought me for two hours until the time she was shaking and trembling and pleading with me. She cried and I cried and eventually one of us was going to have to budge. It was me. I gave in. She fed to sleep and napped. For ten minutes. Before waking and demanding I feed her again.
It was absolute gut wrenching heart through a mincer hell and it nearly broke me in two.
Everything I read online about weaning says that it’s best to let someone else assist with comforting the child, so that it’s not too confusing. Not hand the whole responsibility to someone else (generally the father) but to encourage assistance so that the child is getting comfort elsewhere. There is no elsewhere here. There is just me. There isn’t anyone else in the middle of the night or the middle of the day. There is just me. Confused and anxious and exhausted old me. Trying to be gentle and patient and loving. Not leaving her to scream alone but holding her thrashing body gently in my arms, tears staining both our faces.
This parenting gig is bloody hard work. We all have our challenges. Bo’s sleep has always been mine.
Every night I put her to bed and I walk out of the room repeating to myself, tonight’s the night… tonight’s the night… and one night it will be, right? 18 months is a very long time without even one solitary good nights sleep.We are working on sleep pretty proactively right now, trying to turn a corner. We use gentle sleep cues and music and her room is warm and she’s happy to sleep in there, it’s just feeding. When she wants it, she wants it and there is no convincing her otherwise. I’ve even tried offering bottles… which just become torpedo’s to dodge… I’m at a loss of what happens next. I think part of me just knows that I have to try to be consistent and calm and gentle… and keep on keeping on. Right?
Have you been through weaning hell? Do you have any gentle tips on how to successfully wean a very attached little being?