how to (not) wean a toddler, part two.

October 1, 2015

Since I wrote about attempting to wean Lavender from the breast, I’ve received a few emails and messages asking how it’s going (or how it went). So…here’s an update. Because I know everyone is just dying to know what’s going on in my bra (that was sarcasm, just to be clear).

Some may find this oversharing (heck, as long as we’re there, I guess some might find the entire blog oversharing. Oh, well. My response is the same); it’s okay. I don’t mind. As much as I respect women who feel empowered by posting breastfeeding selfies, I’m certainly not going to be among them any time soon (although you can be sure I have taken lots of them for purposes of private memory-keeping…my favorite was taken back when Lavender was maybe eighteen months old or so. With a Hello Kitty calculator in her hand, she crawled into my lap, settled in, latched onto the breast, and promptly fell asleep there…with the Hello Kitty calculator placed right on top of my boob, just above her head, as though it were sitting on a desk. As a piece of art, that photo would probably be called something like, “Future Accountant in Repose”…which, naturally, made Mr. Mostafa very proud), so you can consider this detailed but illustration-free discussion of how my boobs are currently being utilized as my small, ironic contribution to the ongoing struggle for nipple freedom.

So, as I already disclosed, day weaning went swimmingly. Lavender never nurses during the day anymore, and she never even asks to, either. I’m baffled by all these moms on the Internet who say that night weaning was easy-peasy, and that it was day weaning that was tough. This is so not how it has all worked out for me. Who are these women?! How do they get their children to sleep without the boob? I mean, I’m really confused and amazed. We’ve tried everything. We’ve read books. We’ve watched videos on the iPod. We’ve sat up with her and watched TV. We’ve stuffed her full of food (that’s supposed to make her tired, I guess? Eating like that sure makes us tired, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about parenting, it’s that children can be such illogical little creatures) and then did all of the above. We. Have. Tried. Everything.

As I wrote in my earlier post about weaning, we had one really super easy night where Mr. Mostafa was able to get Lavender to sleep without a struggle. Every night since then, whenever he tries, it’s been a disaster. She’s figured out that if Baba takes her to bed and Mommy isn’t there, it means that she’s going to be expected to fall asleep without nursing. And that is just not okay with her. When we’re in the “weaning days” on the calendar (see the post to which I linked in the first paragraph of this post), she will whine and cry quietly, and she will refuse to sleep. When we’re not in the weaning days, she will cry loudly and yell for Mommy, and she still won’t go to sleep.

And if I’m present and we try to get her to go to sleep without the “milk” she demands? The tantrum is practically nuclear.

Thus, I regret to inform you that Lavender is still a nursling. Despite our best efforts, we haven’t managed to completely wean her. She still nurses in bed in order to fall asleep. I mean, she can fall asleep just fine when doing other things, like riding in a car or in a stroller…but when it comes to sleeping in bed, she must have her milk. When we crawl in bed, she automatically reaches for my shirt. When she comes to me and asks to “go bed,” I know what she’s saying is, “Mom, I’m tired and I’d like to have milk and go to sleep, please.”

I mean, I don’t seriously regret that she still nurses at night. I certainly don’t mind the snuggling. And according to the research that I’ve been voraciously consuming in an attempt to assuage my society-driven fears that I’m somehow warping my child for life, it’s totally normal for her to still want to nurse at night. My fellow attachment parents who mommyblog their hearts out (God bless us all) assure me that this is so. Lots of Saudis (and I’m sure plenty of non-Saudis) think it’s weird that she can eat popcorn but still drinks breastmilk (and I mean, that’s kind of a valid point, to be honest). My mother-in-law mentioned to me that she was concerned that breastmilk was unhealthy for children after the age of two (which probably has to do with the fact that the Qur’an mentions breastfeeding until two years, although there’s scholarly disagreement as to whether that particular ayah means that it is recommended or obligatory to breastfeed until two if possible or that the breastfeeding term is limited to two years). I assured her that it was okay; breastmilk may not be essential at this age, but it certainly won’t hurt her.

But I’m not gonna lie, y’all…I’m tired. I’ve been nursing her to sleep for two and a half years now. And she wakes up throughout the night. Frequently. And every time she does, she calls, “Milk? Milk!” And she nurses right back to sleep. And a lot of the time, she likes to stay latched to the breast while she sleeps. So I spend most of the night sleeping awkwardly on my side (until I had a baby, I was always a back sleeper). Which, as I’ve already said, I’ve been doing for two and a half years. I just want the chance to fall asleep on my back, with my husband snuggled next to me on one side, and my baby snuggled next to me on the other…and not on the boob.

At least until the next little Mostafa decides to come along.

I’m sure it would be easier to night wean Lavender if she had her own room and her own bed. I find that she sleeps more soundly when she’s alone in the bed (i.e., during naptime). But we cosleep at night in our one-bedroom apartment, and that’s how it will stay until we move into our own house. So, unless she magically changes her mind about milk at some point before that happens, I guess she’ll be night nursing until then. And heck, it might even stay that way after we move. We’re fans of the family bed. I guess she’ll just quit the milk when she’s good and ready.

But hey, whatever. Someday she will be done with nursing, and I’m sure I will miss it. In a couple years she’ll probably still be refusing to go to sleep and I’ll be sitting by her bedside, bleary-eyed from sleep deprivation and caffeine consumption, and I won’t even have the boob as a secret weapon to convince her that it’s bedtime, it’s bed time, for God’s sake, it’s bedtime. That’ll really be fun.

Yeah, I’ll take what I’ve got right this moment, thanks. And even in those sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled moments that are almost certainly still to come, I’ll keep right on saying that for every single second I have with her. Sometimes I look down at her and think, “How in the world did I become the mother of this wondrous little person?” Sometimes Mr. Mostafa and I will watch her play, and he’ll turn to me out of the blue, awestruck, and say, “She is such a gift.”

Truer words were never spoken.

That being said, if you have any suggestions to help us gently night wean my sweet little barnacle, I’m all ears. Ears and nipples.

P.S. In other news that is likely of no interest to anyone but me, you might notice that there are some design changes happening here on the blog…instead of doing a big design overhaul all at once, I’m making tweaks here and there over the next few months. So if things look kind of mismatched around this little space for awhile, don’t worry–I’m on it. The blog, like its author, is a work-in-progress. I guess that’s kind of the nature of blogging, actually. And life, for that matter.


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  • meh

    Was waiting for this post :)
    I too cant get myself to stop my lil one from feeding. My lil one is one and half and im pregnant second time. Lots of pressure to stop bf now. I definitely dont want it because I know I wil never get her again so close and attached to me. She doesnot know how to sleep without milk at night. But on the other hand sometimes its too tiring as she gets up very frequently and shouts ‘milk’ just like lavender does.

    • nicole

      don’t feel pressured to give up breastfeeding if you’re not ready! <3 i'm not currently pregnant, but i would definitely like to have lavender weaned before i become pregnant with our second baby (inshallah)…it's just my personal preference on that. ideally, i'd like to have a few months of a break before i jump into another two and a half years of breastfeeding another baby. but we all know what they say…woman plans, god laughs! 😉

  • Litenarata

    Can you please remove that notice about sharing that appears when you scroll down? It always pops up and blocks my view before I’m even done reading a post! :( There are already share buttons at the bottom of each post, the extra popup is too much!

    • nicole

      thank you for the feedback. it always works very well for me (i.e., it never pops up until i’ve scrolled completely down to the bottom of the post), but it’s good to know that it’s not working that way for everyone.