The Unconventional Way I Weaned My Toddler

Those who know me, know that the nursing relationship I shared with my daughter, was something incredibly dear to my heart. After she was born, I became a ferocious advocate for normalizing breastfeeding, opting never to use a cover and to nurse wherever and whenever I pleased. If my baby was hungry, I didn’t care what your level of comfort was, I was feeding her!  Although  nursing wasn’t something that came super easily to us in the beginning, once we established healthy breastfeeding, I thought I would nurse her forever! My nieces once even bought me a picture of a bare-breasted mermaid holding her baby nursling mermaid and said “Look Auntie Erin it’s you!” As they knew, my two favourite things in the world were the water, and nursing my sweet baby girl. But as we crept closer to my daughters second birthday, those joyful feelings slowly began to morph into what’s known as nursing aversion and I knew, in order to preserve my sanity, something was going to have to shift.

The very first latch!

I had heard about nursing aversion before. In fact, my former partner in Mommy Connections had experienced it while pregnant with her third baby. But like so many aspects of motherhood, it’s not something that I think anyone can fully grasp until they’re in that position. With every latch, I began feeling sick to my stomach. Previously, my child twiddling my free nipple while nursing from the other one was something that I wouldn’t even notice, but it now felt similar to that feeling in the back of your neck when you hear nails on a chalk board. Worst of all, in all of this discomfort, my child began to nurse more frequently; it’s like she knew I was thinking of calling “LAST CALL!”, and she had to get her money’s worth.

Finley had always nursed on demand. To be clear, she’d nurse when she was thirsty, hungry, needed comfort, was injured, sick, or really whenever the mood struck her. As a parent, I had never been huge on setting a particular feeding schedule and because we bed-share, nursing has also always been my tactic to get her to sleep. So when I made the decision to start cutting her off, I knew it had to be slow and gentle. The first thing I tried was distraction. She’d come asking for it and I’d point to something amazing at the other end of the room, or ask her to play a game with me. This would usually work for about one minute until my headstrong lady would remember her mission for milk, and come marching back. Simply denying her would usually result a red-faced, on-the-ground, arched back meltdown, that my heart just couldn’t handle. Because we weren’t on any kind of schedule, dropping a feed  (as the experts suggest) was also out of the question. I started to lose faith and thought “maybe I should just suck it up and be uncomfortable for the sake of keeping the peace”. But then I remembered what I preach to the moms in our programs. We as moms are important too. We matter and so often we lose sight of ourselves as we mother these amazing little people, and it’s important to teach boundaries, respect and self worth. Most of all, I was desperate to not want to look back on my nursing journey with resentment.

One year anniversary!

Two weeks before W Day (weaning day), I started to tell Finley that Mommy’s Milk was getting OLD. She had tasted sour milk from a cup once and knew exactly what this meant. I explained daily that when we turn two, the milk gets old and no longer tastes good. This was usually met with a “ya ya, give me the goods” type response. We celebrated Finley’s second birthday with family and friends and because I knew what was coming, the day was filled with mixed emotions for me.

Tear stained face after her first nap without nursing. Have you experienced mom guilt? It’s awful.

One week later, after a particularly long and painful morning nursing session, I pulled the shoot. I walked downstairs by myself and rubbed Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice on my nipples, and then I waited. A few minutes later, Finley came over and asked for boobies and after explaining the milk was old, I allowed her to latch on. After not even two seconds, she JUMPED back with the most disgusted look on her face and yelled “MAMA’S RIGHT IT’S OLD! YUCK!” and simply walked away and carried on with her business. “Ok” I thought, “That was too easy. How is this going to look when it’s nap time and there’s nothing for me to offer other than a sippy cup?” An hour later, we laid down in bed and wrapped our arms around each other. I whispered in her ear how strong, smart and brave she is and she simply rolled over and went to bed. For the first time in two years of being on this earth, my little one did not nurse to sleep! Though she was content, I was A MESS! Did I make a mistake? Am I a terrible mother for denying her something so simple? Am I selfish? Maybe my discomfort wasn’t as bad as I made it out to be! Am I truly ready for this to be over? All I can say is that mom guilt is a very real thing, and in that very moment it hit me…hard!

Over the course of the next few days, I continued to apply my vinegar and lemon juice concoction to my breasts, on the off chance that she wanted to give it another go, but she never did. We talked about the old milk, what this meant for her and how proud I was of her being such a big girl. She cried and during those gut wrenching moments, I had to navigate tears sans breastmilk. But just like every other parenting challenge, it came and went and we figured out our new normal. I continued to reassure her that she was loved and valued and that this was all simply a part of growing up.

I had some criticisms for taking this route but I know in my heart that it was the only thing that was going to work for us. She is such a strong-willed individual, that I needed it to ultimately be her decision to wean. There were no melt downs. No denying her. No leaving her side to let someone else put her to bed. In this circumstance, SHE simply decided that she no longer liked the taste, and was ready to move on. I am confident in my decision and know without a shadow of a doubt, that it was what was best for me, her and our family.

The weeks that followed were not easy on me, but I’ll save that for another post. For the mama out there that’s thinking she’s ready to have her body back, you do what you need to do, when you’re ready to do it. Don’t let society tell you what’s right, even if your methods look a bit different. I had never imagined that lemon juice and vinegar would be my chosen path, but at one point I also never imagined feeding my daughter sugar… as we all know, plans change 😉

If you had told me before I became a mom, that my child would be eating a lollypop the size of their head, I’d have said you were nuts!

 

The Loneliness Of A Miscarriage

On November 13th late at night, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. After a somewhat long period of trying to conceive, I was beyond elated. Our little Family was growing and my sweet girl was going to be a big sister! That bond that you feel in pregnancy sparked instantly and we were over the moon. On December 21st, it was taken away from us when we found out that our tiny little heart had stopped beating.

It’s so exciting to see a positive result!

 

I began showing signs of a miscarriage on the Wednesday morning before Christmas, which was also only one day after we shared the good news with our parents. It began as mild spotting and slowly increased to become the colour red that every woman fears terribly during pregnancy. We waited a long and painful two days for a very unsympathetic doctor to tell us that the little flicker of a heartbeat that we’d come to know and love, was no longer viable. The doctors instructions for what was to follow felt so clinical and cold; as if he was sharing directions to the nearest gas station, not something devastating. We all of a sudden felt like we were being ushered out of the bed we were occupying in the ER.

 

Although I knew inside that we had experienced a loss, my brain began to try and rationalize how the ultrasound could have been wrong; it started to play tricks on me and tell me that someone somewhere, had made a critical mistake. Denial. Next came the guilt. What did I do that caused this? Was that steak I ate too pink? I know I avoided lunch meat but am I sure that goat cheese was pasteurized? Maybe it’s because I drank coffee or took that Zantac when my heartburn was so bad…I never took Zantac in my first pregnancy. It has to be because I’m still breast feeding my toddler. Didn’t I read somewhere that breastfeeding can cause miscarriage? The walls felt like they were closing in on me and as I was rapidly transitioning through the different stages of grief, my heart quite literally, felt like it was breaking.

 

Some doctors say 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some say 25% and some say one in five. I have personally known six women in the month of December who’ve gone through it, so why did it feel like the loneliest thing on the planet to experience? Perhaps it’s because it all happened before I had the chance to publicly announce it, so the masses didn’t know what we’d lost. Maybe it’s because it felt like in some way, my body had failed me. Maybe it’s because there’s a certain level of guilt associated with the experience, that no one else could possibly understand. Whatever the case, it felt like my life paused and I was totally unsure of which direction to turn. So many medical professional made feeble attempts at support by using the common dictums such as “Its Gods will” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “you already have one child so at least you know you can have another”, but none of these added any comfort or made any sense, in fact, it was probably the opposite. I just wanted to be left alone as I knew that the only person who could understand my grief, was myself.  While I now realize they all had good intentions, there was nothing that anyone could say, to make any sense of why this was happening to me.

 

If it had been any other time of year, I would have been granted the opportunity to grieve quietly and for as long as I wanted, but it was three days before Christmas, and I’m a mom to a toddler which for me meant that I had to try my best for “the show to go on”. But how do you celebrate what’s supposed to be the happiest time of year, when you have a broken heart? The traditions and events that can add so much joy and meaning to the season were punctuated with painful reminders that the tiny person we loved will never be here with us. In so many ways I wished that I could find a quiet place to hide until January 2nd.

 

Despite everything, I ended up having a wonderful Christmas Day surrounded by my loving family and for the first time since we received our news, I actually felt happy again (which unfortunately brought back the guilt). I want other mamas to know, that it’s always ok not to be OK. But just as it’s OK to grieve for as long as you want, it is also OK to smile and enjoy the good things happening in your life. It doesn’t mean that you’re not mindful of the baby you lost. If this should ever be you, please try not to let yourself feel guilty for taking your mind off things and living your life. Grief comes in waves and when you experience any kind of loss, although it may feel like you’ll never smile again, happiness WILL slowly make its way back into your life. There will be moments where the grief feels overwhelming, almost like an actual wave washes over you and you’re fighting to stay above the water, but that wave passes and you can and will once again see the beauty in all that’s around you.

Real smiles on Christmas night… something I didn’t think would be possible

 

Miscarriage can be an amazingly difficult thing to talk about, but the more I have shared my story, the more other women are beginning to admit (almost shyly) that they too, have experienced this type of loss. The common denominator between them all is that after the ice is broken, each woman almost seems relieved to talk about it. I want you, my friends and family to know that I am someone you can talk to if you lose a baby or know someone who does. I am an open book with the details of my story and I never want any woman to feel ashamed in asking me about it, or sharing their story with me. Imagine a world in which there was only understanding and support, where a woman didn’t have to feel ashamed and she could grieve for her baby with the love and support she needed instead of suffering in silence. A world where people don’t feel that they need to make an excuse for terrible things. Sometimes, things are just really shitty, and we should be able to hold someone’s hand and simply say “I’m here for you, in any way you need. And when you’re ready to talk about this, I’ll be here to listen”.
To my sisters (and brothers) out there, I am always here to listen to your story. Thank you for reading mine.

After 17 days of my body trying to go through the process “naturally” I ended up in the hospital where the doctors had to perform a Dilation and Curettage. It was the last thing in the world that I wanted, but I was so relieved for it all to be over.  Doctor McCoubrey and the team at the Montfort were extremely kind, compassionate and wonderful.

Edit to add: There were so many people who were so supportive, kind, thoughtful and helpful during this process. Those who sent flowers, brought gifts, helped with Finley, called, texted and sat and let me cry. You know who you are and I want to be sure that you know how very much I appreciate you and how grateful I am to have been blessed with your friendship. I will never forget those acts of kindness during such a dark period. It also so happens, that in the 17 days I was going through this, I became even closer with my spouse.  In my experience, there was a little bit of sunshine at the end of the storm.

If you have suffered a loss, or know someone who has, I can always be reached by email at ering@mommyconnections.ca for support and am also a proud distributer of the Butterfly Box. Please feel free to message me any time.