I have to admit I was absolutely thrilled when my youngest discovered her left thumb. Thrilled. You see, I developed quite a bit of nursing aversion towards my first when I was pregnant with my second. It never fully went away, though it’s nowhere close to where it was.
It’s difficult to explain nursing aversion unless you experience it. Up until I became pregnant with #2, nursing was pretty much always sweet cuddly times of connection and love. And then it turned into bugs crawling on my arms. Yup…that’s kind of what it feels like. Absolute disgust and repulsion over this sweet little thing that’s sucking away your sanity. It’s icky. It’s creepy. The second they latch on me I just want them off….and possibly to go into another room.
I had great hopes of letting my firstborn self-wean. I was willing to let her go until she was ready to stop on her own, maybe even making it to the cover of TIME magazine! That didn’t happen. I loved seeing pictures of tandem nurslings. I thought it was the sweetest thing ever, and I really looked forward to doing it myself. Then I had baby #2 and those pictures kind of made me want to vomit.
I talked to my chiropractor and my midwife about it. They offered their sympathy, but that’s about all. My chiropractor said she experienced the same thing and it went away after birth and she was able to enjoy tandem nursing. My midwife explained that for some women it never goes away. I asked her why they didn’t just wean, and she replied that it just isn’t that easy sometimes. I soon found out exactly what she meant by that. My early attempts at weaning my firstborn erupted in hour-long tantrums in which she would cry to the point of vomiting everywhere. I joined a support group on Facebook of other mothers experiencing the same aversion. They usually posted and chatted while nursing in order to distract themselves. That was the only way to get through a session….lots of cell phone time. And TV. And as many things as possible to distract me from nursing my kid. And still I would cringe for the whole 30 seconds that she was allowed on.
I say this all to explain how happy I was when my youngest found her thumb. After my firstborn used me for comfort for years, I was determined to make my second take to a pacifier. I finally gave up after she threw up on me a few times from gagging on it. But when she found her thumb I was all for it and extremely excited that she could calm herself without my help. There was hope for a full-night’s sleep! There was hope that I could leave her with someone else and she wouldn’t cry herself sick.
And then this happened:
Yup. She sucked it so much that it blistered. The blister popped and got infected. And within a week of infection and antibiotics, she was completely weaned from sucking her thumb, all on her own. And everyone said I should be glad of that. Except for one small problem.
I am now the thumb. Again.
So after 3.5 years of straight nursing, one can get kind of burned out on it. Yes, it’s magical and wonderful and a great connection and yada yada, but if you’re like me and are just kind of over it but your nursling is not, here are some of my tips for getting through sessions when you kind of want to pull your hair out:
- Take care of yourself. It is the hardest thing to do as a mom, since overnight you have these young creatures who depend on you for absolutely everything. But the times that I have had the worst agitation with nursing is when I am stressed out the most. To me, there’s a huge correlation. When I’m stressed, I really don’t want anyone touching me, let alone nursing. So take care, and reduce stress if at all possible.
- Distract yourself. I’m writing a blog while my 17-month old is stuck on my boob. Because its distracting me…well, except for the part that I’m writing about how I’d prefer my toddler not be latched onto me right now. Yea, I’m going to go check Facebook…..
- Set boundaries. Yes, my toddler is allowed to nurse. No, she is not allowed to do the on/off/on/off/on/off game that nursing toddlers love to do. She is also not allowed to play while latched. Her sister is not allowed to play with her while latched. This isn’t always easy and doesn’t always work, but these are a few of the boundaries that help keep me sane.
- Try to keep in mind that this won’t last forever. It is one of those things I have to remember to bring my claws back in and get me down from the ceiling sometimes. These moments are precious, and soon will be only memories. Though aggravating now, they won’t last forever. That can either give you hope and reassurance, or make you a little sad. Either way, it should help to make you appreciate the time a little more.
Yes, there is always weaning, but I’m determined to make it to her 2nd birthday, as per WHO’s recommendations for optimal health. I know that I will miss these days of sweet cuddles one day. I know that there will never be another time in my life in which someone wants/needs me as much as now. I can often see myself 20 years from now when they are but a treasured memory and a picture. Already I treasure the thumb-sucking pictures. I thought for sure I’d have years’-worth of those. But just like that, those times are over. And I’m sure I’ll be thinking the same thing about breastfeeding in the near future.