My 9 month old is on a nursing strike. He refuses to nurse even before bed these days, unhappily wriggling out of my arms, trying to use those floppy abdominal muscles to snap into an upright position like a fish flopping on the boat's deck.
It is killing me. Nightly.
What kills me more is what happens when I dutifully trudge back downstairs to the kitchen to fix him a bottle of expressed milk and give him the bottle.
He grabs the bottle with both hands, shoves it in his mouth, and proceeds to twist and fondle the bottle like he has just been reunited with his best friend. He slaps it with one hand. Giddily moves it from side to side. He drains it, then.
I should be happy, right? He is providing a prime opportunity for me to finally wean him, just as I planned months ago. Six months was my goal. Nine months was my reach. I'm under doctor's orders to stop at 9 months (osteopenia, long story). He is a champ at eating solids and is very close to walking. But, even though the time appears to have come, I still don't feel ready.
Last night, I searched "nursing strikes" to reassure myself that this new rejection was due to him actively teething (hello bite bruises up and down my arms) and yes, the articles reassured me that nursing strikes happen for all kinds of reasons. (My bruises suggest teething, or perhaps my involuntary screaming when he bit me last week was poorly received.) They also emphasized the transient nature of these strikes and to push through.
In my internet searching, I also came across many sites that basically pounded The Guilt into me for even contemplating weaning before 12 months. About how no child would self-wean before 12 months, possibly not before 18 months. They talked about earlier weaning would only be for Mom's benefit (read: you are a selfish hog) and could result in less secure children. They said that mothers often misinterpret a nursing strike or normal developmental changes in the child to mean that they are becoming disinterested in nursing (read: you are ignorant and should not be allowed to procreate).
Poison in my eyes!
I thought of my 3-year old who I started weaning at 9 months during a very similar nursing strike. I remember feeling similarly sad and rejected, solemnly repeating the words, "It's the end of an era," to my husband and anyone else who would listen. Was I wrong then too?
Here, I was, thinking that I was almost deserving of a medal for working full-time, pumping 3 times a day to keep up, and downing Mother's Milk Tea every single day (I'm not a tea person, and definitely not a nasty tea person) to feed my son exclusively with breastmilk for 9 months. And then I read this article which makes extended nursing sound so beautiful and bonding that I'm left feeling inadequate.
I think it might be time. But, no one makes this easy.