When Things Don’t Go According To Plan (+ Notes on Weaning)
I like plans. I like to make plans and generally like to stick with them.
As it turns out, babies don’t care much about our plans.
Having children has forced me create and hold my ideals with loose hands, low expectations, and a dose of humility. I’ve had to learn to bend and flex when necessary.
Case in point: Weaning my one year old.
I had high hopes of having him fully weaned by 13 months, just like his sister was. (First, let me back up and say, I am completely amazed and thankful to have made it this far nursing him. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how this story would play out, but now here we are: one year later.)
Back to my daydreams about weaning….I pictured myself enjoying a carefree girls weekend without having to heave my pump bag along for the ride. I pictured date nights that could begin before 7:30pm, since I wouldn’t have to put my son to bed myself before leaving. I pictured the pure bliss of my mornings and evenings becoming my own again…untethered (literally) to anyone else.
(Listen closely: Can you hear my plans laughing in my face?)
Naturally, at around 12.5 months, as I was preparing to slow the nursing train down, my son began teething again and was just generally feeling under the weather.
So instead of nursing less often, he was nursing MORE often. Literally the exact opposite of what I’d planned for.
And here we are, 13.5 months in, still regularly breastfeeding first thing in the morning and right before bed. He’s not ready to be done yet and I had to give up my control over that. While I am ready to move on from this phase for a lot of reasons, I realized it just wasn’t the right time yet.
I’m intentionally choosing to find the sweet spot in this lingering time with him. I know it’s coming to an end soon, and I’ll probably (totally) miss it when it does.
Being a mom has caused me to sacrifice my own desires and change my expectations more times than I can count. When to stop breastfeeding is only one of them.
As we walk through parenthood, maybe instead of constructing uncompromising and elaborate plans, we should simply jot down a rough draft. Rough drafts are only a basic outline, a simple framework of what we hope for, with the expectation that the final product will turn out somewhat (or completely) different. And that’s okay. Pliable frameworks allow the space for change, updates, and deviations because inevitably they will happen.
Basically? Plan for your plan to NOT go according to plan.
If you find yourself nearing the stage when you’ll also be weaning your baby, here are some tips for “Gentle Weaning” that will help you hold realistic expectations in the process.
- Be flexible: maybe you’d like to drop the evening feed, but they are least interested in the afternoon feed. Start there.
- Think in gradual terms, not sudden ones: remember it’s a process and will take time. Go slow. Don’t try to drop several feedings at a time. You can even begin by shortening the length of the feeding before you eliminate it if you’d like.
- Be understanding and patient with your child. Their norm and routine is changing. Expect some behavior changes and possible separation issues.
- Work together. Find a new normal for both of you. Maybe in place of a nursing session you can sit and read a few books together.
- Pay attention to needs for comfort. During the transition, your little one might be more antsy for your attention and one on one time.
- Adjust how nutritional needs are met. Build in a snack time, if necessary, to make it to the next meal without a nursing session.
- Give yourself and your baby grace as you go through this process. It usually isn’t seamless or easy for either of you.
Even beyond weaning, remember that motherhood in general requires a constant recalibration of expectations, plans, and routines. I believe a flexible, “rough draft mindset” provides a much healthier, less stressful life with littles.
Let’s work on loosening our grip on our ideals this week!