I turned twenty-six on Saturday. In a coincidence, Camilla chose this past week to make a big push toward weaning herself. When she was eighteen months old and still nursing at least ten times a day, I would not have predicted that she would be nearly weaned by my birthday. But here we are.
I always planned, if things went well, to nurse Camilla until she was at least two. Beyond that I made no commitments, because I had no idea how things would go. And then we had an exceptionally easy start with nursing and it just got better, and if other people thought it was strange that my 18-month-old was still nursing so much, I didn't think it was. It felt perfectly normal, and since she was so enthusiastic about nursing I couldn't imagine she'd be ready to quit in just six months, so I mentally adjusted to the idea of nursing beyond age two, and was fine with it. I liked the idea of child-led weaning, anyway.
With Billa still nursing so so much at eighteen months I was a little concerned about her iron intake - especially since I have a history of anemia - but I asked them to check her levels at her well-baby visit, and they did, and everything was fine. (Although I was traumatized - having blood drawn from the finger of your already-edgy toddler is a harrowing experience.)
Therefore I assumed that the amount of nursing we were doing was fine, and that we could continue on until it petered off naturally. Which it did, as soon as I was pregnant. I think my breastmilk just got thinner, and didn't fill Milla up nearly as much, because she started wanting to eat all the time. She'd previously been uninterested in solid foods, but gained a new enthusiasm for them. Some food words, like C-O-R-N, we even have to spell in front of her unless we're going to serve the food immediately, because she loves them so much.
In no time we were down to three nursings a day. (We'd re-night-weaned, with success this time, at 19.5 months.) Milla would nurse during our bedtime routine, and cluster-feed in the morning when she woke up, and nurse to sleep for her nap. It was perfect, and nothing needed to change. I felt I could sustain that level of nursing for quite a while without getting tired - even into the new baby's life, if that was what Camilla needed.
However, then we ran into the problem of Milla - who'd previously been nursing down for her nap in about fifteen or twenty minutes - taking a lot longer to go down. She'd nurse, and then roll around in the bed, then nurse some more, then roll some more, all the while refusing to go to sleep, sometimes for an hour and a half or more. Since I was napping with her, needing the extra rest in my pregnant state, this was killing me. I wanted her to go to sleep so I could go to sleep already, for heaven's sake. The state of affairs was not sustainable, so I decided to institute a new rule, whereby she was only allowed to nurse for ten minutes before her nap. She could cuddle as long as she wanted, but the nursing stopped after ten minutes. The first couple naptimes after I explained this to her, she went to sleep in seven or eight minutes, and I thought I was home free. But then she figured out that it might be more fun to stay awake, so she started doing that. So our routine evolved. We'd get in the bed, nurse for ten minutes ("Nuhse! Ten! Minuds!") and then I'd fall asleep on the outside of the bed while Milla hopped around between me and the wall, or lay and kicked the mattress and sang to herself. I'd doze off, then wake up twenty minutes later to find her fast asleep next to me.
This is a fine nap routine, but somehow I think it kicked us into a new phase of nursing. Maybe Camilla needed the extra nursing time to keep my supply at a level where she liked it, because within a week or two of us making the ten-minute adjustment, she'd pretty much quit nursing during the ten minutes. Next to go was the evening nursing session. We make sure to fill her up well with a bedtime snack so she isn't hungry when we're doing bedtime routine, and I guess she just decided there are better things to do during that time than nurse. Sometimes she asks to nurse, but then when I agree she pretends she's going to start, but rolls away laughing instead.
I thought the morning session would stay for a while, since it's the one Milla asks for when she's still half-asleep and cuddly, and she doesn't have anything to distract her during it. But surprisingly, she's quit asking for it most mornings. The few times in the past week she has remembered to ask, I agreed but she was disappointed - I think my supply has dwindled to pretty much nothing.
She'll probably ask to nurse again, a couple more times at least. And I'm fine with letting her try - she won't remember it consciously, of course, but I want her to feel that nursing ended because she moved away from it and not because I withheld it from her (not that there's anything wrong with weaning like that, this is just a personal preference). But we're pretty much done with nursing, and I'm guessing in a couple weeks we'll be totally done.
I would be lying to say I'm sad about this development. I was fine with nursing longer, but it will definitely be easier this way. Since it'll be less than six months before I've got a little one nursing 'round the clock again, I'm not exactly mourning the loss of a pasttime I've enjoyed, because I'll have it back soon enough. I feel like the nursing has served its purpose in bonding Milla and me. She might not have nursed all the way to age two but she made it almost there - 22.5 months - and she nursed so much extra during months 12-20 that I'm sure she got all the health benefits she'd have gotten nursing at a more average rate throughout her second year. I can't complain about any of it.
I feel like I've been blessed with an unusually positive and rewarding nursing experience. I'm glad it has ended so easily and painlessly. And I can't wait to start all over again!