I didn’t think this would make me emotional.
I wrote this whole post down on my phone a few days ago, matter of factly and without the slightest of wobbles.
But as I was looking through the latest photos of Arlo to use for this post, it hit me with a sudden woosh.
Because this is the greatest signifier that my biggest boy is growing up before my eyes. This is the biggest change to our dynamic as mother and child so far.
And it’s also the first time I’ve weaned a child from breastfeeding.
If you’ve been reading my breastfeeding posts, you will know that I’ve been keen for Arlo to stop breastfeeding, and that I’ve been upping the frequency of conversations about how big boys and girls stop breastfeeding eventually, when they are ready.
One day a few weeks ago, I chose an opportune moment to drop the weaning topic into conversation yet again.
“Arlo, do you think maybe you might stop having nonnos soon?”
I think for this particular conversation, Sam was also there to chime in with a bit of helpful encouragement and reinforcement of our message. “Yes, not many big boys need nonnos any more. And you are such a big boy now!”
Usually, at this point, Arlo would say, “But SOME big boys DO”, and we would leave the conversation at that. I never wanted to force him, I just wanted to let him know that the option was there when he was ready.
But this time he responded with, “Hmmm, I think tomorrow. Tomorrow morning I WON’T ask for nonnos”.
The next morning rolled around, and Arlo stumbled into our room, and DIDN’T ASK FOR MILK. Instead, we had a chat and a cuddle, and headed downstairs for breakfast.
I’m not sure about Arlo, but for me, this felt quite strange. We’d NEVER had a morning that played out like that before. He’d NEVER not had morning milk whilst I was around.
Sam and I had a hushed chat in the kitchen whilst waiting for the kettle – we couldn’t believe that he’d stuck to his word and just done it with no fuss or ceremony.
But with good old straight talking Arlo, I suppose we shouldn’t have expected anything else.
I hesitated to acknowledge it verbally with Arlo, as I wasn’t sure if bringing it up would upset him or make him remember what he was missing. But I wanted to let him know how proud we were of how he handled it, and also to keep that encouraging message fresh in his mind before the next morning. So, at bedtime we had a big cuddle and Arlo beamed all the way through our chat about how amazing he had been at not having milk.
He has been proudly and excitedly telling anyone who will listen about how he no longer has nonnos any more. And whilst this can be mega awkward for me, I am very happy that he sees it as an exciting newsworthy item, in the same way that he will tell people “T-Rex is not my favourite dinosaur any more, my new favourite dinosaur is Muttaburasaurus!”
I am thrilled that it is a happy new development for him, rather than a traumatic one.
The thing with weaning an older child, is that their memory lasts so much longer, I was worried that there could be a much greater sense of loss for him than had we weaned at 18 months or earlier.
You don’t forget things that quickly or easily at this age. I was wary that there could be a mourning process and that this phase could last for quite a while. I am also wary that the mourning part could still kick in, even though we haven’t experience it so far.
(As a side-note to this, I’m no longer granting Rory snacky feeds during the day or at nap times. He currently has one feed in the afternoon, one feed before he goes upstairs to bed, and then we are still on demand at night-time, although this has now reduced to 2 feeds on a standard night. With all these dropped feeds combined, I’m wondering whether there will be an effect on the breastfeeding amenorrhea that I am still experiencing. In fact, due to having 3 pregnancies in 2012, I only had 2 periods in that year, and nothing since that summer. So that’s gonna be a bit of a reality shock when my cycle kicks in again. My breasts have reduced a small amount in size since cutting down feeds – this is the most I’ve ever cut down in one go – which gives me hope that one day when I eventually stop breastfeeding altogether, my breasts might return to a size that I am happier with. Woohoo).
Our mornings continued in the same manner as the first, and as I am writing this post, it has been two weeks. So I think I can say that Arlo is officially weaned from breastfeeding at almost four years old.
It would be wrong to call it ‘self-weaning’.
If it wasn’t for the persistent hinting from me, actively putting that thought in his head, I think he would have been happy to continue having milk in the morning indefinitely. He is so focussed on routine, he’s definitely not one to casually ‘forget’ to have milk one morning.
But I had made the decision a long while ago (at around the time that I realised he was not likely to stop) that I was OK with gently pushing him in that direction. And when it came down to it, the final choice was his.
I do feel a little bit emotional when I remember that he’s not breastfeeding any more, but that’s just the usual pangs of “oh my god they are growing up so fast!!” that familiar emotional territory whenever your children reach a milestone.
In reality, weaning happened so smoothly that by day 3 I’m not sure either of us even took the time to note the absence of our long-established morning time habit.
I’m taking that as a sign that it really was the right time.