Saturday, January 4, 2014

Growing Pains

I've heard the term before. (Apart from the 80's sitcom) I've always understood it to refer to the general aches and pains that a child feels when they're going through a growth spurt. Or, maybe even the typical emotional stuff that we all go through as they try to navigate the tricky business of, well, growing up. This past year the term has taken on a whole new meaning. No one was ever kind enough to clue me in to the fact that growing pains are not just for the kid. In fact, I'm now convinced that the parental component is sometimes worse than the achy shins I felt when I was 12 (and achy shins were pretty awful). These past few week have been one of those times: 

I'm trying to wean Klair.
And, even though her world has been completely turned upside down,
I think I might be taking it harder than she is. 

I've done everything I'm supposed to when it comes to feeding Klair. They recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then continuing to breastfeed with solids until a year. I did that. 12 months came and I was pretty proud of my accomplishment. But then 12 months went and the "official" recommendations ran out. I guess I always (naively) imagined that the magical 12 month mark would come and she would begin weaning herself in some natural coming of age progression. Not so. She is now 13 months old and I'm left guessing what's best for the next step.  

There are so many "unofficial" ideas about what is best floating around the internet. It's dizzying to say the least and trying to siphon through all the opinions seems pretty pointless. At Klair's 12 month appointment I was hopeful to receive some direction from her pediatrician. No such luck. At the end of the day he and the AAP essentially say it's up to the mother and the child... but, last I checked Klair can't really make these kinds of decisions for herself. 

So, basically what I'm being told is "good luck, Mom! It's up to you to figure it out." 

Without a conclusive stance from the research, and a husband who is supportive of whatever I decide (which translates as "Yep, Sweetie, that's your territory") I was left to my own devices. My original intent was to reduce the number of feedings down to one before bed and keep this up until 18 months or so. In my mind, this seemed to satisfy my desire to keep breastfeeding for a bit (because Klair and I enjoy it so much) while staying within the bounds of what is culturally acceptable--a.k.a. not too weird. I don't want to be one of those moms featured on Time magazine after all. Additionally, I thought it would be beneficial to continue giving her antibodies through cold and flu season. It seemed like a reasonable plan. 

Her 12 month appointment threw a wrench in my plans. Her stats for weight and height came in and the data was slightly worrisome. She has always been tall for her age, and this didn't change. She came in at about the 80th percentile (a slight dip from her previous 90th percentile, but tall all the same). Her weight was a different story. She went from being in the 75th percentile for weight, down to about the 35th. I had noticed that she was thinning out--her rolls on her thighs went from 2 per leg to 1--but I was unaware how much she had lost. The doctor indicated that this was a pretty normal trend for breastfed babies, and that even though she was skinny he wasn't too alarmed--provided the trend didn't continue. Ultimately I could continue breastfeeding, but I needed to make sure she wasn't forgoing food in favor of milk and exacerbating the weight loss. 

Over the next few weeks I noticed that she started doing exactly this. When she first started solids she was so excited about them that it was all she wanted. Apparently food lost its novelty because her desire for it waned a bit and milk became cool again. At the year mark she did the opposite of what I had hoped and decided that milk was the bees knees and that food was barely tolerable. She continued to thin out and the need for weaning became more and more apparent. 

Thus, I started the dreaded yet evidently necessary process. I quickly got rid of her afternoon feeding (it was more of a snack) and was down to three feedings a day--morning, nap time, and bed time. I then eliminated her morning feeding without too much fuss and it seemed the process might actually go smoothly. I was wrong. I attempted to stop feeding her at nap time and bed time (thinking that it would be too confusing to stop one and not the other pre-sleep feeding) and she. lost. it. !

I have never seen my baby so upset. I knew she loved breast milk. I had no idea that her entire universe revolved around it. 

To borrow a term from the Book of Mormon, there was a lot of "wailing and gnashing of teeth." She cried so hard I thought she might throw up. Nothing I could do would console her (well, except breastfeeding of course). Luckily, Sam was home for the holidays so he stepped in. He had to deal with a fair amount of crying, but with his super human patience (and a lack of milk to give) he was able to get her to sleep. I, on the other hand, had to remove myself from the equation entirely or she would lose it all over again. 

I had literally gone from hero to zero in her eyes. The tension between us was palpable. The whole process was extremely emotional and painful for me... hence, the title of this post. I had discovered how applicable growing pains are to the parent. 

Despite how hard it all was, it was working. Klair was doing well enough adjusting for those first couple of days and I hoped this meant she could make the transition and maybe even learn to like me again. 

...and then Sam had to go back to work. 

Pardon my French, but all hell broke loose. That first day that I tried to put her down for a nap without feeding her was nothing short of a disaster. She was obviously exhausted--quite ready for a nap. But, when she realized that I wasn't going to breastfeed her she started the crying. I tried everything I could think of--reading, singing, rocking, swaddling, swaying--but nothing could stay the incessant, heartbreaking cries. Finally, after over an hour of this, I broke. I started crying, trying to explain to her through my tears why I was doing this. 

To my surprise, a miracle happened. She turned her head, peered into my tear-filled eyes, and stopped crying. She looked confused, yet contemplative-- as if trying to work through it all in her mind. Then, she deliberately and tenderly touched my face and started babbling in a calm, happy manner. It felt like she was trying to reassure me--no, actually... I'm convinced that is exactly what she was doing. I marveled at the empathy, and all around brilliance my child had just displayed. In that moment I caught a glimpse of how truly wise beyond her years my baby girl is. 

After our tender moment, she wasn't so resistant to my efforts to help her sleep. I re-swaddled her, she relaxed into my arms, and we rocked until she finally drifted off. She had compromised. 

I decided to do the same. 

I started feeding her before sleep-time again. I think perhaps in my efforts to wean her, I had tried to do too much all at once. Now that she is down to just two feedings a day, she is eating more solids and it seems her appetite has increased. And, with some semblance of normalcy restored for, she is happy again. Apparently she wasn't ready to go cold-turkey...and neither was I. I still plan to wean her completely in the near future, but I'm not sure of the time table quite yet. 

Has anyone had any similar experiences with a baby who just wouldn't wean? Am I the only one who feels like this process is a confusing, roller coaster of emotions? 

Klair during nap time after throwing a fit to go to sleep. We put her in her crib to see if her tiredness would overtake her. Apparently it did...while she was sitting up. Stubborn girl.


  1. poor mama and poor baby! that sounds so hard. so much of this motherhood stuff is SO hard. as we enter 6 month I don't know how to approach solids, sleep training, night weaning - sometimes it's so overwhelming. it is so clear that you are such a great mom who loves her so much and you are doing the best for her!

    1. Aw, thank you! I think that YOU are a great mom! I remember that 6 month phase... it seems like there are so many changes that come at you really fast around that time. You'll figure it out. It seems like everyone will give you their ten cents, but ultimately you'll figure out what is best for your baby girl and it will work for you!

  2. oh i know how you feel! my baby is 16 months and LOVES to nurse. I tried weaning her around 12 months and we had wailing and gnashing of teeth as well. haha. then she got sick so we went back to breastfeeding. ahh, motherhood is so confusing sometimes :) GOOD LUCK! you're doing AWESOME! xo

    1. Confusing... Yep. That sums it up perfectly. We are always trying to do what's best but half the time we have to guess what "best" actually means!

  3. Hey! Thanks for sharing! We don't have kids yet (can't wait though) and I love it when moms share honestly and openly! Hang in there! <3

    1. Thank you! That's so sweet of you to say. I'm sure you will be a wonderful mother when the time comes!

  4. Oh, the heartache! It is sooo hard to wean. But you are doing the right thing mama. In my limited experience, you just know when they're ready to quit (in the U.S. they technically don't need those nutrients, they can get them other places, they just enjoy the comfort) even though you deny it. You'll probably have another rough week. I suggest weaning one feeding off at a time and replacing it with something else. We read stories before nap and bedtime. Good luck! There's really no one right way.

    1. Thank you! And thanks for the advice. She won't let me replace it... At least not yet. She'll go without before taking anything else. Stubborn girl. Books do seem to calm her down... Maybe we'll have to have readathons until she either gives in to sleep or the sippy cup... Thanks for the idea!

  5. My little one exclusively breastfed for a year straight because she did not like any solids! So at the 13 month mark I weaned her cold turkey :( it was a very difficult experience...haha. I just had to hold and rock her. I think you are doing a great job mama!

    p.s. I like your Book of Mormon references! Lol "Wailing and gnashing of teeth"



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