Saturday, March 28, 2009

Marta, The Less Dramatic Of The Two (Really)

I can't remember the last time I nursed Berit, though I do recall being somewhat obsessed with weaning for at least three months leading up to it. It probably didn't help that I was five months pregnant at the time, and the first four months I had spent throwing up, in the hospital being rehydrated, and lying on the couch. So I have a feeling all of the trips with Daddy to his parents' house to give me some rest may have helped her make the transition. And just now I'm remembering having Trevor go to her in the middle of the night, and her crying, and me crying in bed listening to them on the monitor. So it happened, and it wasn't all that easy.

But it's sounding like a walk in the park compared to what's going on in Marta's world these days. At only 15 months old, we have two sources of drama with her:

1. Nursing/weaning.

2. Separation anxiety.

Let's start with the first. Berit was 18 months old when I finally weaned her, and I thought that was ridiculous. I know many children nurse for much longer, but for our family, it was too long. She didn't need to for the same reasons Marta doesn't need to now: She ate full meals, she drank plenty of milk and water during the day and it wore on my personal level of patience. 

The only reason I'm not pressing weaning on Marta is because she is comforted by nursing. She doesn't nurse to sleep, though when she wakes it's one of the only ways to calm her. Which brings us to the second part of our current situation...

I have never met a child who is so saddened by being away from her mother as is Marta. This is not to indicate my superiority as a mother; in fact I don't know why she is this way, as we're a family that tends to be together more than apart (Trevor's job is very flexible and he can always be at gatherings, bedtime, even playdates and lunch if we ask). Yet even if I'm in the kitchen washing dishes and Trevor is in the living room playing with the girls, just 15 feet or so away in full view of one another, Marta is crying to be with me. 

Poor Trevor. He's a great dad who actively plays with the kids whenever they're together. He's gentle and kind, gives them both a bath and gets them ready for bed each evening, and will go to either of them when I prod in the middle of the night. He's trying hard to help me with Marta's dependence on both me and my lactation delivery system, yet Marta refuses him every time she sees or hears me. Whenever I leave while she's sleeping and he gets her up from her nap, she's fine. And in fact she loves playing with him when I'm not in the picture -- it's just having the option, I guess, makes her weepy and insecure. 

I'm a stay-at-home mom who almost never leaves the kids. We have a babysitter come for a few hours once a week and the kids LOVE her, and I even stay most of the time in another room working, and the whole time she's here Marta is saying, "Mommy-Mommy-Mommy-Mommy-MOMMY!" (For the record, Marta doesn't know I'm in the other room.)

I don't like the idea of forcing her to overcome this; I wouldn't put that on her tiny shoulders. But I'd very much like to help her deal, especially because...

In the beginning of June we have an overnight getaway planned for just Trevor and me, and the girls will be staying at our house with Trevor's parents. 

The girls love Trevor's parents, so that won't in itself terrify Marta. However, somehow before then we need to:

1. Wean Marta. (She nurses only before each of her two naps and once at bedtime, then throughout the night -- see below.)

2. End night wakings (about three or four times a night, and I nurse her then put her back to bed "drowsy but awake" and she falls asleep; yes, Trevor has gone to her during these and occasionally it works, but not twice in a row -- if this happens she simply won't go back to sleep, no matter how many hours pass, no matter how much Trevor rocks, offers her a cup of milk, until I go in and nurse her). (And, we are not the type of people who can ignore our baby's cries all night, nor is Berit the type of child who can sleep through screaming in the room next to hers.)

3. Ease the separation anxiety.

So.... I don't know where to go from here. I would love guidance, if you have any to offer; I would enjoy commiseration, if you've been there, done that. Thanks for reading, thanks for brainstorming. It takes a village... :)


Lori said...

As far as weaning, I didn't have any problems. Annie could've cared less, she wanted to stop at 2 months. And Maggie, didn't even notice. But, she did get up at night 2 times to drink her botthe until we let her cry it out at 9 months. Now, she's been teething and has a cold, so she's getting up more in the night again. I don't know.

As far as separation anxiety goes, I've found that you just have to do it. When your sitter comes, get out of the house so you don't have to hear the screams. My girls do the same. Annie can be bribed with candy and Maggie just fusses a little, then calms down. Perhaps out of sight, out of mind might just kick it sooner than later, hopefully. Marta may scream, and we mothers HATE hearing that, but the more frequently you leave her, with Trev or sitter, she get those coping mechanisms. Maybe, if she were doing something fun, outside of the house, new enviromment that she's not used to you always being there in, she'd do better. Gradually, the more time spent away from mommy, the easier it becomes on her. She'll learn that you always come back.

It the age and part of normal development. It feels good to know that they depend on you, unconditional love is the best, but know too that they can depend on other people too, people who love them, for a little while at least.

Cluck and Tweet said...

oh, Lisa, I feel your pain. Lizzie will nurse until she's...good gravy I can't even type what I think for fear of embarrassment. She's only 13 months, so we've got time, but still, I shutter at the thought.

Here's what Dr. Sears suggests:
The key to healthy weaning is doing it gradually. Remember, you are helping your child into a new stage of development, not forcing him into it. This is not the time for you and your husband to go on a week-long vacation to the Bahamas. Weaning by desertion is traumatic and may backfire. The following are suggestions for gradually weaning your child:

Start by skipping a least favorite feeding, such as in the middle of the day. Instead, engage in a fun activity together, such as reading a book or playing a game. Nap and night nursings are favorite feedings and will probably be the last to go.

Minimize situations that induce breastfeeding, such as sitting in a rocking chair or cradling baby. If you put baby in a familiar breastfeeding setting, he will want to breastfeed.

Use the "don't offer, don't refuse" method. Don't go out of your way to remind her to nurse. However, if your child persists, or her behavior deteriorates, this may indicate that breastfeeding is still a need rather than a want. Watch your child and trust your intuition.

Become a moving target. Don't sit down in one place for any length of time. But, remember, weaning means releasing, not rejecting. Breastfeeding helps the child venture from the known to the unknown. If you don't let your child make brief pit stops, he may insist on lengthy feedings when he finally gets you to sit down. Checking into homebase and refueling reassures him that it's okay to explore his environment, and gives him the emotional boost to venture out. Rejecting this need could developmentally cripple your child.

Keep baby busy. Nothing triggers the desire to breastfeed like boredom. Sing songs, read books, or go on an outing together.

Set limits. Putting limits on nursing, such as: "We only nurse when Mr. Sun goes down and when Mr. Sun comes up" does not make you a bad parent.

Don't wean baby from you to an object, such as a stuffed animal or blanket. Ideally, you want to wean baby from your breast to an alternative source of emotional nourishment. This is when dad should begin to take on a more involved role in comforting. As dad's role in baby's life becomes bigger, nursing will be less important.

Expect breastfeeding to increase during times of illness. These are times when your child needs comfort and an immune system boost.

All that aside, I'm clueless-- Lizzie still gets up that much to nurse too, and Max still climbs into our bed (at 4) three of four times a week (that co-sleeping thing really doesn't disappear in my kids until around age 6) basically, I haven't had a full night sleep in almost 10 years!