|The Princess, age 2. Probably thinking about my boobs.|
Yeah. Imagine a two year old. Now imagine breastfeeding that two year old. Yay!
That's not what this post is about.
This post is about that moment when you look down at the gargantuan child in your lap, latched on and watching Blue's Clues out of her peripheral vision, and think, "I have had enough."
Here's the thing about my daughter. She didn't sleep. Ever. At all. From the moment we brought her home, she fought sleep. I quickly discovered the only thing that would lull her into actual slumber: nursing. Yes, I know what the books say about nursing babies to sleep. But it worked, and I was a sleep-deprived, post-partum-depressed, first-time mother. I went with it.
To the point that, though I'd never planned to cosleep, she moved right into bed with me so she could nurse all. night. long.
To the point that as she got bigger and started talking, she actually referred to the act of nursing as "nigh-night."
To the point that I spent hours every evening lying on my bed in the dark with my toddler nursing and nursing and nursing, trying to trick her into falling asleep. My friends never saw me; if we had people over, I disappeared at 7 p.m. and often didn't return. Because when I finally did succeed in getting this little Princess to sleep, I had to sneak silently and stealthily from the bed and the room, praying that she'd stay asleep. Because if I disturbed her, and she woke? We started all over.
It was insane.
When she turned 2, I had had enough. It had to stop. But how? She was so dependent upon it. Nursing was her security blanket, her binky, her everything. How could I tear it away from her? This thing that had been a source of comfort and solace her entire life, how could I just...take it?
Nursing had always been a positive experience, and I couldn't bring myself to end it on a negative note.
I tried. I tried to tell her that it was time to be a big girl, to sleep with a cup of water and a teddy bear and a special blanket and special goodnight music. I read books, I scoured the internet, I called my mother. I tried everything. I tried cradling her with the cup of water, then a cup of warm milk. I tried rocking her. I tried letting her cry.
But this was a 2-year-old child I was dealing with. They're not known for being, you know, compliant and easy to change. And she was set in her ways. Nothing worked.
So this is what I did.
One day, we went to Target and I had her pick out a special sippy cup. Now, to be clear, she'd been drinking from cups forever at this point. She drank cow's milk during the day and with meals. The nursing was only when she needed to sleep. So we picked out a special, one-of-a-kind "big girl" cup. A nigh-night cup. I told her she couldn't use it now, because she was still a baby. But someday, she'd need it.
I put it up on a shelf where she could see it but not reach it. We talked about it. For about a week, we talked about how when big girls go to bed, they use a big girl cup instead of mommy's, ahem, "nigh-nights."
I told her that nigh-nights are for babies. And it only tastes good for babies. I told her that when she's a big girl, nigh-nights won't taste good anymore.
We did this for about a week. Every night we had this conversation.
"Are you ready for nigh-night?"
"NIGH-NIGHT," she'd say, tugging at my shirt.
"OK. I wonder if you're a big girl yet?"
She'd look at me suspiciously.
"Do you think this will still taste good?"
"Hmm. Well, we'll see."
Then she'd nurse to sleep.
Until one night, something was different.
Because friends? I put vinegar on my nipples.
I snuck into the kitchen before bedtime and poisoned the water hole, if you will. I actually tucked vinegar-soaked cotton right into my bra, just to be sure it stayed fresh. Then I went and picked her up and cuddled her just like I always had. Kissed her and played with her and read her a story.
"Are you ready for nigh-night?"
"I wonder if you're a big girl yet? Do you think it will taste good?"
"Hmm. Well, let's see."
She latched on. She pulled off. She looked at me, wide-eyed and shocked. "Mommy! Nigh-nights YUCKY!" Then she dissolved into hysterical giggles. "YUCKY nigh-nights!"
I acted as surprised as she was. "What? Really?? Do you want to try again?? Are you SURE?"
"YUCKY NIGH-NIGHTS! Want my big girl cup. I a big girl! Big girl cup!"
We had to do it once more the following night. Just to be sure. But then? It was over. And I had a big girl.