Why Weaning Has Been Bloody Miserable 2nd Time Roundby Kate Tunstall
Firstly, weaning has two meanings, doesn’t it? But that’s okay, I can easily clarify: second time around both aspects have so far been super fun to navigate.
My toddler, known on the blog as Elfin, has not long turned two and I started trying to night wean her ages ago. I don’t even remember how old she was at the time but it was probably not far off a year ago. As with every baby-related challenge, what I’d thought was tough with my eldest, Pixie, was actually a breeze. Bless me, how naive I was!
I think I gave up my night weaning efforts after the third failed attempt. I’d anticipated a night or two of reluctance - when she continued to resist after a whole week, I quickly realised that everybody would sleep better if I just gave her the milk (I have a fab tip for helping with this if you/your baby are not yet ready to night wean, but you’re desperate to get more sleep). It’s not easy when you feel that you’re essentially ‘giving in’, but neither is it fair on your preschooler to be disturbed for hours at a time during the night.
To put an end to the nocturnal dramas, my husband was keen for me to wean Elfin completely - until I pointed out that that was exactly what I attempting to achieve, and that this would have to continue until I reached said goal.
Or, I could just let her have the milk.
So, I made peace a long time ago with just letting her have the milk until she’s ready to sleep without it. There have been many comments about my decision (mostly negative - I recently made a video about them which you can watch here). Not least because…
Weaning Onto Solids
I wish I could say this has been easier. But arguably, it’s actually been worse…
My poor little one suffers from chronic constipation and it inevitably takes its toll on her appetite; but - of course - I need to encourage her to eat.
I find myself in a paradoxical cycle, whereby Elfin is in discomfort, so she refuses food and instead seeks comfort from milk; she needs calories so I give her the milk, so she’s not so hungry and refuses all food. But I need to encourage her to eat; so I withhold milk, which (alongside the discomfort) upsets her. At which point getting her to eat seems about as likely as her sleeping through the night without waking for yet more milk…
It would be funny if it were not so impossible to resolve.
Weaning Has Been Bloody Miserable Second Time Around
Until recently we were also dairy-free for the second time. Elfin had CMPA as a baby and the doctors were useless so I managed alone and we passed the milk ladder when Elfin was around 11 months old. But it occurred to me a couple of months ago that just because her terrible rash hadn’t returned, it didn’t necessarily mean that she wasn’t reacting in a different way. Could the constipation be eradicated through diet?
I eliminated dairy from both our diets. No mean feat considering that cheese and yoghurts are her favourite foods if she has any. Cooking became very difficult - and, frankly, a little boring. I could hardly blame Elfin for losing interest in eating when I felt similar myself!
I also felt guilty that Pixie’s diet was considerably restricted as I wouldn’t allow her to eat dairy in front of Elfin.
At least cutting out the food group appeared to be fixing the problem…Initially. After five weeks of being super strict and careful, I had to face facts: we’d had a good first week, which in hindsight was probably down to adapting to a change in diet. Since then things got so bad we called for an ambulance.
We’re now under the paediatrician and I’m optimistic Elfin’s newest meds are finally managing her constipation effectively. My hope is that once we are able to control Elfin’s bowel issues, we’ll be able to break the food-refusal cycle and she’ll find some interest in eating, and naturally begin to self-wean.
At least at night time? Please?
In the meantime, I console myself with the fact that my breastmilk continues to be nutritionally dense, providing her with the vitamins and minerals she’s missing out on from solids, as well as the comfort she so clearly requires when she’s suffering. I like to think that in that at least, I’m getting something right, even when it often feels like I’m getting it so very wrong.
Ultimately, we’ve clearly not successfully weaned yet, in either sense of the word. But just like with (lack of) sleep, we’ll get there when she’s ready.