I started weaning my son this week, and it has gone a lot smoother than I thought, but there have been some challenging and hard moments. The first day was like, “WHY?” As he cried and grabbed at my shirt. I know he doesn’t really want the milk because he was hungry (he had just gobbled downed ground turkey and pasta with peas for dinner) but emotionally. Oliver was use to our rhythm and closeness several times a day (especially at bedtime). Nursing a child is one of the most intimate and powerful bonding experiences on this side of heaven. When you’re so close, skin touches, you stare into each other’s eyes, inhale one another’s scent, and spend time in silence and awareness of one another. Babies rely on their mom for feedings not just for hunger and thirst, but for emotional support, which solidifies trust in their parent/caregiver. My son would often tenderly swipe is small palms across my neck and chest, feeling the texture of my skin or shirt. He would discover and fiddle with the zipper, buttons or hem of my blouse or jacket, and grab or pull on my jewelry. We would make contact and just be together, listening to one another breathe. I loved knowing it was a comfort in knowing he can trust and rely on me, as well as that I was nourishing his body and soul. It was also a good way to get us both to slow down a few times a day, take deep breaths and savor life.
Nursing wasn’t always precious and tender. There were times he would bang on my chest, scratch and yank on my ears or nose, or even pinch me aggressively. Also, as he got bigger, it wasn’t as easy to modestly nurse him publicly. He would try to pull the cover off, or I couldn’t make the interaction unnoticeable with a 25 pound one year-old propped on my lap. I loved the ability and the easiness of being able to just pop him on my breast whenever he was hungry, but I was so ready to wean him! I wanted my body back. He showed many signs of maturity and eagerness to move on full-time to eating solids. I stalled some, not wanting the sleepless nights of fighting him to bed without that mode of connection. I was worried if I stopped nursing, that emotional bond wouldn’t be there anymore, or he would get sick because he wouldn’t be getting the powerful vitamin and nutrients breastmilk promises. My husband and I would discuss pro’s and con’s of both, and I ultimately just really wanted him on board because I knew I would need support emotionally and a partner to help take over at night to break that ritual.
Last Wednesday, Oliver never once asked to be nursed during the day. We were doing good on feeding him solids and I gave him a bottle of goat’s milk on the way to the study group I was meeting up with. It amazed me to see how happy and unfazed he was with no nursing. When my husband got home from work, I told him how Oliver hadn’t nursed since 4am that morning. He was shocked. We impromptu decided to start the weaning process. The first two nights were tough getting up mid-sleep and it taking 2-3 hours to get our son back in bed, but by night 3 he slept most the night and only needed gentle rocking to get him back into his crib. Oliver definitely asked for the nursing and has tried to communicate it by tugging on my shirt, but I have found ways to distract him or offer him solid foods that immediately took away his attention. We are discovering new ways to bond, through reading and playing, songs and sweet snuggles, and by me rocking him to sleep. It was emotionally for me, yet I knew this was a natural next step for all children that was important for both of us to make.
I can’t help but think of weaning in the life of a believer, as I watch my son growing and his cravings for solids have grown, and he is ready to move on to bigger things. If we continue to act like new believers, always going for what’s basic and easy, and not willing to develop and be challenge beyond our day-to-day living, we remain stagnant, unprepared, and our faith will be dull and lifeless (Heb. 5:12-14). Instead of always looking for what’s convenient, what about pushing ourselves to the next level? Instead of re-reading Psalms and Proverbs, how about tackling some Old Testament narrative or the prophets? We could stay home and bing-watch Netflicks, or we could go out and join the service project we always say we would do but have never tried? How about seeing our neighbor outside and instead of turning away, jump at the chance to say hello and start a conversation? Have that difficult conversation with our friend who’s living a life of desperation and sin, frantically clawing for more. Go to the conference on fostering and adopting children. Invite someone different from you over for coffee or out to dinner. I know our culture and our society encourages and applauds what’s easy and comfortable. Don’t go out of your way, retreat from discomfort, and by no means put yourself out on a limb and be inconvenience! In fact, when you do this you are consider odd, strange, and radical. That is exactly what Jesus was. He spent time healing people on the sabbath. He went out of his way to heal the sick and encourage the downtrodden. Jesus spent time with those who were socially unacceptable. He didn’t have a home, only the clothes on his back. He allowed people to interrupt his meals and quiet time, never prioritizing his selfish desires or needs over others. I definitely believe we need to put our quiet time and self care as priorities, but if something obstructs those times, we can always put it aside in the moment and see if this is a new opportunity where God wants to stretch us.
Weaning didn’t feel right for me at first, it was emotional, it was uncomfortable, and Oliver wanted what was comforting in the moment. Listening to my child cry is not fun, and not trying to satisfy him but a basic need seemed so unnatural! But that would never help him grow in the long run! He would still be hungry for more, and only temporarily quench his infant tastebuds. Oliver needs different protein and carbs to sustain him in his toddler activities! He was emotionally confused, and I had to slowly teach him to train his thoughts to want to eat solid food and not just go for the liquids. It was frustrating, and we both wanted to quit! As our routine normalized, and he has learned to eat for all meal times, he no longer wants to nurse. He signals to me to eat by raising his hands to his mouth, and he is proud to be grown up and enjoys all his new textures and tastes.
I pray we can all struggle but breakthrough the process of weaning ourselves from the baby’s milk of our christianity, keep our focus eternal, and push through the hard things. David writes about learning to be satisfied in God alone, and he compares himself with a weaned child (Psalm 131:2). As we are train and focus our desires on advancing and cultivating our faith, these challenges will strengthen, inspire and grow us, and we will gain a deeper intimacy with God.