The hidden beauty of weening my child

Sometimes difficult decisions are necessary in order for positive change to happen. This is what happened to me when deciding to start weening my almost 2 and half year old son Kekaula, from breastfeeding. Since I did not have to ween my daughter, now 6, as she did it by herself by two and a half, I was unfamiliar with the process as well as heartbroken that I had to make the choice and not my son. It was an internal battle for me to find peace with my decision. I truly love breastfeeding. I love the bonding that happens. I love the snuggling. I love being able to provide for my child in that way. I also know that once the breastfeeding is over, I will never get those moments back with my child.

But Kekaula has not been breastfeeding alone. For the past 9 months he has been sharing the breast with his baby brother. As far as blissful happy mothering moments go, tandem feeding has got to be my number one. And one that proved to be challenging towards the end there. I knew I would not cut off Kekaula from the breast when his brother arrived. For many reasons, and the main one being I did not want Kekaula to feel as though I was giving him less because another baby was in the house. I did not anticipate the amount of bonding that would happen between the two of them as I would feed them at the same time. Some of my most precious moments were looking down at the two of them, plugged in it at the source as I like to say it, and seeing Kekaula gently stroke his brother head (or vice versa) while they share in one of the most natural human experiences there are. Sometimes they would hold hands, sometimes they would giggle. Always, they shared food and love. The most perfect combination in my opinion.

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But it got physically draining for me. Jolan, who is just 9 months old, breast feeds on demand, which is many times a day. After several months of letting Kekaula breast feed on demand as well i had cut him down to  twice a day: after nap, and in the morning when he comes in to our bed. The mornings started getting brutal. Jolan is not a sleeper. He wakes up ALOT at night. Nothing terrible, he goes back to sleep very quickly, but it is still frequent. Needless to say, I have been sleep deprived for months. Add to that a boob demanding two year old at 5 or 6 in the morning and you have a recipe for a grumpy start of the day. I am not down for grumpy at any time of the day. I make a point to do what I need to do to be genuinely positive and happy. And these 5 am demands became draining and made me genuinely grumpy. I knew something had to give. It was a battle for me. I kept on looking for ways to make these early morning feedings work for everyone. But this was the time when a difficult decision had to be made in order for positive change to happen. And positive it was!

First of all the process wasn’t nearly as terrible as I had expected. It’s been hard, and it is not fully over yet, but it hasn’t been terrible. Second of all, the amount of bonding that has been happening between Kekaula and I is so much more than I could have imagined!! When Kekaula comes in demanding the boob in the morning, I tell him no, we don’t do that anymore. The first few times were hard and he would cry and I would try and unsuccessfully explain myself ( to a 2 year old, yes I know). But then he started asking for a snuggle instead. This boy is the best snuggler I know. Seriously. And I have 4 people I get to snuggle as much as I want on daily basis. He is the best (thank goodness 2 of them can’t read this).

This morning, as usual, Kekaula comes in early and asks for the boob. I say no but we can snuggle instead. After a couple minutes of complaining he gives in and it was the best snuggle I have had all week. His little body fully embracing mine, his breathing deepening as he falls back asleep on my chest. In the mean time Jolan wakes up and because Kekaula and I feel like one in this moment, I can easily shift my body in order to feed Jolan while still holding Kekaula close to me. As I lay awake, holding both of my sleeping children, I am overcome with happiness. The long nights, the tired mornings, the frustrated moments in my day, are all worth it because of moments like these. Moments I had dreaded in my mind that turn out to be more beautiful than I could have imagined. Weening Kekaula did not mean cutting him or me off from any bonding moments, it just means we had to shift the way we were going to do that. And in all honesty, even though I still feel a tinge of sadness at the fact that I will never again share a breastfeeding moment with him, I get so much more out of our snuggling time than I did out of him latching on. And eventually, he will just come in and lay down in bed and snuggle without a fight for the boob first. And I will look forward to that because eventually, that is another moment that will have an end. Although I anticipate the snuggling years to last much longer than the breast feeding years 🙂

(If anyone is interested in knowing details in how I weened Kekaula, I am happy to share, just ask)

The power of choice

I had started writing a post a couple weeks back about my experience camping with 20 other families and the food they served. I never ended up publishing it because it seemed, well a little too judgmental. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find ways to express myself in a respectful manner towards the way some people feed their children. After countless times, I decided to just stop writing and reflect really what it was I wanted to say. And what it came down to is that, as a relatively new parent, I am still trying to find ways to raise my children as healthy as possible in a world where processed foods and sugar is a staple in most homes and at most social events.

While I can sit there and point fingers on how terrible it is to give your kids sugary boxed cereal for breakfast and processed meats with pre-sliced bread for lunch, the truth remains the same: pointing fingers won’t make the junk food go away nor will it make me a better parent. Although I have made it one of my goals as a mother to raise my children to have strong immune systems, to rarely get sick, to eat their vegetables and have a healthy upbringing, other people have different goals set for their kids. And I am no one to say their goals aren’t as valuable as mine. They are just different. I value health over anything else as I believe physical health to be the foundation for a happy, productive, energetic life. While I spend hours in my kitchen in order to accomplish that, other families will spend hours at museums or educational venues to teach their kids about other life values. (Not that you can’t do both).

Although I am aware I do things differently than  most parents, and I have accepted the fact that I am a minority when it comes to being this health conscious with my family, it has been a struggle for me to feel completely comfortable with the amount of junk food food that is served every time we are out. And we have a very social life, so we are out often. Typically I let my daughter have some juice and dessert, or cookies, when we are at events, constantly reminding myself that as long as I feed her well at home, she has a good foundation for her health. But still, I remained annoyed that she would have so much sugar just because we weren’t at home, and a part of me was not okay with that. In addition, my daughter is not one to turn down sweets or to ever feel like she had enough (I’ve tried letting her keep her bag of Halloween candy hoping she would get sick of it, but no). I’ve been feeling helpless at these parties because I do not want to be the parent telling her kid no all the time while she is watching other kids indulge. Until tonight. My daughter graduated pre-school tonight (she’s going to kindergarten!!!) and there was a potluck afterwards. As usual the amount of sugar at the dessert table was overwhelming, and the juice boxes were flowing. I was bracing myself for yet another night of over indulging. When it dawned on me, I need to give her choices. Kids do GREAT with choices. Typically with choices, it’s a win-win (at least for me, until she catches on that both choices are in my favor most of the time). I caught my daughter before she punctured the juice box with the straw and I told her, “You can either have the juice box now, or you can have dessert after dinner, which one do you want?” She put down the juice box. Luckily I have a kid who eats most of her vegetables, so after serving her a good helping and she ate it, she asked for dessert. I took her to the overflowing dessert table, and told her, “You get ONE. Pick whichever one you want and that’s it”. She picked the one that most appealing to the eye and went on her merry way with no complaints. The party ended and she didn’t come back once asking for more treats. I was impressed. And somewhat surprised. How had I not thought of this before? I use the “Do you want this or this?” method at home for many things with great success, and somehow, not until tonight had it occurred to me to use it for sugar when we are out.

I know this is the first night, and I am staying open to the fact that this might not work every time, but for now I feel successful, and my daughter came home talking happily about her monkey shaped cake pop.