I sat in the dark with her spread across my lap in standard nursing position. It was bedtime, her favorite of the feeding times, mostly for comfort. She was almost sure to fall asleep after filling up on both sides, and I would carefully place her on her back in her crib and gently lay her fuzzy pink blanket across her still, peaceful little body.
It’s been our routine for nine and a half months. I’ve sacrificed nights out for it. I’ve given up reading bedtime books to Nate and Sam for it. I even forfeited an out-of-town family wedding for it. I mean, it was Tighe’s family, but still. Open bar is open bar.
But tonight, she did not want the boob.
She had had one of the biggest dinners I’d ever seen her eat. While I was making dinner, I threw some orange slices and crackers on her tray and glanced at her every few minutes to make sure she wasn’t choking as I scurried around the kitchen. When Tighe came home, I handed him a container of Greek yogurt and a plastic spoon.
“Here,” I said, “keep her busy.”
By the time she had finished that, we were all sitting down at the table, so I handed her a chunk of soft apple, a dinner roll, two small slices of pizza, and some slivers of pepper. Oh, and some applesauce.
She pretty much ate it all.
“We need to talk about weaning,” I had told the pediatrician two weeks prior.
Tess had been refusing a bottle for about five months and Tighe and I are taking a trip—no kids!—in December. No matter what, Tess is not invited.
“Sure,” the doctor said. “Well, I’m not worried about her gaining weight. She’s on a great growth curve and getting plenty of nutrition. You can quit trying the bottle. Cut back on the nursing when you can and just give her water or milk or whatever in her sippy cup. She’ll figure it out.”
She met my eyes and nodded with assurance, “She will.”
Well, that seemed easy enough. So I did what she said. I cut back nursing to first thing in the morning, lunchtime, and bedtime. Tess was only nursing for about five minutes each time anyway. In the meantime, she ate three solid meals and at least one decent sized snack.
But I was never very forceful about the sippy cup. They’re so gross, sticky and covered in crusty food particles. And no matter what, they all seem to leak.
Tess was intrigued by it, though. She liked fingering the soft nipple and dragging it with her as she clambered around on the floor. She seemed to understand that hydration is important, but she never really seemed to get many fluids out of it.
So, the night after her gluttonous feast, she clamped it to her chest as Tighe carried her upstairs to change her diaper and put her pajamas on. I joined them upstairs after I had cleaned up dinner. Sam and Tess were sitting next to each other on the carpet in the hallway and he was pouring the sippy cup into her mouth. His face had the sinister smile of a frat boy hazing a freshman with a beer bong.
“Easy, Sam,” I warned. “Please don’t drown her.”
But she seemed to enjoy it. So he persisted. She guzzled for several minutes.
After saying good night to Nate and Sam, I corralled her into her room, turned out the lights, and cradled her in my lap.
She was still clutching her pink sippy cup.
I unbuttoned my shirt and instead of turning her body into mine as she usually does, she tilted her cup to her face and started chugging the water. My nipple started spraying. Instinct.
After a few minutes, she turned and began sucking my nipple. But it didn’t last. There was a faint glow from the battery-powered Christmas candle in her window and in the dim light, she met my eyes, holding my gaze for a few moments.
I lifted her up and pivoted her body to the other side of my chest. She didn’t even try. Instead, she brought her water to her mouth. After a few sips, she pointed her head upward and stared at the ceiling, avoiding my eyes.
Is this what she looks like before she soothes herself to sleep?
She arched her head back again, trying to get comfortable.
This is it, I thought. She’s ready to sleep. This could be the end. Thank you, Sam.
I put her in her crib, covered her in her fuzzy pink blanket, pulled her door shut with out a sound and crept down the steps, stunned.
Sam still throws at least one solid, absolutely irrational tantrum a day. He frequently wakes us up at the crack of dawn to poop after refusing to poop for at least an entire day before that. He protests at bedtime because he “hates to sleep” and he’s afraid of bad guys, which is all code for ‘he feels uncomfortable and needs to poop.’ He makes us late every time we leave the house, and at almost four years old, can barely dress himself.
Yet he can wean a baby? Something I’ve been struggling with for months?