Ellie Beck Petalplum - from baby to boy - the process of weaning

our weaning story

Sweet baby - on the process of weaning

I’m writing this down as it happens, as we go through this, because I’ve realised I didn’t fully write it down the last two times. Not that that really matters, because women have been & will be doing this long before & after. But our stories are all our own at any rate, no matter how universal. Anyway – our current weaning story is long & drawn out, it’s the sort of saga that you keep on thinking might end soon and then doesn’t. There’s been grumpiness (from me) and crying & kicking (from him), but I’m trying to rejoice in what will possibly be the last feed each time it happens.

Ari (who’s is now 12) weaned fairly easily when he was about 2 or so. I was pregnant at the time, and we’d been talking about weaning and slowly having less & less feeds during the day. Then one day he bit my me and I simply said that’s it. And if you’ve ever been pregnant and had your nipple bitten by a breastfeeding toddler then you’ll know where I was coming from. With Mishi (who just turned 10), I can barely even remember. I know I was in an intense state of tiredness all the time. Over 6 years of being pregnant and breastfeeding sure takes its toll on you doesn’t it. So, I can’t recall what age she was exactly. Not quite 2 perhaps. But she did it herself, very naturally. She pretty much toilet trained herself and started getting herself dressed when she was 1, so you know – one of those kids who just wanted to be doing all the big girl things.

Ellie Beck Petalplum - new born baby - first skin contact - talking about breastfeeding

Well, things are different with River. He’s coming up to 2 1/2 and loves his ‘milkbar’ more than I can even know. Over the past few months we’ve gone through ‘sleep-through-the-night’ to asking for milkbar in his sleep every 20 minutes. My levels of tiredness each night has determined how resolute I’ve been in saying no to all those requests. It’s a bit hard when someone’s kicking you, screaming, hitting and pinching and spends all night groping down your top. I’ve taken to sleeping flat on my stomach so he can’t help himself to the milkbar. You know when they get to the age of self-service! I feel like the only way to stop him some days and nights is with an iron bra.

During the day he lets me know he’s ready for a nap by quietly coming up and saying milkbar in the sweetest but cheekiest little voice. It’s like he knows we’re trying to stop the milkbar, but he also knows he can have it for nap time. I must admit he’s tricked me a few times needing more than one nap a day. ‘Lie down mummy and have milkbar’ and drags me off to bed. Why are toddlers so smart!

A few weeks ago when I went to Melbourne for three nights, River had some extreme crying and tantrums. We’d assumed he’d have been weaned when I booked my Melbourne trip; I had never planned such an intense process for either of them. On the third night Sam reported that River went to bed easily and slept all through the night – so four full days without milk. The moment I came home, he climbed on my lap and pulled down my top. And we were back into breastfeeding again.

Weaning isn’t about cutting off or stopping something, it’s about slowly easing off one thing and easing onto another. So, while I’m drawing back with breastfeeding, Sam and the kids are stepping in with more reading, cuddles, songs and patience.

During the night, with a kicking toddler lying between us, Sam and I take it in turns to sing and pat him back to sleep. To ease his anger and upset feeling with whispered songs in his ear. Some nights he falls back to sleep quicker and easier, other nights it’s more of a trashing battle and we end up black & blue.

I sorta thought I kinda knew this parenting gig, but this little one is reminding me all over again and again that I know nothing. That the best guide I have is to listen to my instinct, and listen to him. Our children really do teach and guide us, if we stop and let them show us the way.

newborn baby breastfeeding - talking about weaningSo, while I feel endlessly tired, I’m trying hard to maintain the joy of breastfeeding. To think of it as a special nourishing bond between us. I look into his eyes, he gazes into mine. In those moments before he slips off to sleep I know that we have something with breastfeeding that cannot be replaced with anything else. And I melt away into the peace of it.

BUT – I have to say that there is a mixture of this joy and pure love combined with a desperate need for it all to be over. And I’m at the point of not wanting to feel resentful of it. Resentful of how drained I feel. I am not sure in traditional cultures, or other women, but I feel like the toll of being pregnant and full time breastfeeding for what ends up being 3 or 4 years (or more if you have a close age gap in your children) changes a woman’s body and her mind. I feel like we’re really meant to live together as a community with other women helping and supporting us – and that modern day world seems to make it harder for women to keep on breastfeeding. Heck – it’s even often referred to as “extended breastfeeding” once you’re feeding past one year old! That’s quite ridiculous, don’t you think.

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Update: So, it’s Wednesday today, and his last full breastfeed was last Friday morning. He’s still asking me at different times during day and night, but not demanding. He asks, but knows the answer. Daytime naps have been hard, as he’s so used to feeding down to sleep. We’re having to wear him out and ending up having late day sleeps (unless he falls asleep in the car). Mostly Sam is holding, cuddling, rocking him to sleep because River is mad at me – he pinches and kicks me, whereas he’d doing that so much with Sam.

So it seems the weaning is happening… not fully weaned yet. When does weaning become weaned? When he stops having it, or when he stops asking for it, or when he can go do sleep more easily without it? I’m not sure, it probably doesn’t matter. What matters is we’re working as a family team to create a transition that feels comfortable, loving, open, honest (me needing to say no), no guilt and all instinct.

Ellie Beck Petalplum boy in the grass afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum Grasses in afternoon lightEllie Beck Petalplum - from baby to boy - the process of weaning

raising global children – guardians of our future

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Raising conscious, thoughtful, considerate children can be hard. Raising my children to grow into free-thinking, emotionally aware, environmentally active, socially conscious humans sometimes feels impossible. Sending them out into the world with all my ideals shoved down their throat isn’t the answer, but letting them only listen to their teachers or peers isn’t the answer either. It’s finding a balance of sharing my own ideals and ways of living, while also letting them discover their own ways – their own thoughts, expectations of themselves. Letting them discover their heart-felt way of living in the world.

Guiding them gently is my way. Being clear on who I am, but giving them the space to discover who they are, how they fit in. Education, in my mind, is one of the best ways my children see what’s going on in their world, and can choose to be involved or how active they want to be to make changes. But education itself takes time to find the right learning tools, the best resources, the accurate information. Luckily they know that not everything on the internet is the right answer, they know to question things, dig deeper, find more answers, ask another expert. We talk about that a fair bit – how just because it’s written (in a book or on the internet) doesn’t make it real or right or the only solution. How they have to use their brain and their heart to come to their own conclusions.

Being children of this generation my kids love using online resources to learn. Videos and moving pictures, clicking to the next page, being able to quickly search something else….. THOUGH – Let it be known loud and clear – they love love love reading real paper books, and flipping through a giant resource book (bird books, art books, world maps, etc etc). For us it’s finding a balance of real paper books combined with online resources. Our home library shelves simply aren’t big enough to be filled with all the everythings they want to learn about, information they want to devour. But sometimes, do you think finding online resources can be hard? Scouring through to find accurate information that’s not filled with ugly photos, or strange references, or clickable popup adds.

Recently my lovely online friend Danielle, from Hippie In Disguise, (find her beautiful life here on IG as well as on her blog), told me about a new online project she’s been had the pleasure of watching a friend create. And when I saw it I got a bit excited too. I can’t wait to see all the future resources that my kids can access. It’s called Global Guardian Project, and is a monthly zine / resource guide featuring a different country each month. It focusses on environmental, social and humanitarian aspects inspiring children on how they can become change makers in the world. With stories of local families, ideas for making change in our own families, beautifully stunning photography, recipes, projects and so much more – this is a resource to welcome into your inbox every month.

Global Guardian Project

My kids aren’t homeschooled, but my idea of educating my children means that their learning doesn’t stop once they leave the classrooms. For me to be able to off them some beautiful resources to educate and inspire them means we can extend their learning while empowering their concept of how they fit into the world, and how small changes they make can have a giant ripple effect.

There’s a beautifully inspiring mini-zine about the Oceans, showing the quality of the issues, so you can a sample of what you’ll be receiving. The first issue is all about Brazil, and is available for pre-order over here – there’s so much excellent information and beautiful photos, as well as inspiring downloadable artprints / projects. Future issues will also have cooking and more art/craft projects as well.

The lovely Global Guardian Project founder, Rebecca, has given me a discount code for you to use to receive 10% off each monthly learning packet – use PETALPLUM to receive the discount. If you subscribe you’ll receive a beautiful looking world map posted to your home, so the kids can see exactly the region they’re learning about. The first issue is Brazil, and I can’t wait to find out more about this colourful vibrant country. {For the whole of Thursday 11th August there’s a 20% discount by using my code. So go try it out now.}

*I receive a small affiliate % from your purchase using my discount code. I only ever work with businesses whose ethics and ethos fit within mine, and who I think you, my dear reader, will benefit from. I thank you for supporting these small businesses, and for supporting me in this small way as well.

parenting truths – their ideals vs mine

My two big kids are of the age now where my alternative ways can sometimes be embarrassing. Where they moan at the things I don’t let them have, the things I make them do, the ways we live vs the ways they think other people live.

They’d happily go to the lolly shop each week and buy all the white sugar, fake coloured things. Really they know that’s not the way we live, and they get it (on a level) that’s it not good, and why it’s not good and all that. BUT they just wanna have the things their friends are having, and they just don’t wanna have their mum saying ‘can’t have this, can’t have that’. It can be a battlefield at the supermarket somedays, me saying no, them moaning why no. Even though they know.

Ok – to be fair to them, they really aren’t terrible at all. And they do get it! We stand at the cereal aisle and Ari looks longingly at all the things he’s tasted at his friends or grandmas house. But then he knows how my stance on it, and he agrees – he looks at the sugar content of each packet and we rationalise and talk about it. And sometimes we settle on a special treat, mostly we go without, or negotiate a middle group. Mostly we get plain bran flakes or rice pops from the health food shop (bulk, no packaging = bonus!).

And then they ask me for a new shirt or something else, for school camp or to go out. A ‘made in China’, mass-produced article of clothing. They will love it, and wear it until the end……..BUT – it’s not the way we aim to live. It’s not the way I am to live. And therein lies the difference. They understand, they get it, they know about child-labour, pesticides, ethical fashion, sustainable eating. But they still want the things they want.

As a parent my role is to guide my children, educate them, show them, give them options, raise them with ideals and an understanding of the world. My role is not to indoctrinate them, or force, bully or cajole them. I can give them everything, and plead, hope, wish…….but ultimately I have to let go and allow them to make their own choices. If we force our children to follow our ideals, blindly dragging them along, they won’t stay the course. We need to encourage them, enlighten them. Otherwise they’ll grow up and leave home and run as fast as they can to the nearest fast food chain, fast fashion, cheap living. By giving my children a solid understanding and a connection to their world I’m guiding them and allowing them to discover how to live themselves.

This means at times I’ll be strict and say no to the sugar, no to the fast fashion, no to the bright lights, but then at other times I’ll give a little more. I’ll question their choices, allow them to have an educated reason (rather than a throw-away “I want it” reason). I’ll give them the facts, and try to sway them, but not guilt them – and then let them make up their own minds. Being my mother’s daughter I’ll probably try to convince them a little more…. often met with eye rolling and “but mum!”.

I’m proof that living this way, and guiding your children in a gentle, simple, ‘this is just regular life’ way works. My mum was saying no to plastic bags at the supermarket when we were young, as a child we knew we were different, but we lived it, and still live it now. Some things are instilled in me, in my way of being…. and I hope this will the way for my children. That they’ll find their way back home by having it deeply nurtured in their souls, not forced onto their wellbeing.

I’d love to hear how you work through this – do your kids agree with everything or do you have challenges? Where do you draw the line & where do you sway and bend? Each day, at the moment, feels like we have new issues to work with and my ideals don’t always fit neatly nicely into what my children want….

what does guilt feel like?

I don’t ‘do’ guilt, I’ve never been interested in taking it on, and have spent a fair bit of my adult life trying to do away with it. Trying to breathe through any family guilt pushed upon me (some members of my extended family are quite good at the guilt trip – I’m not interested in carrying that on or being part of it). I think guilt is a horrible waste of time, emotion, energy and all the rest.

So – I must admit that I’m feeling a little surprised at myself that lately I’ve been feeling little bits of guilt slip in. I’m noticing noises in my head that sound like that voice of guilt. Sound like someone telling myself I’m not quite good enough, things are going wrong, I’m making mistakes.

I’m actually battling with not being overwhelmed by this new feeling. I don’t want to give in to it – I want to say goodbye, farewell, get lost! But I think I need to look to why this feeling is slipping in before I can send it on it’s way.

Mother guilt is a big big part of our society – from society, other mothers, our family, our mothers / grandmothers / mother-in-law, magazines, and also our own ideals and expectations. I’m pretty sure most of us are carrying around some version of mother guilt. After close to 12 years of parenting, why am I experiencing it now in ways I never have before?!

I’ve realised that when my big kids were little life was very different than it is now – I was a full time mama. I sewed, baked, had little parties for their dolls & animals, played dress ups, danced, sang, read books, took them to the park………. Some days lately, I feel like each day with River is a challenge just to get through the day by making sure I feed him properly. There’s barely any pretty plates of fruit arranged in flower shapes.

Compared to back then (when the other two were little), now I’m a stay-at-home working mama, building our own home, with two big kids (on the brink of teenage life with them), I’m (heavily) active on the P&C at school….. We now live 20+ minutes from town, and shops – so getting a carton of milk takes longer than quick walk down to the corner store that it did when we lived in the city.

I know that River is getting all that he needs – but seriously, there’s a whole lot of guilt around the fact that I don’t take him to playgroup or story sessions at the library, or barely even push him on a swing at the park! Living in our forest home offers so much more, being a younger sibling gives me so much more interaction and everyday life exposure…. All that. And yet – this dark cloud of guilt when I have to tell him to not touch the computer because I’m working, or when I don’t have home baked treats for their morning tea.

Despite the rational part of my brain saying he’s good, the kids are good – they don’t need ALL of you, ALL of the time. Despite that. Ah oh ugh. Can society and my own ideals about some perfectionism to mothering just bug off already!

I’d love to hear how you deal with mothering guilt, and all the rest that sneaks in. Wife-guilt, house-wife-guilt, not being the perfect granddaughter….

Let’s band together and tell each other we’re doing an ok job. Our homes don’t need to be spotless, our kids yelling and back chatting isn’t a sign of bad parenting. Smile at that mama you see in the supermarket, or pass at the school gate and remind her how amazing she is.