“It is easier for a lion to eat grass than for a baby to wean off breast milk.” – Anyibaba, 2015.
That might be exaggerated and untrue for some children, but for my son, oh that saying fits right in. I remember clearly the stories of old. Stories I heard on how children were weaned off breast milk. The timing was different for each child, but the method was basically the same. A splash of bitter-leaf juice on the nipple and vavavoom, the child drops that nipple faster than Dieziani Maduekwe ran away travelled for medical checkup after Buhari came into power.
Those stories became legendary in the West, East, and South of Nigeria. The North did not employ such methods; it was the North, home to the Starks, home to Jon Snow. Oh Sorry, wrong era, wrong country. I really don’t know how it is done in Northern Nigeria – dongoyaro juice, maybe? It was simple, it was effective, and it was safe. Well, except for the fathers who I suspect don’t also like their milk containers tampered with.
My wife had set her timetable – start early to introduce baby formula, followed by solid foods, and just around his ninth to tenth month, he would have probably been weaned off. It was a foolproof plan, thought out meticulously. She had done her research; her mother did it that way, my mother did it that way. There was no way this plan was not going to work. There was just one teensy weensy thing we overlooked. Our son has a thing for breasts. Oh yes, you heard that right. He has a thing for breasts.
It had now gotten to the twelfth month and the guy was showing no signs of letting go. He was holding on fast and he was massaging the breasts with such finesse.
It was time.
It had to be done.
Bitter-leaf to the rescue!
We went out seeking the freshest bitter leaves out there, for if the folklore was true, the fresher the leaves, the most bitter the juice. We didn’t go to the market to buy, traders can’t be trusted. We must find the plant, pluck the big fresh leaves, and found we did. My wife ground the leaves into pulp, and as soon as our son started making a fuss about his God-given, Mother-withdrawn milky sustenance, she generously rubbed the pulp around her nipple.
The first time he tasted the bitter nipple, his face instantly contorted into a much uglier version of his poop. He pulled away quickly and looked from his mother to her breast. Something was wrong, he could taste it. This woman had either switched bodies or he was in a weird dream. He was looking at her head all right, but the breasts seemed like they were not there. He placed both his palms on one breast, pressed them and snickered. Clearly this was her breast, his property. So why did it taste different?
He opened his mouth and went for the nipple again, and the same change of expression stamped itself on his face. This time however, he didn’t pull back. He didn’t stop. He went ahead and kept sucking. He kept at it, barely pausing to catch air. Contorted face and all, he kept sucking. We had helped him discover a new breast milk flavour and he absolutely loved it. Ofe Mmiri Ara garnished with Onugbu leaf. He was in culinary heaven.
Two months later, it was apparent to us that he was not letting go of the breast milk or its beautifully packaged container. Bitter leaves breasts did not work at all. Something had to be done immediately. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
It was time to SHIP him away.
It was time to DRIVE him away.
It was time to FLY him away.
Oh, it did not matter the means with which he went away. He just had to be away. If he couldn’t fondle what he couldn’t see, he’ll forget about what it contained.
We were then faced with a crucial problem. How do we send him away just like that? We couldn’t claim it was because of our jobs and that we had no one to take care of him. My wife’s younger sister was around. She was helping to take care of him when my wife was at work. How on earth could we just send him away and to where? People would ask why, when we already had a helping hand.
We were still pondering on this when my sister-in-law informed us she had to travel back to Owerri for an exam.
Handel’s Alleluia must have come on all around us at that moment. I was pretty sure it did. My wife might have even sung it.
We had found our baby mule and my wife was going to escort her to the Owerri-Abuja border to be sure the cargo was safe. He might be a breast-baby-handling, bitter-milk-gulping piranha, but he was still our prrreeeciouuuuuus. When it was time to pack his things for the trip, I’ve never seen my wife put together a travel bag that quickly. In less than thirty minutes, their clothes were packed in a box. Two days later, they were all in Owerri at my mother-in-law’s place. The woman was elated to have her grandson over. We were elated to have two weeks of relative quiet. Two weeks was way more than enough to wean him off.
My wife returned to Abuja two days later without any tearful good bye from her son, no worries on where his parents were. He was a pretty strong boy; he was having fun without longingly searching for us. Our plan had worked. We had groomed an independent boy.
And we had gotten away with it. Or so we thought. How utterly naïve we were. We had forgotten who we were dealing with – a young boy who was growing up wiser than his age. He was going to show us nwiiiii!!!
TO BE CONTINUED.
Written by Anyibaba