Breastfeeding: How I Naturally Weaned My Babies...

The nursing relationship is just that - an intimate interaction, connection, between a mother and her child. It helps us bond, communicate needs, and transforms us into one beautiful little unit.

From the beginning, though, many people - friends, doctors, family - all like to interject their opinions on what you are doing. How many times have we heard, "you feed him too much" or "I don't think he's getting enough". What about, "don't you think it's about time to stop that now?"

Enter weaning.

Weaning doesn't have to be a tragic ending...
Ending your nursing relationship on a positive note can bring just as warm memories as the beginning did.

Although many people, whether informed or misinformed, mean well, the ending your nursing relationship is not up to them. It's up to you and your baby. And every nursing relationship is different! No two babies nurse the same, no two mom-child teams wean the same.

Weaning is a part of breastfeeding, but it doesn't have to be an abrupt, sad experience. Gradual, gentle weaning that respects the feelings and needs of both the mother and child can be a wonderful way to transition into the next phase of your ever growing relationship.

Here are my two weaning stories...

My Baby #1 :)

When my son was born, he started nursing within minutes. He 'army crawled' his way up to my chest, lifted his head, and latched himself on without any help! He knew what he wanted and how to get it :) We nursed beautifully for the next two years without a hitch (minus two nursing strikes, but we worked through them! More on that later.)

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was still nursing my son, who had just turned two. Although he was only nursing occasionally during the day and to sleep, he was in NO WAY near ready to wean. And I didn't want to push him to either. So I let him nurse whenever he liked during his busy days, which was sometimes only once or twice a day by that point, and to sleep. He was an active toddler ;)

Except, as it is for some women, nursing while pregnant can sometimes become really painful and irritating. The moment he latched on, instead of a rush of bliss and relaxation that I had always felt before, I was instantly climbing walls!

I was all for tandem nursing - nursing a toddler and an infant at the same time. I had read all the books and was excited to try it!...But nursing had become so uncomfortable for the both of us (you can't be a very nice mommy when you're flinching and grimacing), I sadly knew it was time to wean. My poor son would have loved to continue, and so would I! I fought it with everything I had, and was determined to keep going. But then he'd latch on and I'd hit the roof!

After two months of that, I decided to wean. But, instead of stopping instantly, which would have been great for my nipples, but stressful and cruel for my son, I wanted to naturally wean him. I slowly introduced the concept of "the baby is coming, and she needs the milkies now"... Least to say, my son was not amused!

He was not about to share his 'milkies'!

To help me naturally weaning, I used La Leche League's motto: do not offer, do not refuse. I also used mild distraction during the day (like outings, playdates, walks) and introduced daddy bed time (where daddy laid down with him and they went to sleep together, so no milkies from mommy) every other night, then increased it to two nights in a row, then three. This was all done very slowly, week by week, month by month, inch by inch. If I felt I was moving too fast, I'd pause the momentum until he was ok with moving on.

Over the course of the next four months, I gradually and gently removed night nursings first, followed by daytime nursings. This was fall. By the time Christmas rolled around, my son was down to nursing once or twice a week - and we all know the holidays can disrupt a nursing relationship with all that running around! By the new year we had weaned.

He wanted to do gymnastics and I had said that once he was ready to wean - be a big boy - he could do big boy gymnastics class. Of course it was a mommy-n-me class, but he still enjoyed it!

What really helped with his anxiety about the changes in our relationship was that I made sure to still snuggle him to sleep - with me falling asleep with him most times ;) And a lot of reassurance and cuddles during the day. I wanted him to know that mommy was going to be there no matter what. Yes, the milkies were gone, but that didn't mean that what we had created together - our bond - was over.

Once he understood and felt confident that we were still a team, he seemed to latch onto the idea of weaning better and weaned himself over the last month, slowly, gradually, on his time. I know it wasn't totally 'on his time' as I started the process, but I was happy and willing to let him take his time and finish it on his own terms. For me, that was natural weaning at it's best.

My Baby #2 :)

Then I had my daughter that May!...and although we had a rocky start to our nursing relationship, we found what worked for us and had a wonderful nursing experience for the next 3 1/2 years! :)

My daughter is now 3 1/2...I can't believe it! And she just weaned herself. I knew she was my last baby, and I wanted her to have a more gradual natural weaning when our breastfeeding relationship was coming to a close. And since I'm not having any more babies :(, I won't get to breastfeed again. So this choice was simple: Keep going until she was done.

I did want to quit a few times over the last year and a half, but since it was a relationship between she and I, I decided I was ok with letting her call the shots. That's what's great about a nursing relationship. It's only between the two of you. Too bad if no one else agrees. It's not up to them ;)

Then I got sick, and still am. It's all a mystery. That initiated doctors, family members, and friends telling me that I HAD to stop nursing. "It's got to be a drain on your system" is what they were all saying. Doctors would prescribe me things to 'try' that weren't OK for nursing, which meant I had to stop. And I almost did, but I decided to continue nursing, not 'try' meds that I knew weren't going to work anyway, and I'm glad I did. My 'illness' had nothing to do with nursing.

I was very fatigued for weeks at a time and I had to night wean her. Thankfully she loves her thumb as much as her 'mees' (her word for milkies) so I thought it was going to be easy. Boy, was I wrong! She was very stubborn, and I caved every night. One little please was all it ever took :)

Although I was tired as he-double-hockey-sticks, I was glad that I did continue. I loved nursing her. She's a snuggle bug, just warms my heart. Plus, I'd always get the urge to completely wean her right around the winter time, which is stupid. All those germs, colds, flu...so I'd keep going and was glad for it.

Two winters ago, when she was about to turn two, I was toying with the idea of weaning her soon. Gradually start the process. But then my little peanut got sick and couldn't eat nor drink for 4 days. She couldn't even keep water down!

At that point she was only nursing once every three days or so. Well, during that stomach virus, she nursed every two hours for 4 days and was able to keep all the breastmilk down! Kept her hydrated, fed, and out of the hospital. On the night of the 4th day she demanded pizza, we ordered it, and she was better from then on! :) What would have happened, though, had I already weaned her? She couldn't even keep water down. She'd of been hospitalized for sure.

Now, for the past six months or so, she was nursing maybe once or twice a week. Sometimes once every other week. I couldn't believe the milk was still there even when she'd go two weeks without nursing! But it was still there, and whenever she wanted it, I did not refuse. LLL motto!

About a month ago I told her that once she was ready to stop nursing, she could have a prize. She choose big girl ballet/tap lessons ;) She just started and loves it!

As for me...well, I got a prize too!!! A new bra! Breastfeeding for the past 5 or so years, almost nonstop, I didn't have anything else other than nursing bras. My new bra? It's a black lacy number, and if you want to see it, just ask. I love it! I do ;) I feel like such a big girl myself! ha ha LOL...

Remember: Weaning doesn't have to be a tragic ending. Ending your nursing relationship on a positive note can bring just as warm memories as the beginning.

Have you weaned? Thinking about it? How did you do?

enjoy the snow (if you've got it) ladies!

;)





7 comments:

  1. Wonderful story! I have breastfed all 3 of my babies and loved it. My 3rd is at the point where I am feeling like it's time to start weaning and had no idea where to start since she has nursed far longer than my other 2 did. Your words have given me hope that it won't be too terrible. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. good luck!

    another idea: a dear friend of mine threw her son a 'bye bye milkies' party when he weaned :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lia, I am so proud of you for doing this with such passion and gusto. I envy your long history - I only got 9 months (because without my arthritis medicine I could no longer hold Evan) and I regret ending it so soon. I wished I'd been able to do it longer. I love your perspective on this and you are such an inspiration ; ) Thank you for sharing so that others know it's ok to just keep going...
    Lauren

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lauren! thanks and you are right, moms have to remember to take care of themselves, even if it means ending breastfeeding sooner than they would like. A mom's job is taking care of our children and, since that is such a big job (most days!) we tend to forget to take care of ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for posting this! My daughter is 14 months now and we are still nursing. I never planned nursing past a year....but we both enjoy it so much I don't see stopping anytime soon. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's always good to share stories like this and spread the nursing love! Zach weaned on his own at exactly 5 years old... we never set any limits or had any substitutions and we both were very happy throughout the whole thing. I can say I never imagined going that long at the start, but I am so happy we did.

    ReplyDelete
  7. boatbaby - that is amazing, what a wonderful relationship you guys have.

    ReplyDelete