On My Mind: Weaning

Weaning.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this particular topic for quite a while now. Months, even.

But I just haven’t been able to get it down on the page. Every time I try to write anything about what the early stages of weaning look like in our house, I get about 2 lines in and my mind starts to race. Trying to put my thoughts down in a linear perspective frazzles my brain, and I end up putting my laptop to sleep and zoning out on DVRed Top Chef.

Why the struggle? I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s because I know that good information about weaning is important, and there are lots of mamas out there who need a seasoned perspective (hard to believe I’m a “been there, done that” mom now on some topics!) but it’s very difficult to put into a box. I’d love to write a post chock full of helpful tips and witty observations, all tied up with a bow and some kind of enlightening conclusion at the end. But for us, this process is so fluid and ever-changing that the best I can do is relay my experience and save the definitive answers for another time.

First, a little history:

My son was exclusively breastfed until 6 months, when we began to introduce solids. He is now closing in on 18 months, still nursing and eating lots of real, whole foods (mostly fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains; no cow’s milk (some yogurt), very little meat and very, very little sugar.) I work away from home about 50 hours a week, and he spends 4 days a week with my Mom and Dad, who have been very supportive since day 1. We are hoping to add to our family ASAP!

So, why wean?

This is where it gets complicated, because I can’t answer this question! Here’s the jumble in my head:

I would like to start initiating weaning because we really, really want another baby SOON and at 17 months I still had no return of my cycle (except for a random 2 days in December that didn’t amount to much) so I think I may be one of those moms who has to fully wean to concieve, but I know that my son is still reaping great health benefits from nursing past infancy, plus I work more than full-time, so nursing still provides a huge chance for us to reconnect each night. But it’s hard – I’ve been pumping for over a year now, and it’s draining, and I am ALWAYS hungry and unable to lose any weight, and frankly, toddler nursing is a whole different beast than infant nursing. He tugs, he pulls, occasionally bites, and never sits still. The mysterious “full night’s sleep” still eludes us, as he nurses on average twice a night, but I know that’s totally normal, so how can I complain? Frankly, I’m a little scared. I feel like I’m playing with fire by cutting out pumping sessions and letting my supply drop, trying to jumpstart my cycle, because I could wake up one day with no supply and a sad, feeling-rejected baby and I don’t want to know what that kind of guilt and regret feels like. BF has been his biggest source of nourishment and nurturing since the night he was born, so I could never just take it away unless he was ready. But IS he ready? He’s off the bottle, and down to about 6 ounces per day from a cup at my mom’s house, and he might get another 6 throughout the night, so would it be that big a deal if he didn’t get it anymore? On the other hand, it’s been such a comfort knowing that he’s getting such quality nourishment, tailored perfectly to his little self, while I get used to preparing table foods for a toddler. It’s like a backup plan for nutrition that doubles as a remedy for pinkeye, ear infections, diaper rash, and boo boos, while also providing a great way to calm an overstimulated or crying toddler. Who in their right mind would stop producing milk when it’s so multi-purpose and valuable? Oh yeah, maybe a haggard, exhausted mom who really wants another baby before the clock ticks any louder… I mean, extended health benefits are a gift, but a sibling is a gift, too, right? Ugh! Who says I even get to decide any of this anyway? Every time I give in and decide I’m not ready to push weaning yet, he says “Nononono!” and takes off in the other direction, no milk on his mind. It feels like any day could be the last day…

Do I even know how to be a mommy without it!?

See what I mean? I’m all over the place. But with all that being said, there are a few things I’ve figured out for sure:

  • While we didn’t use Baby Led Weaning in the proper sense (we gave our son purees), I do fully believe in letting baby take the lead in ending the nursing relationship. That’s not to say I can’t nudge a little, though, so we are currently practicing the “Don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach, and I’m limiting the length of each session whenever possible.
  • This is one emotional subject! Much of my purpose and identity as a mother is wrapped up in our breastfeeding relationship, and my heart just aches at the thought of its end. But, I’m realizing that parenting only gets deeper and more complex as the days pass, so I’m sure the bond we’ll develop in the next stage of our lives, whatever it may be, will be just as precious to me (and maybe a little easier on my sleep schedule.)
  • No matter how much longer we go, I have met several goals already: 6 mo, 1 yr, nearly 18 mo. It has been wonderful, but it has not been easy, and I get choked up every time I think of how proud I am of our accomplishment. Even if we stopped today, I sleep better at night knowing that I’ve provided my son (and myself) with an entire lifetime of better health!
  • I’ve been told right to my face that I am disgusting for nursing my toddler and that if we continue, I will damage him for life. To those people, I say: Make NO mistake about it, this decision couldn’t have less to do with you and your ignorant judgement. 
  • Every time I think I have something nailed down, it up and changes on me again. After a long conversation with my LLL leaders about this very topic several days ago, I woke up the very next morning to a happy monthly surprise! It seems that we are back in action, for real this time. So I may not have to entirely wean after all (even though my boy may have other ideas at this point.) I guess I’m right back where I started, confident that (as with most parenting issues I’ve found) I need to just follow my heart and my son’s lead and we can’t go wrong.

And with the developments over the last week, my hope to tandem nurse just might not be completely out of reach after all… :)

________________________

Motherhood: It’s never boring, is it?

12 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding

12 Responses to On My Mind: Weaning

  1. I had tears reading this because it is me too! My daughter will be two in June. I have gone back and forth a million times about whether to take the plunge and wean her.

    I did it once at around 16 months and it was the worst two days of our lives. We were both miserable and crying. But then again, I don’t want to nurse her when she is five. I want to be able to have someone else put her to bed at night because sometimes I want to be out past eight! And I may want a margarita some time! Then I feel guilty and then I know I will miss those cuddles. I can be a grown up later, but she won’t be little forever.

    I feel your pain. We should start a club. With matching shirts.

    • I would wear that shirt proudly! :)

      It’s definitely a tough situation all the way around, but you’re 100% right – it won’t last forever, and someday we will look back on it like it was a short moment in time (just like pregnancy! Feels like forever at the time, but seems so long ago now…)

  2. Coming over from twitter. I am a tandem feeding mama to my 4 year old daughter and 16 months old son.
    First,I would like to say I know 2 people who didnt get their periods back around 22 months, and they got pregnant for the second time. It is possible.
    Sleeping through te night would be great but there is no guarantee that baby will sleep even if weaned. Most children don’t sleep through until around 2 .5 years of age (whe they are done with teething)
    Tandem feeding is not always rosy but definitely great and lovely :) My DD has no planns of weaning yet and she has always been an avid nurser. Sometimes I felt touched out but seeing how independent she is now,makes me feel so proud :)
    I had found Adventures in Tandem Feeding very helpful. There is a section about weaning as well, as some women feel they can’t go on.
    Only you can know what is best for your family but I would say try to relax and go with your instincts.
    Hope this helps :)

    • It definitely helps! I always welcome an experienced mom’s perspective. I would guess that tandem nursing would be a huge challenge, but it’s one I’d love to give my best shot. I’m hoping we can at least keep one a day (preferably before bedtime) and still get pregnant.

      I am starting to learn what feeling touched out is all about. I hadn’t really felt it until recently, but I try not to let on. If I get to that point, I will most certainly check out Adventures in Tandem Feeding – thanks for the recommendation! :)

  3. Kimberlie

    Perfect timing for me to read this post! My son will turn one this week. I weaned both of my older children at 13 months but am not sure how I feel about it this time. My supply seems to be decreasing and he is easily distracted by his big brothers and not that “into” it anymore. He may be ready, but am I? Thanks for your insight and many blessings for you and your family!

  4. Tat

    My daughter just turned 2 and is still keen on breast milk. The thought to wean has crossed my mind, but then comes the question why…. and there is no answer to that other than she is two already and I had never expected to breastfeed a 2-year-old, and no one else I know nurses a 2-year-old (although I don’t know for sure, because if they did, they wouldn’t advertise it, just like I don’t volunteer that piece of information in a conversation). Neither of these is a good reason to wean… so I haven’t done anything past just briefly thinking about it. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective…and congrats on nursing until age 2! That’s a fantastic milestone. The only reasons to wean that make any sense to me are 1. Baby is ready or 2. Trying to conceive, and those aren’t even easy reasons to figure out.

      Wouldn’t it be nice if we all knew other moms who were in the same place? I don’t know ANY other BF moms! (Not face-to-face, anyway. That’s why my online community is SO valuable! :) )

  5. AdronsCatherine

    Oh, girlie, I feel your pain! Kudos for making it to 18 months! Nursing a toddler is NOT the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever been through lol!

    I have experienced all kinds of things with nursing. My 1st weaned at 21 months saying “Mommy, I too big” because she didn’t want to sit still. The 2nd was put on formula at 6 months (I needed medicine that wasn’t safe for her). The 3rd passed on at 9 days and I had a massive oversupply. Ugh. The 4th nursed through my whole pregnancy with the 5th, and until #5 turned 1 (she was 3 years+ at that point). The 5th was rather abruptly weaned because I was pg with #6, but this time my breasts were so sensitive that I cried every time he nursed. Sweet little #6 is nursing at 25 months – but we fight over it! Sometimes I don’t want to nurse him all day, every day. Other times he doesn’t want to have anything to do with nursies that day. He has *finally* settled down and learned some nursing manners, making the relationship much more enjoyable. I have to say that I am hesitant to wean, as I would love to have another baby, but hubby doesn’t. I guess I’m just not ready to let the little man grow up too fast…

    Best of luck to you on making these decisions, as they aren’t easy at all. It’s that darn grey area that gets us every time!!!!

  6. Kim

    I chose to start weaning Cora at 19 months because I am 18 weeks pregnant with Baby #2. Although I am one of those moms who got her cycle back and got pregnant while nursing, nursing during pregnancy is not something I can do for much longer. It is downright painful. I put off weaning or even talking about weaning for about 14 weeks! Finally we bit the bullet and Coraline was put on a 3 nursing a day limit, she can nurse to sleep at night, she can nurse in the morning, and she can nurse to go down for her nap. Cora used to be on the boob literally like every 10 minutes and I thought it would be hard but in all honesty it was easy. I just said, no you are a big girl now and nursing all the time is for babies. Cora is a big girl. over and over. It was hard the first 2 days and by the end of a week it was no big deal. Now she never really tries to nurse and if she wants to it is usually around nap time and she will point to the boobs and point to the bed telling me she is ready to nurse and sleep.

    Good luck mama! You can do it and it doesn’t make you any less of a mom!

  7. Pingback: So, how’s that weaning going? | ABCs and Garden Peas

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