Tag Archives: breastfeeding a toddler

So, how’s that weaning going?

It’s been a little while since my last post about weaning, so I thought it was high time I followed it with an update…but somehow, every time I sit down to write about this whole process so that someone – anyone – might benefit from my experience, I can’t seem to put two coherent sentences together.

Why? Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about weaning, it’s that I know nothing about weaning.

I never wanted to wean my son. Since day one, it has always been my intention to let him lead the way and decide when he was good and ready. In fact, I’d love to nurse for another year or two – but, alas, our breastfeeding relationship has prevented us, thus far, from becoming pregnant again and the thought of no siblings is just about the only thing that could persuade me to start persuading.

So at around 17 1/2 months I started nudging and making small changes, trying to eek out a careful balance of still providing as much milk as possible while cutting back enough to jumpstart my body into fertile mode again. I cut out my last pumping session during the workday and stopped sending milk with Little Man during the day. From that point on, he got milk only when Mommy was around.

I was shocked at how easy that transition was, and I was thrilled to finally be free of my pump! :D (Although it had definitely served me well!) Since we were going 12 hours at a time without nursing, and attempting to night nurse was next on the agenda, I figured my supply would dwindle and we’d be done altogether in a few weeks.

Wrong.

My supply dipped, but maintained just the right amount, probably because night nursing did not happen. Not even a little bit. It increased. Hey wait…this whole weaning thing is supposed to mean a little more sleep for the mama, right? :?

Wrong again.

Maybe it’s because I work all day or maybe it’s just because it’s normal, but my little milk monster has only slept through the night a few times since he was born, and attempts to night wean him only led to more determination on his part. I will admit that I was looking forward to some of this elusive “sleep through the night” action I’ve heard about  ( My nickname for STTN is “The Unicorn,” because it’s such a lovely, imaginary creature that I’ve only read about in books… ) Oh well…he’ll probably sleep as a teenager, right?

Fast forward to now (nearly 20 months.) After several attempts at limiting middle-of-the-night milk only to be met with a crying, rejected baby and a brokenhearted mommy, I decided I just couldn’t do it. Weaning to regulate my cycle and gain sleep made NO sense when the end result was less sleep and more stress! Withholding the one constant source of physical and emotional nourishment he’s had since birth just went against every iota of my mothering instinct. Plus, the benefits of nursing well into toddlerhood are just too great to deny (here’s a great fact sheet from Kellymom.com that I have kept on my desktop for months.)  So I backed off and decided that cutting out pumping and daytime milk would have to be enough, and took the rest out of my hands and put it back in the hands of my happy little nursling.

What will be will be.

And you know what “be”?  In the past week and a half, my son has enjoyed 5 full nights of sleep, and so have I. Hallelujah! I’ve been thinking a lot about why, and I’ve come to the conclusion that weaning would not help him sleep, but rather his being developmentally ready to sleep would help him wean. I had it backwards! Ah, the perfect sense of it all!

And it doesn’t stop there. I was really concerned that at some point I might get pregnant and have to deal with being super exhausted while dealing with a still-nursing, still-night-waking toddler. But now, as he starts to sleep more, my cycle is returning (albeit verrrry slowly. But we did just buy a new house, and everyone tells me that is a surefire way to get pregnant! :lol: ) I think relaxing about weaning and letting things happen naturally, organically, has allowed our bodies to synch up and figure out each other’s needs the way only a mother and child can. And I thought the biology of pregnancy was amazing…little did I know that was only the tip of the iceberg!

As of right now, I don’t know how much milk my son is getting, but I am so glad he’s still getting some. Setting my worries aside and follow what feels right has allowed me to relax, and is undoubtedly much healthier for both of us.

Hey, maybe I do know a little something about weaning, after all!  ;)

An added bonus that I never thought we’d see – Instead of running up to me the second I get home from work and signing milk, we officially have a new word for nursing!

BUBBAS! :D

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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… :)

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Motherhood: It’s never boring, is it?

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Breastfeeding Blog Hop: NIP with a Toddler!

Hi, friends! This post is my contribution to Week 5 of the Breastfeeding Blog Hop, hosted by Life With Levi (@LifeWithLevi.) When you’re done reading, please visit the rest of the blogs on the link list and share the BF love! I can’t host the linky myself for technical reasons, but you can find it, along with the instructions for the hop, by clicking on the button here:

So there I was, in the mall on a snowy day in January, with a rambunctious 14-month-old who would not hold my hand or allow me to carry him. He wanted to run, and he let me know it. Rather than completely “abort mission,” I called my husband to come pick him up so I could finish my errands.

“I’ll be there in a half an hour.”

I figured I could kill that much time, but I was exhausted, and my son was getting hungry. Then, he pinched my nose – a sure sign he wanted to nurse. Now.

So, the answer was obviousJust sit down and nurse him, right? It would give me the chance to sit and relax, while reigning in the hungry monster and undoubtedly replacing his defiant mood with a much happier one.  (I’m always amazed at the magical effects a few minutes at the breast can have.)

Except that our mall doesn’t have a nursing room, and I haven’t nursed in public in a loooong time. It just doesn’t come up that often for us anymore, and this is no docile, cooing infant.

I’m now nursing a toddler, which is a whole different ballgame.

Why?

Because a toddler doesn’t just lay there in your lap and nurse like an infant does. Not in my experience, anyway. My son can start out being cradled in my arms, then turn in the complete opposite direction, get down off my lap, stand on the floor, grab a toy, and crawl back up on me, all without unlatching! And he does it often.

He also has a tendency to get my milk to let down, and then unlatch to yell “Dada!” or grab a cracker, leaving me spraying the room.

Or, he twiddles, or pats my breast, which he insists be bare. The very idea of a nursing cover is downright laughable at this point. When I nursed him as an infant, nobody even knew. But things are much different now….

None of this bodes well for a “discreet” nursing-in-public experience. But the question I asked myself that day myself was, why do I even feel like I need to be discreet?

It’s no secret that many people have a problem with women nursing in public. I see it on the social media sites I frequent, I hear it in the news, I feel it out in public. I experience it firsthand from people who know me personally and tell me that nursing my son is “disgusting.” (Notice I don’t refer to them as my friends.) When people aren’t telling you it’s downright weird to nurse your child, they’re usually telling you that they don’t mind what you do, as long as you’re discreet.

…as if giving you their conditional permission. :???:

First off,  “discreet” is a totally relative term, and frankly, I have to look at offensive indiscretions all the time (Hello butt-crack dude, I’m talking to you!) In my opinion, a statement like the one above does nothing but negate itself and cause nursing moms to know, without a doubt, that they are being judged.

Plus,  I’ve noticed a huge change in public perception since I’ve been nursing a toddler. Some many people get more than rude when they find out you’re nursing a child over a few months old.  I guess maybe it comes down to the inability to separate the sexual breast from the nourishing breast, but they think it’s just downright WRONG, and they are not afraid to speak their minds.

Now, I’m not a timid person, and I’m known to speak my mind when I don’t agree with the masses, which is often. But when it came time to nurse my son in public because he was acting out and obviously hungry, I couldn’t help but think about the anti-BFing hatred I’ve seen spewed on Twitter, and those moms I see in the news who are thrown out of public places for nursing. I will freely admit that there was a part of me that felt intimidated and scared without the safety of my home around me.  But then I thought of the many other groups who feel that way when they leave the house, those who are told, “I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your home, as long as nobody has to see it …” as if that remotely resembles acceptance.

….the same-sex couples who fear holding hands in public

…the interracial couples who have to stand up to disapproving glares in public

…those who do not fit traditional dichotomous gender roles who have to put on an armor of defenses just to step out into public

…It even reminded me of the young boy from my local area who recently walked 11 miles in the rain, and stepped out in front of a truck to end his life because he was sick of being scared and bullied every day.

Because that’s exactly what it is when you infringe upon someone’s legal rights, and belittle them or attack them or harass them because what they’re doing doesn’t fit your personal idea of what “should” be. It’s bullying. And it’s wrong.

Let me be clear before you think I’m the most dramatic woman on the planet: I wasn’t terrified of nursing my boy in public. It just really, really  bothered me that such a simple thing made me so uneasy, and stirred up so much emotion in me. It bothered me that our culture, as a whole, has made the climate such that I had to even think twice about meeting my son’s needs. So, when I was faced with the question  – To NIP or not to NIP – I thought about the kind of person I want my son to see when he looks at his mother. So I found a bench, and I put my walking, talking, mouth-full-of-teeth, “old enough to ask for it” toddler son to my breast, and I did it for everyone who ever felt singled out, discriminated against, judged, or harassed. I did it for the one young mama-to-be who might walk by and feel inspired. I did it for the children who need to see breastfeeding mothers in the mall more than they need to see 10-ft. Victoria’s Secret posters.

I did it for my son’s sons and daughters.

And I’ll do it again.

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Thanks for sticking it out through my novel-length post. Have you ever nursed a toddler in public? I’d love to hear about it!

About me: I’m Wendy, the first-time breastfeeding mama of an almost 15-month-old little boy. I don’t know another BFing mom IRL, so I’m happy to meet you! I’ve been working full-time away from home for the past year, and we’re very proud to have made it this far – 18 months is our next goal! We are a cloth-diapering, bedsharing, AP-style parenting family, and we love to garden and learn about how to make our lives happier and healthier, day by day. Thanks for visiting ABCs and Garden Peas!

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