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Weaning

06/30/2014

Belle

drinking

I don’t usually do disclaimers but know how sensitive breast feeding is with many Mamas. I never want people to feel excluded from my blog so let me get this out on the table right away and you can decide if you would like to proceed with this post: 1. I support a woman’s choice to feed her baby however she wants. I have ZERO problem with choosing to feed formula over breast milk. 2. I’m a product of the modern miracle of formula and without it I would not be here today (my mother was not able to breast feed). 3. I hate the Breast is Best campaign and how it makes women feel. 4. Breast feeding was important to me for many reasons and I’m so thankful that I was able to do it for this long.

In this post I discuss my complex emotions over weaning, my fear that my child might not be properly nourished if I wean at 1-year and the pride I personally feel in having nursed for a full year after needing scientific help to both conceive and deliver my child. I love and respect all women who keep these tiny tummies full in whatever way necessary. It’s hard fucking work no matter how you spin it. We need to remember that and celebrate regardless. xoxo

I’ve started this post at least a dozen times. My inability to finish a post about weaning is a pretty good indicator of where my emotions stand on it. Let’s go through some pros and cons, shall we?

Pros to Weaning:

  • I get my body back.
  • I get my time back. Currently I try not to be away from Sabine for more than 3-4 hours at a time. More than that and I become uncomfortable and have to duck in a gross public bathroom and pump.
  • Starting my business in August will be WAY easier and much less stressful on Sabine if she is weaned.
  • No. More. Pump.
  • No more public nursing. I don’t mind this at all, but have a few friends who do and I am so tired of feeling uncomfortable when I whip out a boob to feed my child who refuses to be covered up.

Cons to Weaning:

  • No more snuggly nursing time.
  • How on earth do I soothe a sad baby without the milk maker?
  • Extended nursing is GOOD for the child and I think that drinking cows milk is a little creepy.
  • I get my body back. Yes, this is a pro and a con. No more nursing means no more ignoring the fact that I don’t cycle and we don’t have sex. No more nursing means the parade of doctors begins again. Ugh.
  • It is terribly convenient to just pack my boobs when we go out! Weaning means more planning.

But how exactly do I go about weaning without causing drama and strife. I want weaning to be a mutual decision. I want Sabine to feel confident enough in herself that she is ready to give nursing up. I don’t want a Cry It Out-type weaning approach. (I am well aware I might end up eating those words… much like my delicious, delicious sleep training words!) That said, Sabine is SO boob-oriented that I fear she won’t be “happy” to wean until she is 5 and, no offense to the long term breast feeders out there, nursing way into toddlerhood is not for me.

I consider trying to cut back our nursings to morning and night only, and maybe one afternoon feed for the first few months. I’m not sure how my supply will respond to this, though. Currently Sabine still nurses every 2-3 hours when awake and sometimes she asks for her milk maker every hour or so. During days with hourly nursings the milk is less about a hungry tummy and much more about feeling safe, secure and “checking in” with Mama. I love these checkins, but wish she would adopt a new way!

Of course, no post on weaning would be complete without a little discussion on all the nay-sayers when it comes to extended breast feeding. I am ashamed to say that a lot of my desire to wean stems from society and all the comments, glances and “discussions” that will ensue as Sabine gets older. I’ve already had friends and family ask how long I plan to “do that” and then make comments about how weird it is to nurse past one. I feel really uncomfortable when these topics come up and almost guilty, which is RIDICULOUS and completely against my usual personality.

How do/did you feel about weaning? Any tips for Sabine and I? Do you think it is realistic that we can successfully cut back to morning and night nursing only? What do you think about extended breast feeding and how do you handle the people who, um, are rather rude about it?

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26 Comments

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  1. June 30, 2014

    Oh, I used to lie awake and DREAM. Of weaning!!! We’ve been doing “don’t offer, don’t refuse” for 6 months. I HATED the reuniting feed at family daycare pickup. It took so looooong!!!! Then, 6-8 weeks ago, at 21 months, that stopped. We were down to feeds each morning. Then, feeds alternate mornings. Now, it’s down to twice a week, and I’ve suddenly gone “oh no! We’re weaning!!!”. I might never put on another nursing bra! Yay! Boohoo! Yay! I wanted to make 2 years! We’ve just about made two years! I am SO SO SO glad we’re doing it gently. We Both need time to adjust. My boobs are champions for handling infrequent nursing!  And handling the extended nursing comments? Ah shut up mum. When was the last time he had a cold? We’re awesome. And infrequent nursing is totally fine. It’s working well for us.

  2. Amy #
    June 30, 2014

    Haters gonna hate. Do what works for you & don’t look back. We nurse for many reasons, but it’s nice having that ‘ace in your pocket’ when life gets stressful. Good luck!

  3. June 30, 2014

    We’re weaning in August. It’s going to be hard for both of us, but especially for Bryson. He is so fond of nursing and seems to want to nurse now more than ever. Matthew weaned beautifully. We dropped a nursing every 3-4 days. We only had 4 to drop. Bryson still wakes once a night, and comfort nurses, so we have 6 to drop. We’re taking a trip sans kids in September and he must be weaned by then. Its cruel to leave him un-weaned.

    I’m having a hard time with this. I did with Matthew too. Very emotional. I can hardly talk about it. We have one solid month left before we start. Sniff sniff.

    • July 3, 2014

      FWIW, I weaned Stella from 2 a day to nothing at 17 months cold turkey – I was so sick with my pregnancy that I sent her to her grandparent’s house for 2 days, and it was done. She was totally fine. 🙂 My point is that if you end up weaning him while you’re out here in CO, he’ll be fine! He will be in a such a different routine with you gone that it will honestly be easier in some ways to accept water & cow’s milk from someone else…

      • July 3, 2014

        Funny – this is exactly what my pediatrician said! She said to get him down to once or twice a day before the trip, and then leave him. She said weaning, no matter how you do it, feels cruel. So, cold turkey is fine!

        Thanks, Jos!

        • July 3, 2014

          Ya, I think it was easier for Stella to go from 2 to 0 without a gradual process. She had 2 days without me around to even ask for it, and then when she got home, for a couple of days she’d ask, but I’d tell her Mama’s milk was all gone, and she understood the concept of all gone, so it was no big deal. It was honestly a little heartbreaking to me how easy it was for her to just accept it and move on!

  4. June 30, 2014

    I have no experience on this topic. It I look forward to reading the comments and I hope you will continue to blog about this topic as time goes on

  5. June 30, 2014

    I’m not ready to wean yet, and neither is Bubs (he’s 15 months now). But he really doesn’t nurse during the day like Sabine. He prefers “real” food during the daylight hours unless he’s going down for a nap in a dark room, and then he can’t fall asleep without the boob. So we nurse at 7 pm and then two or three other times overnight. I pump two times a day at work now (for the past month (instead of three like I used to). I’d like to stop pumping but I worry it might hurt my nighttime supply. I have a hard time with the idea of weaning because this is my last baby and I wasn’t able to breastfeed the older kids. My mom and sister couldn’t nurse so I know they are wondering when I will stop (my sister has asked twice so far). It’s all unchartered territory for me.

  6. June 30, 2014

    Tru is self weaning and it is breaking. my. heart. He’s 8 months now and it feels too early to me. But he’s been down to morning, afternoon and night for a few weeks now. Sometimes he nurses in the middle of the night once. He never would nurse for comfort. That always made me sad. He is strickly business and he doesn’t enjoy nursing at all. But I am trying to hang in there until 1 yr. I just don’t know if we will get there. Its hard. 😦

  7. June 30, 2014

    I weaned R at 14 months for our FET. I wish I hadn’t. I miss it. In a perfect world where we could get pregnant without drugs I would continue to nurse in the morning and before bed. I started doing this when she was a year old and it was HEAVEN. I avoided all the public nursing, was able to leave the house during the day and still got my snuggle time and she got her breast milk benefits. I highly highly recommend cutting down to twice a day if you can swing it.
    It was surprisingly easy to do, I just started giving her more snacks so she wasn’t asking to nurse, and where I normally nursed her before nap I had her dad put her to bed. He’d offer a bottle (which she’d refuse), and go to bed. It actually went way smoother than I expected. I read once that the transition is much easier if done prior I 15 months, and from other peoples posts – I gather this is true!
    Good luck :).

  8. June 30, 2014

    My girl and I started the weaning process around 15 months and it took about three months and then she was totally done. I took the drop one feed for about a week and then drop another. When we started this she on her own has gotten down to nursing in the morning before each nap and then before bed. I did not have a comfort check in nurser so that I’m guessing will be very different to deal with. One thing I would suggest is to go very slow weanin causes your hormones to go a little crazy again and I definitely felt that so make sure you keep checking in with yourself and how you are feeling once you start dropping feedings. And really try not to let the ugly in other people influence what works for you and your daughter. It is no ones business how long you and S nurse but when people would ask me I calmly explained that I was going to nurse for as long as it worked for M and me and that the AAP has stated the value in nursing past one and the world wide weaning age 5. Listen to Sabine and your body and see how it goes.

  9. July 1, 2014

    You know your Bean better than anyone else. Truly. No one else in this world knows her better. I’d approach weaning much like you approached sleep training. You didn’t force it on her, but you *knew* when the time was right. If she’s still checking in with you via nursing, maybe she still needs it? You may be surprised once she starts walking how her new found mobility creates an independence that makes you feel you’re both more ready to wean. It may still be a bit of an uphill climb, but you will be working with her pace to an extent. I was a slave to the pump and never breast fed–it’s something that came with its own set of pros and cons…and then when we went to 100% formula, the cons became even clearer to me: There is something undeniably “close” about giving your child milk that you yourself have produced, and even closer, I can imagine, when they drink it from “the source”. I was SO HAPPY to be done with pumping, and I have 0 guilt in giving her formula, but sometimes, I miss the closeness that even feeding breast milk via a bottle provided. So although I never had a child asking for my boob, or even a child who was really able to react to breast milk differently than formula, psychologically, it’s hard to get over the thought of “drying up” or not having any more breast milk for her.

  10. July 1, 2014

    My ped gave me advice that worked in 2 days! (She was 15 months old). He said she was probably using nursing as a way to connect (or Check in!) with me, and that she could nutritionally survive without it. So he told me to look deeply into her eyes and stroke her head when I helped her drink milk from a dippy cup….and when she nursed to try to “disengage myself” – look away, don’t hum, sing or talk, minimal physical contact with the baby. Seriously my LO stopped 2 days later and I thought she was going to be nursing in high school!

    • July 4, 2014

      Oh, Marianne, I love this. I already don’t engage him while he nurses (he always closes his eyes), but looking at him lovingly when I give him a cup sounds perfect!!!! Thank you!

  11. JB #
    July 1, 2014

    LOVE this post 🙂 I was so glad to be done pumping as well. I weaned down to 3 feedings a day first. My supply was ok, but about that time, D stopped wanting as much. He was so distracted by everything else. Slowly, he dropped his late afternoon feeding and we were at morning/night time feedings. That was great for a month? over a month? I can’t remember. I do miss the closeness, but I think at least in my case, the pros outweighed the cons.

  12. Amy #
    July 1, 2014

    At just past two years, we nurse pretty much only before bed and weekend naps, and not even 100% of those (sometimes I go out! on a regular basis, even! and it’s fine!). I stopped pumping at work at around 16 months, and that was indeed a relief. For quite a while he would still wake occasionally at night and ask to nurse (we cosleep; I don’t think he would have kept that up if I weren’t in the bed/room with him, but working FT OH I didn’t really mind the bonus time with him…usually 😉 ); I usually let him, but eventually he started just asking for cuddles instead. Only once has he gone to sleep with me without nursing at all – but he did once! And a few times he’s not bothered to ask for the ‘other side’ after I tell him it’s time to sleep/unlatch (we generally have the right boob with him on my lap after bedtime/naptime stories, then lie down and have the left. He doesn’t fall asleep nursing anymore, but it’s still part of his routine…for now. I never nursed a whole lot in public, but that’s more because I was at work and not out and about with him too much, especially over the winter – but when it’s what’s going to work in the moment (over-tired and hot and cranky at the zoo, just past his first birthday, is the one instance that always comes to mind), I never really hesitated, cover or not (I never really had much luck with that but I did have really long hair for a while, which helped!). I don’t think I have much milk left at all to speak of, but I’m not completely dried up either, so it’s been really nice to not be completely done-done yet not constantly on call for it. I’m hoping to let him decide when he’s ready to say goodbye to nursing, and have conflicting emotions about it, too – one part of me doesn’t want to give up that connection, and the other knows that other ways to connect are developing every day, so it’s going to be fine, and I’ll be allowed to both cry about it and high-five about it when the time comes. You’ll do what works for you and Sabine both – and if that ends up maybe being just nursing less, but still nursing, and taking your time with weaning to make it easier on you both, I hope your friends/acquaintances can get over themselves and stop saying dumb things that make you feel weird – that’s just shitty on their part, and I’m sorry you have to put up with it!

  13. July 1, 2014

    At Iyla’s 12 month appointment I was no where ready to wean. Then at 13 months? I suddenly felt ready to begin the process. Slow and steady worked great for us. We first dropped the morning nap nursing- so we then did morning, afternoon, & bedtime. Then one week later, I dropped the afternoon nursing. A week later bedtime. Then finally the morning session. That slow pace gave my supply time to adjust gently as well. Iyla did great, as she has always been fine with her bottles! You may want to also start mixing breast milk with whole milk (if you plan to do whole milk) in her bottles to slowly transition her there too. I was worried i would miss the snuggle time, but we still snuggled just as much with her bottles (and still do… bottles, that is… at 19 months old… whoops! Largely b/c of that precious snuggle time). At 13 months, I just felt like Iyla and I were both ready to be more independent- and I have to say, the freedom and having my body fully back was awesome. Just follow your intuition and Sabine’s cues, and you two will find a new flow! Good luck!

  14. July 1, 2014

    Great post. You’ve echoed pretty much the way I feel. My twins are 13 months old, and we’ve begun the process of weaning. I didn’t really do much besides start giving them cows milk with every meal, and water and a snack before I breast-fed them between. They still nurse in the morning, in the evening, and before naps, but I feel like it’s lessening. I have very mixed feelings…

  15. July 1, 2014

    Happy birthday, Sabine!! I’m so glad you wrote this post. My baby turned 1 last week. We nurse in the morning and before bed with no immediate plans to stop. I have a work trip in August, but so far I’m planning to bring my pump so we can maintain our am/pm. I’m similarly freaked about giving my baby whole cow’s milk. I’m still pumping once a day at work (down from 3) and using frozen because I’m nor ready to make a decision on milk until I talk to her ped next week and I’m just about out of frozen stock. We don’t even keep cow’s milk in the house because neither my husband or I drink it. We use a blend of almond/coconut milk. But, my baby tends to be small and is very active. So, I feel like she really needs the calories/fat from whole milk, but I’m uncomfortable with it. I’m comfortable with milk alternatives but worried about the fat/calories. I’m about 90% sure I’m going to go with cow’s milk during the day. Is this similar to your concerns?

    • July 1, 2014

      Oops…had a few more things to say: I also feel tremendous pride about making it to a year. Big congrats to you! Also, weird comments from people are tough. My MIL is one to ask all the time and also asked with horror, “so you’re just never going to give her formula?” Leave it to my MIL to make me feel guilty about not formula feeding. We sometimes nurse in public, but it’s usually super fast. My baby really only nurses for a few minutes (prob just to take the edge off) before she is afraid she is missing something and then pulls off leaving my exposed breast. Sigh. We live in a pretty crunchy area, so that helps. Good luck with such a tough decision. The good news is that there is no wrong way to do it.

  16. jesicabrennan #
    July 1, 2014

    The vast majority of people I’ve talked to about weaning have said it was easy. I feel like I’m in the minority when I say I’m struggling with weaning and Jett is 23 months now. BUT at some point after a year, maybe 18 months or so I implemented some nursing rules because I got sick of whipping my boob out in public, not so much because I care about getting my boob out 😉 but because FOR GOD SAKE CHILD YOU ARE 18 MONTHS, SURELY YOU CAN MAKE IT 3 HOURS WITHOUT NURSING! So, I made the we only have milk at home rule, followed a few months later by we only have milk for naps and bedtime rule, so now at 23 months we’re down to morning, nap and night.

    I strongly suggest you quit pumping, just…quit. Let your body get comfortable with how much milk she is actually needing. If you get a little uncomfortable…you gotta tough it out for the few hours until Sabine needs you again because the pumping is just going to convince your body to keep making milk and your period is going to stay away longer. It takes 3 days for the body to ease up on the milk, so expect to be a little uncomfortable for 3 days but after that you should be home free.

    Anyway, you gotta figure out what works best for you guys, but give a few things a try! You’ll never know unless you try, she might surprise you! Like I’ve said almost everyone is like IT WAS SO EASY, even those who’s babies seemed really dependent on the boob. I have a different story to tell as I haven’t weaned yet, but I’m in the minority so give it a whirl, see what happens =)

    And good luck! Let us know how it goes!

  17. July 1, 2014

    Interestingly I had prepared myself for a slower weaning process (kudos to those long term breast feeders but I was personally ready to be done at a year) and mine ended up weaning themselves. I started mixing some cows milk in with breast milk at about 11 months and a few days. Abby was done two weeks before 1 year and Miles a couple of days before. My plan was to do something similar to what you’re planning – cut out an afternoon feed, then night (they always seemed to eat the most in the morning) and then the morning.
    I am so glad we made it to a year but I was ready. It is nice to have my body back and it is nice to have the time back.
    Here’s hoping for a smooth process for you.

  18. July 1, 2014

    happy birthday sabine! jackmack is not quite 10 months and i’m already emotional thinking about weaning him. I plan to, at one year, just not pumping… he can still nurse mornings and nights for a while if i still have the milk, and when the milk runs dry, so be it, i guess. my hubby is quite ready to “have his wife back,” and i am looking forward to not wearing nursing attire 24/7, plus, we’d like to try making another critter soon – however, i am SO going to miss the special time with him and being the one to nourish him. good luck!

  19. July 3, 2014

    I definitely felt some pressure from society to stop at 1, but I was SO not ready (afraid I’d never get to do that again) and Stella wasn’t ready. so I said to heck with it and we kept up with it. At 12 months we cut back to 2-3x/day (morning & night, and sometimes right when I walked in the door from work when she was missing me and wanted to reconnect). My body adjusted just fine, and so did she. Kids are all about habit and routine, and if you establish that nursing is only done in a certain chair in a certain place at a certain time, she’ll adjust. Stella drank cow’s milk out of a sippy or regular cup during the day and nursed at 7am/7pm from 12months-17months.

    I think at 17mo she’d have keep going for awhile (as would have I), but I got pregnant again and was super sick and touched out and weaned her cold turkey, and it was okay. By then she was old enough to talk a little and communicate, and we told her Mama’s milk was all gone, which she understood.

    Good luck deciding what’s best for you! I really liked the 2 a day time – if I missed one night or one morning, it wasn’t a big deal, but there was still milk in there when needed. (and like you said, NO MORE PUMPING!)

    Oh – and going from 2/day to done was EASY – no engorgement, which was a definite plus.

  20. July 5, 2014

    Still nursing my 21 month old. We moved last week and it’s been rough adjusting and I can’t imagine if he weren’t still nursing. It’s how he gets his comfort and knows all is ok. The weird looks in public is probably the hardest but our babe’s are worth it. I say just do what feels right to you. There are days I swear were going to wean but then keep going. I just think we’ll know when it’s time.

  21. July 7, 2014

    Oh, this has been on my mind lately too! Curious to see how your experience goes, and what happens with your supply as well. Can’t offer much advice at this point, but I will say that re: extended breastfeeding, a good response to people inquiring how long you’re going to “do that” for is to say, “As long as I can” (with an especially positive/peppy tone of voice) — a friend of mine does this, and perhaps because she’s a pediatrician people always listen to her and back off as soon as she says that. I just thought it was a nice and polite way to say “What the hell does it matter to you?!” Anyway, I’m also in a similar boat with the public breastfeeding — I love doing it in a park or whatever, but at a busy restaurant it can draw a lot of attention, and 1-year-olds seriously don’t want to be covered up while sucking…

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