I’ve talked recently about how we are working on gently weaning my 19 1/2 month old son.
It all began with night weaning. Which even after I wrote about here, here, and here, still took several attempts and re-commitments, and trials and errors. In the end it was all about consistency, and dealing with a few (many, horrible, gut wrenching) tears. As of right now we nurse at night, to get E to fall asleep, and we nurse again at 5 am (sometimes a little earlier, sometimes later) to keep him asleep for another hour or two. We also nurse for nap, unless we are out and about in the morning and our car ride home puts him to sleep. He’s pretty good about transferring to his bed and staying asleep, and honestly I have been doing this more and more often as one of my strategies for weaning. But before I get too far, let’s pause…
Why are we weaning?
I always planned on nursing E until he was ready to stop. I was happy to have him go past 2 years, and continue right on through toddlerhood, if that was what he wanted. But somewhere along the line, like probably right here when I finally realized and admitted to my postpartum depression, I realized this kid was (and is) literally sucking the life out of me. I was constantly tired, weak, achy, run-down, and generally blah.
Don’t get me wrong. I am so grateful for the nursing relationship we have had. I have loved (and still love, on occasion) the moments of closeness, bonding, of knowing that my body is responsible for feeding and nourishing his little body. I have loved the way he twirls my hair, and lays his hand on my chest. I have loved so much about this relationship, and I would never have wanted it to go any other way. However, I’m done.
The problem is, that he’s not.
The kid could nurse all day, every day, until the cows came home (which they will never do because we live in a city). He uses it for comfort, and yes, that is ok. But for me nursing has turned into a chore. Every inch of my body wants to run in the other direction when I know it is time to nurse (except at 5 am because at that god awful hour my body does not want to run anywhere). And because I truly believe that breastfeeding is a mutual relationship, one that must work for both humans involved, I know that for us, it is time to help it come to an end. A slow, gentle, and peaceful end.
So that’s why we are weaning. Now here’s a look at how. Now, remember peeps, I am no expert. I’ve read a little, and I’ve reflected a lot, on just what is going to work for our family. I share this with you only in the hopes that it gives you support to find what will work for yours. So here in a neatly bulleted list (though in real life it is anything but neat) are our strategies for gentle weaning.
Strategies for Gentle Weaning
- Avoid nursing triggers. This has meant that sometimes I avoid nap time (as mentioned above), but I also avoid laying, sitting, or even stopping moving depending on the time of day. If it’s a high trigger time like after nap, or before dinner, I distract, distract, distract, and now that he finally takes it, I offer milk (almond).
- Set limits. A light bulb went off for me sometime around Christmas when I went in to see my nurse midwife. She took one look at me and started talking about sleep. We were still in the throes of night-weaning at that point, and I wearily told her about my son’s deep affection for the “na-nas”. She told me it was ok to say no. . . . huh. No kidding. Seriously, mind blown. Because before that it was all “don’t offer, don’t refuse” from all the (wonderfully lovely) attachment parenting friends and professionals I had spoken with or look to for advice. So, I started saying no. And yes, even just that was extremely hard for a while.
- Offer replacements. Almond milk finally became a thing for my son. One day he just up and started drinking it, after months of refusing. So now, when he wants “na-nas”, and it’s not one of our established nursing times, I offer milk. I also recently made him a cuddle doll. This was another thing he has never been into, but we talked about it (as in I talked to his little face about it and he said “uh-huh”) and he agreed that he would like one. So I made this guy.
- Create new touch opportunities. So much of nursing is about the bond. The time to snuggle, the time to look into each others eyes, the time to smell each other, and give kisses. This stuff is all really important to continue beyond the nursing relationship for both your little one and for you. The hormones that are released by this time are the hormones of love. Many moms feel a drastic change in their moods once they stop nursing. But by building in time for these touch experiences the dip can be less pronounced. For us, story time and yoga play help to create this opportunity. We sit and snuggle with books, or get on my mat and tumble around. Of course sometimes the request for “na-nas” will appear, which is when I go back to the first two mentioned strategies.
So that’s it. That is our plan for gentle weaning. Like I said, I’m no expert, and I’m still on the journey myself. I’ll keep you posted, of course. In the meantime, let me know…
What has helped you to feel more empowered in your nursing relationship?
Did your ideas about breastfeeding change once you were in the thick of it?