On Nursing and Weaning

posted on: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Somehow my calendar tells me it's April already and what that means for me is that this not so baby boy of mine is turning two years old in just a few short weeks. Two years old also means weaning this not so baby boy of mine from breastfeeding. Part of me says, "finally!" And another part of me says, "...finally?"

I have so many mixed emotions over this transition. I have been s-l-o-w-l-y dropping feedings for a few months now and we're down to only one session a day which comes first thing in the morning when Oren wakes up. This is the feeding Oren is most attached to and it's going to be the hardest to eliminate. While I enjoy this extra time every morning for bonding and one on one time it's also a huge impediment to my sleep. He wakes up at about 4am every day, ready to nurse. And since this is the only session he gets, he doesn't want to stop. He will happily nurse one to two hours every morning which means by the time he's done it's time (or well past time) for me to get up and get ready for the day. And it's not like the old sweet days of nursing when we'd cuddle up and nurse ourselves back to sleep. He's active and moving, switching sides and climbing all over me the whole time. Leigh aptly calls nursing a toddler at this phase "gymnurstics" and it looks a lot like this. It's not that I don't enjoy it at all anymore, I do. It's just that I don't love it the way that I used to and now it also kind of just hurts?

There are a lot of reasons I've continued nursing this long. For one, I'm able, I've enjoyed it, he's enjoyed it and so why not? Nursing until your baby is two years old is also now the recommendation of the World Health Organization and recent studies explaining the benefits to nursing children as well as the reduced cancer risk for nursing mothers only bolstered my resolve.

So why quit now? Why not just let him self wean and be done when he's completely ready to be done? And this is the tough question for me. Because I have no idea how much longer that would be. Mostly, I am ready to have my body back at least for a little while. I mean, not to get all TMI on you, but I haven't had a cycle since the month before I got pregnant with Oren. We're talking nearly three years ago at this point. And while for the most part that has been **awesome** I'd also kind of like to go back to normal again here at some point and it'd be nice to know everything can still work the way it used to. Maybe (probably) that's a silly reason, and my amenorrhoea is just a sign that my body is doing it exactly what it's supposed to be doing. Which is naturally preventing another pregnancy while I have a nursing baby. But still, it's a little weird.

Also, it's the sleep thing. Until I cut out this early morning nurisng routine that child is not going to sleep past 4am. He's just not. And frankly, it's been years since I have had any kind of reliable, solid, CONSISTENT sleep pattern and I'm feeling really worn down. I am so beyond ready for some good sleep in my life.

And lastly, though I hate to even admit this, I'm starting to feel the pressure. Which is odd, because I know better to let that get to me. And anyone who knows me knows I have fairly small concern about keeping breastfeeding secretive or hidden or feeling ashamed by it in anyway. Pretty much everyone in my family can probably say they've seen my nipples at some point in the last two years. Not intentionally or anything, but after awhile it just becomes too much hassle to be vigilantly guarding any bit of skin from showing while nursing. Especially nursing an older baby whose job seems to be flinging off  any coverings and pulling down your shirt at his every whim. I mean, sorry guys, but it's just a boob, whatever.

But still, I'm getting the questions. "How long are you going to keep doing this?" and "Please promise me you're not going to be one of those women who's still breastfeeding their four year old." And it's making me start to feel a little self conscious which is straight up silly because it's my business, my decision, my body. So I am trying to not let that sway my decision making process. But it's tough you know. You'd think you could expect support from the people you know but sometimes you just get judgement.

So, here I am. I'm at the crossroads and I DO think it really is finally time. But what I don't know is how to fully pull the plug. Do I just go cold turkey on the day after his second birthday? Is there some great trick I don't know about for making the stopping any easier? If you have any advice on weaning a toddler I'd LOVE to hear it. For now my plan is to just offer lots of warm sippy cups of milk, distract him as much as possible and find other ways to comfort him like massaging or rocking him. Oh, and also going fully top button in all my shirts for the next little while. Still, it's going to be hard and he's not going to like it. I'm not going to like it and I'm not looking forward to this process. I'm just trying to visualize the light at the end of the tunnel and hoping I have the guts to persevere without giving in or or going backwards. So, if you have any experience in this area, please share. I have a feeling I'm going to need it.



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  2. I admire you for making it as far as you have. Both of mine weaned themselves early and it was sad. I don't have any advice, but you already sound like you have a great plan and it's obvious you're a rockin' momma who is going to pull this off and then go, 'wow, was I really worried about that?' ;)

  3. Congrats on making it to the two year mark. It really is something to be proud of and a huge accomplishment for your family :)
    We night weaned Kale at 15 months using Dr. Jay Gordon's method and it went really well (you can read about it here if you'd like: http://harvestingkale.blogspot.ca/2011/09/our-night-weaning-journey-how-we-did-it.html). One of the main reasons for night-weaning was because of Kale's sleep habits. Unfortunately, night weaning made absolutely no difference.

    After Kale's second birthday, he nursed morning, lunch and before bed. Over time, we cut the morning and lunch out - usually be distracting him with something else or not sitting where I normally nursed him. At 26 months, I was away at bed time for a couple nights in a row and decided that was it. He accepted the end of nursing with very little protest. He was ready to be done (and so was I).

    I just watched this video that I think you will enjoy that documents one of the last days nursing her toddler... http://www.documentingdelight.com/2013/04/05/bye-bye-baby-film-friday/

    1. That sounds like an amazingly smooth transition. Congrats, mama! I'm hoping for something similar!

      ...and that video. ugh. breaks my heart in such a good way. Thank you for sharing that.


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