It has been two weeks to the day that I completely stopped nursing Laila.
It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t this long, thought out planned event like I thought it would be.
“You should plan it out around 10 months so she can be weaned by 12 months.”
“You should make a plan and stick to it no matter what.”
Advice flooded me if I mentioned to moms that I was thinking about weaning. I was confused on how…we had become so attached and used to nursing.
After her first birthday, we came back from our NY trip where we spent her real birthday with friends and family on the east coast. When we returned, I had to plan her birthday party, and while small, I wanted the details of all things she loved so it took up time preparing for it, (stay tuned for the post on her Baby Einstein themed party).
Weaning got put off during the party planning and when someone said, “Oh wow you are still breastfeeding? Are you going to wean her soon?”
I would say yes, soon… but the words had no real definite time or true answer for me. I was unclear on what I wanted to do. So I continued nursing, keeping the idea of weaning in the back of my mind.
It came to me in a moment last month on the beach, when I saw a friend of mine, who has a 2 and a half year old, breastfeeding her daughter before her nap. While I found it sweet, I realized right then and there…that was not me. I wasn’t the mom who wanted to nor could grasp the idea of breastfeeding my soon to be walking, talking toddler.
Laila was also eating full meals at the time, plus her teeth came in and I was definitely ready for the tugging and pulling to be over. One night, I made a semi-plan with my husband. One that we thought was do-able and that we weren’t attached to, since we know, just like with everything else, babies are unpredictable.
And that’s exactly what this past month of weaning has been-unpredictable. At almost 14 months old, she is weaned now, but it felt like there were things I never would have expected, and with the things I mention here, I hope you can be prepared for what no one told me about weaning.
1. Do it gradually:
I weaned her in stages. I had about a month’s worth of frozen breast milk in the freezer from my pumping days. Since our freezer was so full, I stopped pumping gradually around 10 months, eliminating a pump session every day and soon down to none. The only time I was consistent about pumping was in the beginning 6 months when I established my milk supply. Then towards the end, since Laila was so efficient about drinking and emptying, I didn’t have to).
We first eliminated the small mid morning feed and small late afternoon feed-then the large afternoon feed, all within a 10 day period. (every few days).
Since she was eating solids, if she had a large lunch, and didn’t drink the whole bottle of breast milk in the afternoon before her nap, I wasn’t too concerned. And only get rid of each subsequent feeding when one is successfully eliminated.
The first time we eliminated the afternoon feeding, it was hard on my boobs, I had to pump a little to relieve the pressure and pain. If you are weaning from pumping, you might have done this also, just as Shraddha had written about how she did it.
We replaced the subsequent two feedings with half breast milk and animal milk, (she had been getting organic, probiotic yogurt during the day for months and was fine and also goat’s milk in her oatmeal to test out on her and she was fine with that). If your baby has never had dairy, I would suggest only a little tiny bit at a time and monitor how she or he does via bowels and fussiness. I tried goat’s milk first and then now cow’s milk. She wasn’t crazy about the goat’s milk, (from a local farm near us), so replaced it with cow’s milk, (also from a farm and organic/grass-fed), which she enjoys more. It also did take her a little time to get used to the milk with some explosive poops. Just like with any transition, give it time. But if you notice any blood in the stool or something abnormal, contact your pediatrician.
2. Have someone else give the milk:
In the beginning she didn’t take the bottle from me. I had to have my sister or husband or nanny give it to her. Even then, it was hit or miss. She was smart and knew that the bottle meant no booby. But she eventually caught on and would drink it and now gulps it down.
3. Night feed or morning feed last:
It’s a personal choice to eliminate the two most loved feeds babies have: the morning or night. We did night first since the morning was harder for my husband to do with work and she loved cuddling in bed with me in the morning after we got her from the crib. So, the last one we did was morning.
4. Give them lots of love:
Babies who have been breastfed for a long period of time are not only attached to the milk, it’s the bond and comfort of momma. The idea that ‘if you hug and kiss her it will be harder to let go of it’ made no sense to me. They say moms in the past who used to just go on vacation for a week or two to make baby just forget, has psychological effects on baby! She needed extra love, she was mourning the loss of something she adored, so I hugged and kissed her, had my sister hug and kiss her more than ever before, which is A LOT already…we showered her since she needed it more than ever.
5. Don’t give up:
There were times she would hit my chest and look at me with the saddest eyes ever that I just wanted to forget the whole thing. And there was even a time or two where I caved, and started back at square one. Remember though to stay tough, distract them with things, places, games etc. They are more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes, it’s us that can’t take it!
6. It’s going to hurt:
Even while weaning gradually, it hurt. For at least one week after eliminating all the feedings, I had to use ice packs to help reduce the swelling and discomfort and even considered the cabbage leaves method,(taking cold cabbage leaves and cupping your breasts with them). Remember not to keep pumping because you won’t stop producing then. And wear sports bras, it helped me. But be prepared to feel like you have large golf balls in your boobs. I would often massage my breasts in the shower to help, but remember that if you start to feel or notice any signs of mastitis, like fever, see your doctor. I have also heard, haven’t gotten mine yet, that the first period after extended breast-feeding can be painful!
7. Be prepared to cry and hear crying:
Even for the toughest mommas, it’s emotional. Not to mention your hormones are shifting during the change, so prepared for tears, for emotional tugs and pulls. It’s a transition for everyone. And when your little one is crying, asking for what she loved so much, the beautiful bonding of nourishing her, it will feel like beyond your heart can handle. Let it all out, let her or him let it out, and remember, it’s temporary, and like all stages, it is a change for her and for you to adapt to.
8. Allow for more creative ways to parent:
This past month has shown me how to parent in more creative ways than offering to nurse her. When she got hurt before or was tired, I would have nursed her and comforted her, but now I find that I sing, (no I am no Adele but she likes my singing!), I read her more books than before, play more games and go outside a lot. Don’t spend time in your previous nursing spots until she is ready to go back to it without asking for nursing. We cuddle and bond in our own way now, and at first while I missed it, it feels just as good hugging her.
9. They may need a comfort toy:
Laila has a little giraffe connected to her soothe pacifier and that has been her comfort for the last week. We don’t want her “getting addicted” to the pacifier, so take it away, but if she needs a little comfort before bed, we don’t mind giving it to her.
10. If they are eating, offer nutritious foods:
They will be replacing so much nutrition in breast milk with other sources that only goat’s or cow’s milk can’t offer, (not even formula can replicate), so be sure to offer them nutritious foods and start their eating patterns to be healthy.
11. Listen to your intuition:
This is of course mommy 101. But in the moment it’s sometimes hard when you hear a million different question and ideas on this. While I felt like no one had much to say about weaning the way it was about birthing, breast-feeding and potty training, remember that our own inner voice is the best one to listen to. I remember people kept telling me to go to the sippy or straw cup instead of bottle at night or we will deal with a second weaning of the bottle later. But when we tried that, it felt like we were being too cruel. She still needed a little comfort going from breast to bottle vs. breast to sippy cup. She drinks water from her straw cup all the time, so we know when it’s time to transition to that cup for milk, she will do it, she just couldn’t while she was giving up the boob, changing the taste from breast milk to organic goats/grass-fed cow’s milk all at once.
12. You are not the worst mom in the world:
During this past month, there were so many times the guilt would hit me, and then I would remind myself that it’s a transition, (just like moving her from the bassinet to crib or the soon to come potty training). When someone would say that they decided to feed until 3 years, that I should also etc., I had to remember to trust my decision. I think it’s life, it is different and teaching them how to handle differences is a good thing, too. However long you breast-fed, whether it be 6 months, 1 year or 3 years, know that it was a wonderful thing.
And in the end, after this whole month, Laila still loves me all the same. We both are growing as baby and momma and finding these stages to be beautiful.
Let me know your own experience below, would love to share weaning stories:)
P.S. Thank you to my hubby, my sister and all my momma friends who listened/helped/were there for me during the newness of this transition with my little L. xo