A Big Hurdle: Weaning

Well, this is definitely a post for all you nursing momma’s out there. Hopefully it is not TMI for everyone else, but oh well. Read at your own risk, knowing there will be talk of engorgement, cabbages, and all other things weaning. 🙂

Before P was born and once he was born, I kept getting questions about how long I planned to nurse him. This is a hard question to answer, because I had never nursed before, so I had absolutely no idea. It’s also hard to answer because each child is different. But, I had always thought I would nurse until my child was 1 yr. old and then wean.

Well, then a couple months ago when P was about to turn 1 year, I realized I was still definitely nursing. In fact, because P nursed so well, I was still nursing him about every 2-3 hours during the day and 1-2 times at night. I was no where close to weaning. However, at that point, I realized I wasn’t ready to be done nursing and P didn’t seem like he was either. So I put it in the back of my mind and kept going with life.

Weaning then kept coming to the front of my mind over the next couples weeks. It became something I thought about more and more. I started asking family what they did, looking for advice. I was genuinely scared of weaning. Why? P didn’t drink or eat anything else well. I was worried he would practically die of dehydration and starvation. At the same time.

What did I do?

Ever so slowly I started weaning P. As per my sisters advice (all my weaning ideas came from my sister) My first step was to only nurse 1) when he woke up 2) before nap times and 3) before bed. Nursing was really calming for P and bonding for me, so it worked nicely to keep these feedings. I weaned very slowly, cutting back just one feeding each day or every couple days.  

Then, things started speeding up when Sam and I decided we were going to go on a trip alone for 3 days and leave P with my in-laws. When we booked the hotel for about 3 weeks out, I knew this was the real deal. I didn’t want P to suffer a lot when we left, so I knew we had to make major progress.

P showing off his yummy peach he can feed himself!
Each week before we went, I cut out one feeding. I first cut out all day-time feedings, then stopped the morning feeding, and last the nighttime feeding. I cut out morning feedings by simply using distractions. I’d wake P up and then soon thereafter put him in the stroller with a sippy cup of milk and go walking. Cutting out mid-day feedings happened as I spent more time away during the day (2 days I went to Girl’s Camp during the day) Sam was also in between jobs at this point, so he would stay with P and put him down for his mid-day nap. This was huge, it was harder for me to wean P and still be putting him to bed. P realized what was happening and got very frustrated. So, Sam’s help and my distance was good.

How did it go?

Weaning slowly seemed to work really well for us. P is eating better than he did while nursing and is drinking better too (milk and juice). However, his ability to eat and drink more on his own didn’t start happening until I started weaning much more. There was one hard day when he almost refused to drink very much for a while. But, then the next day he was drinking like a champ.

P is also sleeping better. He is pretty easy to put to sleep and sleeps about 10-11 hrs. a night, with a 2-4 hr. nap during the day. Other people can now help put him to bed easier, since I am not nursing him.

Physically, I am feeling pretty good. I ended up not getting any medicines to dry me up, and have felt a little bit engorged, but not too bad. I simply try to express a little bit of milk to reduce the pressure. I took a warm shower and massaged my breasts, which helped. Even though I didn’t try it, my sister who was a nurse, recommended Benedryl as a way to dry up. I have also heard from friends that putting cabbage leaves (wha??) in between your breast and your bra can dry you up as well!

A personal adjustment is that my appetite has changed a lot during the last couple weeks. Nursing requires way more calories and since I am no longer nursing, I am not as hungry. I am not as thirsty either. I have started gaining a bit of weight back, most likely because I was used to eating more food, and now I am learning to cut back my calorie intake a bit to fit what I actually need.

Emotionally, I feel like the timing has been wonderful. I feel content. I got to nurse my little boy for about 15 months and that worked for us. I feel like weaning slowly helped prepare me for being done. I loved my last feeding with P, it was memorable. To insure that we still have bonding time, we spend more time reading books together or do other things that give us close physical contact and bonding. P has actually been the one to instigate more physical touch, I think because he can tell he is missing it.

Here are the TOP 5 major things I learned:

1) I read many articles that said weaning would naturally happen. This wasn’t the case for us. I decided I wanted to be done in the near future and started the process. P loved nursing and probably would have kept doing it for a long time.

2) Weaning is not a regimented system. I am P’s mom, P is my boy and depending on how P and I feel, I will decide what to do.

3) Nursing is a very emotional bonding experience, so it was important that I make strong commitments to myself. Sometimes it was easy for me to get lost in just wanting to nurse again or not feeling like cutting out a feeding. In this process, it was important for me to not just rely on my feelings, but focus on my logic.

4) Deadlines or rewards are instrumental. It gave me the incentive to keep going, because I didn’t want P to be unprepared for when I was gone. I wanted a smooth transition. For us, it was an exciting trip alone. But, it could be anything.

4) Sam was huge in this process. He kept me accountable, was a huge support, and helped out a lot so the weaning would be successful

5) Weaning was spiritual. I was genuinely SCARED of weaning. It was a huge act of faith to realize that P feeding himself was not up to me anymore. It was largely up to him. I couldn’t make him drink; I couldn’t make him eat. I didn’t expect to be scared. As a result, we prayed for strength and for P. Weaning was a big deal for P, and we prayed that he would react well to it. In our experience, our prayers helped a lot.

Overall, weaning has been exceptionally personal to me and my family. I will not hesitate to say that it was a big deal for me! It was a process that slowly took form, but that nevertheless, was very intentional. I had to keep my commitments. I had to find a balance between logic and emotion, and in the end, relying on the Lord gave me peace and strength.

What has helped as you have weaned your little one?

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