Friday, November 7, 2014

The "Art" of Weaning

Nursing. Breastfeeding. Feeding your baby from your body.

We got off to a rocky start. I cried. I hated it. I dreaded it. I didn't think I'd make it. But I got through it. (For those of you still in those difficult first weeks, I wrote a post about the things that helped me in the beginning). After I made it through the first six weeks, I set my goal at a year. But inwardly I knew I'd be ok with going only six months. At six months, I laughed at the idea of stopping right when we had a beautiful rhythm and I was in love with the ease and simplicity of breastfeeding (as a stay at home those of you who pump, I applaud you!). So I confirmed that I would breastfeed for a year. Then I would take a year off to "have my body back," before planning the second pregnancy.

Great. Wonderful. Now here we are. I have a one-year-old who still nurses day and night. It's time...right?

I'm going back to work for just two days a week. Whether I want to think about it or not, even those two days a week bring up the clear question of weaning. Weaning your baby is such a complicated thing. The meaning it has for each mother is intimate and unique to her. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's private and should not be questioned. The why behind your choice to wean belongs to you. So, then, why do I not know my own feelings on this?

I used to crave the moment when I would have my "body back to myself." I always used that phrase. Like there was some part of my body I had given up. I don't feel that way anymore. Instead I feel that when I wean I am giving up a part of my body that is connected to him. A shared part of me.

But the coincidence of this with me going back to work is symbolic. Because being a stay at home mom has changed me. When I wrote a post about the Old Me, there was some wistfulness and yearning for that person. Have I simply buried her? Does she deserve a voice in this too? If I wean him, will I have a whiff of the old freedom that came with being a separate individual?

As always, I am a "middle ground" kinda girl. My plan in this is to night-wean sometime in the next month (yes, we co-sleep and he still nurses through the night) and to continue following his lead during the day. Already he is decreasing his day nursing to the point that my breasts are full and painful by the end of the day. He usually nurses before nap and before bedtime and maybe once in the late afternoon. Am I okay with that amount for another...six months? Another year? Maybe.

But then I think about our trip planned to Paso and Napa this January and I wonder, "Do I want to do that trip as a nursing mom? Where I weigh every drop of wine against my analytical, guilty conscience? Or do I want to do that trip as a separated person?"

I know at this stage that whatever choice I make will be okay for him. Is it good for him to continue getting breastmilk in the second year? Sure. But is it necessary? No, not really. He'll be fine physically and emotionally if I wean him. So then, this decision is not a rational one, but a relational, emotional decision. It's about me. It's about him. It's about us.

As I re-read this post all I see are rational, analytical words. Wasted words. Because I'm no closer to knowing what I want. So. I guess we will just see where this next stage takes us. And slowly, oh so slowly, begin to separate.

Any advice? Thoughts? When did you wean? What is your nursing goal? What will be your goal?


  1. My neighbors all mentioned that I would be very hormonal when I weaned Izzy and boy were they right! I didn't get very hormonal during pregnancy and I felt great after giving birth, but there were about three weeks where I was a bit nuts. As you know, Izzy decided at 7.5 months that she wanted to stop nursing. I had thought that I would continue for at least a bit longer but there was no way I was going to pump for her every meal so I decided to stop altogether. My neighbors both suggested that going cold turkey was the best way for them because drawing it out made them hormonal that much longer so that's what I did.

  2. I always knew I would aim for a year, but I honestly can't remember if I thought I'd be okay going beyond that or if I'd actively try to wean at that point. At any rate, I wound up exclusively pumping and made it to a year. So weaning has been less emotional for me, I think. M had switched to sippy cups during the day, anyway, and I transitioned her onto cow's milk over about a week. It's easier when there's not this whole mother-child activity that's coming to an end (I had emotions about that back when M was 3-4mos and starting to refuse to nurse). Just a mother-pump one, which I wasn't at all sad to see go!

  3. Weaning Finn was SO hard. He rarely nursed during the day (as he never liked bottles anyway), but at 13 months I was ready to start trying for baby #2, and so I weaned him, and it was difficult. He cried. I still remember how sad he was when I wouldn't let him nurse. And it took a whole 3 nights. Seriously, maybe 4, but that's it. I wasn't ready emotionally, he wasn't emotionally, but physically he was. Hormones were rough, I was really blue for almost a month after.

    This time, I really relate to your feelings of wanting my body back and yet not being ready to cut off that connection. After vacation last week, when we were together 24/7, I cut down pumping to once a day. The first step to weaning. And it makes me sad. I know I have to give up pumping completely soon - probably January - but after that I'll probably let him lead the way with night weaning.

    I don't think that helps you at all, does it? Except to say that I really do understand your conflicted feelings.

  4. Before I got pregnant, I told my girlfriend (who was a new mom at the time) that my goal would be 6 months. Like you, I had the idea that I would want my body back. Then after getting pregnant and learning more about the benefits of nursing, I thought a year. And now? I'm hoping to nurse Valentina for 18 months which means if I am able to get pregnant with #2 when I'm planning to, I'd be pregnant and breastfeeding at the same time! I love nursing her so much. We will be starting solids in a few weeks and I'm a little sad about not exclusively breastfeeding her.

    Maybe she will have her own plans though. My niece self - weaned at 13 months. My midwife said most babies would eventually.

    I'm interested to read about how the weaning process goes for you two.

  5. This was beautiful. It's such an emotional place to be in. I pump weaned and we did whole milk at day care as soon as she turned one. I just couldn't handle the pumping anymore. Then she wanted to just go straight to breakfast in the mornings and we were down to nursing to sleep only. I was willing to do that for as long as she wanted. Didn't last long, though. I went away for two nights and now at 12 months and 2 weeks old, she's decided she's all finished nursing. I cried my eyes out over it last night.

  6. I also started this with a 6-month goal, and then, it was so nice and sweet that I said, OK then, 1 year (also because I will be 35 next year, and I would like to avoid being labelled high-risk for a next pregnancy, but if we do end up needing treatments again, which, who am I fooling, is highly likely, then I need to not be breastfeeding by then). I hope you write about the process, because it is so complicated and hard. At 9 months Yu's eating 2-3 times per day, and then... what seems like all night long (though not really, I am just overtired). Like you, I highly respect women who pump, it is so hard.
    How do you even do this?

  7. There's the difference between pumping and nursing. I made it about 8 months. While I felt really bad about not giving them breast milk anymore, I was so glad to be done with the pump. I just couldn't do it anymore I was so glad to not have full, sore, leaky boobs all the time. Plus, pumping made it really hard to leave the house for more than a couple hours at a time.It was worse than planning outings around naps. I definitely was and am happy to have my body back. If nursing had worked out for me, I probably would have felt different and I probably would have made it a year. I probably wouldn't have minded the physical stuff because of the emotional connection. Don't quit if you aren't ready. Who knows, Owen may start weaning himself soon. It may happen naturally once you go back to work. But, do prepare yourself, it is a really emotional and hormonal time. For me it was almost like post-childbirth hormones. Wow. It feels like a lifetime ago, but it's only been 6 months since I quit pumping.

  8. I pumped and breastfed from birth through 11 months. Went back to work at 6. My baby seemed ready to wean - looked around a lot and was unfocused. I started with the day time at 6 months, b/c I had to for work, and continued that on the weekends. Then I dropped the morning feeding b/c I knew he'd be good an hungry and more likely to take a bottle. Then I dropped the night feeding by having my husband give the bottle. Baby didn't put up a fuss about any of it (which hurt my feelings a tad). B/c I'd over analyzed absolutely everything else, I decided to do no research on weaning. I just went with my gut. Also, as an aside - I don't miss it. I read him stories while he drinks his bottle and love that time we spend together too.

  9. I just wrote a really long post that somehow disappeared so that really bums me out. My story is a lot different from most of the rest of you posting here. I have always wanted to nurse my daughter until she is two, and I am terrified that she is going to be ready to wean before me. I guess the summary of my earlier post was that I think weaning is way more complicated than just giving up breastfeeding. Sometimes my body feels super exhausted and low-energy, but I'm not sure if it is the lack of support I feel as a single mom who is single by choice or if it is the actual physical depletion from the nursing and still carrying my almost 30lb 13-month-old baby around every because she can barely walk lol I would rather she start walking herself around everywhere and stop wanting me to hold her 24/7 than give up nursing- that would be the most beneficial thing for my body I can possibly imagine! Picking her up 50 times a day is literally killing my back. :P Anyway, back to the breastfeeding focus, I value my own independence to the point of prizing self-reliance, but at the same time I know no one is every completely self-sufficient. We all need help and support from others, more some times than others. What I'm trying to say is I feel like do we ever really wean completely? I still need my mom's time, energy and attention, and especially her help and her advice!!! I will never stop being dependent on her for guidance and emotional support. So I will just have to hope that my brilliant, strong, beautiful, independent girl grows to have that same connection with me, even after she decides to give up the boob entirely! :) Thank you so much for sharing your stories. This page has really helped me to understand and accept the complicated and sometimes conflicting emotions I feel about weaning. It's good to know I'm not alone ^_^


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