Monday, September 17, 2012

Weaning

A former student asked me recently how to wean her baby.  I've described my experiences many times over the years, but I don't know that I've ever done it here.  I hope this information is helpful and weaning is a process that is not painful for mom or baby.

Women typically have mixed emotions when it comes to weaning their babies from the breast.  They do it for many reasons too.  As usual, I have opinions on this topic, but I appreciate that everyone is in a different boat.

I am fortunate that I've always been able to stay home with my babies.  Well, I take that back.  Our first was born when my husband was a student at Brigham Young University.  I did work for about 3 months, but when we went on a week-long trip to Seattle, I didn't take a pump and he didn't have any bottles.  When we returned and I went to work, my husband called me in the middle of my shift -- freaking out -- that Daymon wouldn't take a bottle no. matter. what.  I always say that's a smart baby that insists on the breast!  If that's true, I had a genius on my hands!  David said he'd rather work and go to school full time than deal with that again!

My children all breastfed for varying lengths of time:
1st baby - 15 months
2nd baby - 19 months
3rd baby - 24 months
4th baby - 28 months

It should be noted when they all started solid food too:
1st baby - 5 months (ate everything except bananas)
2nd baby - 6 months (very picky eater, spewed everything back at me, meals were messy)
3rd baby - 9 months (just wasn't ready to eat till then, ate table food, not much baby food, not very picky)
4th baby - 12 months (wouldn't eat anything, didn't like the texture and would spit everything out, it wasn't for lack of trying to give her food that she started this late)

The one thing they all had in common was that I never "forced" them to wean.  With the first two babies, as they got older, they would eat food, play, and nurse occasionally.  I let them nurse whenever they showed interest.  It was so easy.  Perfect temperature and I always had it with me.  Breastfeeding is the easiest parenting "tool" I had.  It fixed everything.  Crying, temper tantrums, tiredness.  I honestly don't know how I would have parented if I had given my babies bottles.  It just seems so much harder.

Weaning was something that just happened naturally.  They got older and interested in other things.  They ate table food.  Eventually, we were down to just nursing to go to sleep, or first thing in the morning.  With my son, his last "feeding" was at 2:00 in the afternoon, during "Days of Our Lives".  I really wanted him to nurse so I could watch/hear my show!  He wanted to be on the floor playing.  One day I realized it had been 4 days since he had nursed.  I pumped a bit for relief and never experienced "let down" again.  It was over.  It wasn't painful because it was gradual.  My little boy was growing up and it was OK.  It was exciting to see him grow up.

Every child is different, of course.  So is every mom.  My 3rd baby was 2 and I felt like I was in a "window" to stop nursing.  I didn't want to nurse till she was 3 or 4.  I have a close friend that breastfed one of hers till 3 1/2 and she said she had wished she had weaned during the "2-year window".  I actually had a conversation with Abby about it and she agreed that she was done.  The nursing that was hardest for her was the morning nursing.  On day 3, she woke up at 5:00 a.m. starving!  David fed her lots of food and we went back to sleep!

I never experienced let-down again, didn't get engorged, babies weren't crying to be nursed.  It was painless.  Another close friend encouraged her 2-year-old with "drinking yogurts," something he loved to have, but was reserved for special occasions.  She wasn't telling him NO to nursing, but YES to the yogurt drinks.

The process should be gradual and as natural as possible.  It's exciting to see them grow.  It's a little bittersweet, but isn't the entire process.  They very likely won't remember nursing, no matter what age they wean.  For a long time, Darcy remembered laying down with me to nurse for naps, but she doesn't anymore.

In fact, our children will have very few memories from being little, but as mothers, we will remember breastfeeding our babies and nurturing them as they grow.  Enjoy every moment.

1 comment:

J-Momma said...

Great post, Donna. Asher and June both weaned them selves more or less at 14 months in almost exactly the way you described. They got "busy", didn't need it as much, and then ended up fine with a drink in a cup. No crying or tantrums or such. I was so thankful! Shiloh just completely dropped it, refused to nurse anymore at 10 months, which still baffles me. I was totally disappointed! But I see now that she is certainly my stubborn child, so it makes a little more sense. I still really enjoy reading! Praying to be back in DFW some day, I would love to support the Birth Network and all of the hard work that has gone into it!