Weaning Woes

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A friend of mine told me she was spending something like $300-$400 a month on her baby’s special formula, and that was all it took for me to decide I wanted to breastfeed. With that kind of money my kid could be styling in some cute clothes and we could be having some good fun.

I decided I’d pump and breastfeed as long as I could. Every month I kept going I’d treat myself with something special.

It was my excuse for taking mommy and me yoga classes, investing in photography equipment, frequent Etsy splurges, and other random indulges. I’m not going to apologize for the savings being my main motivation for breastfeeding.

It was the main reason I didn’t stop at three months, or six months, or nine months. Sure, there were other great benefits, but knowing that I didn’t have to buy a can or formula during every shopping trip kept me motivated and ambitious about keeping up my pumping at work.

“I did it!” I thought on her birthday. I packed away my pump and bought our first jug of whole milk for my daughter. She drank that while I was at work. Finally, this week, it dawned on me she could drink it when we’re together too. It’s not like the expressed liquid gold I was too stingy to use when I was home.

Whole milk doesn’t keep her from wanting to nurse though. When she’s done with her sippy she’ll still ask for milk from me, and at 16 months I’m asking myself if I’ve had enough.

On my days off, or the days where my daughter doesn’t go to school, she nurses several times in the morning, then basically throughout the day, any time I sit down. Until recently I was carrying on with the “don’t refuse, don’t offer” technique where I only nursed her when she asked, but I realized that she would nurse because she was bored.

On days that I work and she goes to school she nurses in the morning, then again in the afternoon, when I pick her up from school, usually around dinner time, then before bed.

Lately I’ve been trying to distract her when she asks for the fifteenth time at home, and when we’re out and about. Personally, I don’t like nursing her in public anymore. She’s bigger, more distracted and it just makes things challenging for me.

Today when I picked her up from school she wiggled out of my arms and ran to the rocking chair I normally nurse her in when I pick her up. She’s recently moved up to the “bigger kids” class and for about a week she forgot about that routine. Today I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to sit down and feed her, so I told her it was time to go and that she could have milk later. Part of my heart broke watching her shake the chair we used to sit in every afternoon. She didn’t push the subject like she normally does at home and church. Normally she’ll cry and cry and whine until I give in or find something extra special to distract her, but she seemed satisfied with me just telling her it was time to go to the store.

We went straight to shopping, then a friends house then home to bed, and she didn’t ask again. I believe today she only nursed when she first woke up (and for the two hours we snuggled together before starting our day–Thanks to Daylight Saving time she’s still waking up too early.).

Could this finally be the beginning of the end? I hate to say it but I hope so. I’m ready. I’m ready to have my body back as my own. I’m ready to get her cuddles because she likes to snuggle and not because she wants to be pacified until I’m raw.

I’m ready to end the awkward moments where she sticks her hand down my dress in public. Heck… I’m ready to be able to buy and wear dresses without worrying if it offers easy access for breastfeeding.

I’m ready to start over as me, before beginning on this journey all over again.

My husband thinks it’s time. He has for a while. He thinks she’s too big to still be nursing. But he doesn’t push the matter, at least not when we’re at home.ย 

Then part of me worries I’ll miss this when it’s over. If I’ll wonder why I was so eager to end this. There are sweet moments where she stares at me from below and I look into the same giant brown eyes that I first laid eyes on 16 months ago. I feel as though this is the only part of us that feels the same. Me holding her in a cradle while she nurses to sleep. It’s a little sad to think we’ll be growing up, moving on to the next stage.

Oh we’ve had our rough patches along the way–The worst being a biting frenzy around 11 months that left me mentally scarred for life. But we made it through.

What started as a way to save and excuse to splurged turned into an unexpected blessing. The savings ended four months ago, but I’ve continued to nurse her because it’s what she’s wanted, and our routine wasn’t hurting anyone. But now I’m ready to close this chapter and open the next. But how?

If you’ve been through this I’d love to hear how you did it. I think we’re getting there gradually, which may be better than cold turkey but every time we get a day off together she has a nursing relapse and is latched around the clock. Thanks in advance for your words of wisdom.

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  1. i had my daughter may 31,2010. i nursed for the last time july 25, 2011….she was 14 months old. it was gradual process for sure going from infant nursing to 4-5 times a day to 3 times to only in the morning and night then only mornings. The first day i didnt nurse her bc we were busy and just had to go as soon as we woke up and she didnt seem to miss it. the next i made an effort NOT to nurse and she was fine. I felt the same exact way and my husband said the same thing. I was ready to have my body back and not worry about having to nurse. I miss it some days bc of the connection you feel and the little moments of them cuddling with you and not being INSANELY CRAZY ๐Ÿ™‚ But i am proud of myself for doing it and sticking with it for 14 months. You should be too!

  2. I was lucky with my first, when I got to that point where I was ready to have my boobs back (around 14 months with my first) I stopped offering as much, and he didn’t seem to mind– he didn’t ever really ask (would happily oblige if I offered, but didn’t outright ask). So I don’t really have any advice. I just wanted to congratulate you on breastfeeding for this long. Also, as someone who is proud to have breastfed my firstborn and is now 11 months into breastfeeding my second, when I was ready to quite with my first I didn’t really look back. He’s a snuggly guy so we still got LOTS of cuddle time together, and I was very glad to get my body back, and like you mentioned be able to pick out clothes without “boob access” being a primary factor. When I got pregnant with my second I started looking forward to breastfeeding again, and wondered if I’d want to stick to it longer since this will almost certainly be my last baby… at 11 months, I’m already kinda looking forward to weaning.

    I don’t know what it will be like for you, but for me I loved breastfeeding while we were doing it, and was happy to stop when it felt like it was time, and didn’t really miss it all that much (till it was time to do it again with #2).

    Good luck with weaning!

  3. I nursed both of my daughters until they were one. My youngest would only nurse at night time. And even then, it was right before bed. So, one night I substituted the book “Good Night Moon”, instead of the usual nursing. She didn’t bat an eye. It was as easy as that. I felt a little sad, but I realized it was time for her to move on. Today, we’re as close as ever. When you no longer nurse, there are the hugs and kisses and the snuggles that become more prevalent.

  4. I found your blog through Mormom Moms Who Blog. I hear you on this post. I nursed our first son until he was 15 months old and I totally felt what you felt when I was trying to wean him. It was bittersweet. I didn’t want to say goodbye to the sweet bond we have when I nurse him, but I was at the same time ready to move on. I just said to myself, moving on is a good thing and we’ll still have some other form of bonding (like snuggling and cuddling). I started weaning him slowly when he turned 11 months and completely finished on his 15th month – his last night time nursing. I was really torn in two. It was like I was determined to stop, and at the same time I wasn’t. But we stopped. Up until now that he’s 2 1/2 years old, he’ll still stick his hand inside my shirt whenever we’re shopping (or sometimes he’ll rub my breast if he can’t stick his hands inside my shirt) and I used to let him do it for a while. I don’t let him do it now because somebody else is nursing from me now and it gives me let-downs whenever my first son tries to rub it. Whenever we cuddled and snuggled (after I weaned him), I positioned him in a way as if I was nursing him lying down on our bed (with my shirt on). He was content with that. I still do it that way.

  5. i feel like such a weirdo even saying this, but this brought me to tears. it really got me when you said exactly what i’ve been feeling: “this is the only part of us that feels the same”. i’ve been thinking about the weaning issue a lot lately. my baby girl’s only 9 months, but she’s super tall and super wiggly so i too am pretty much over nursing her in public. and when we’re at home, we face the same issue: nursing around the clock just for something to do. i’d like to get her down to only a few times a day to make the inevitable weaning process go more smoothly, but i’m starting to think that i’m just as addicted to it as she is (at least the emotional side)! i remember thinking “what is wrong with those people?!” after hearing stories about women nursing their children well into their second, third, and even fourth year of life, but now…while part of me is thinking “wouldn’t you like to have your boobs back?!” and another part is thinking “well, it couldn’t hurt to keep going as long as she’s interested”. i’ll have to check back to see if some moms who’ve already gone through this leave some great advice…i need it too!

  6. Jenn I am right there with you! My daughter’s 15 months and is fed on demand. We bought the gallon of milk a few times and had to watch it spoil as she refused. Little by slowly she’s been taking more of it especially when accompanied by a snack like wheat crackers or an oatmeal cookie, but I want her to be able to drink it on her own.

    I am wanting my body back as well. I won’t lie – the weight loss from nursing has been fantastic. I am now 10 lbs less than my pre-pregnancy weight, but I feel like I also need my body for me for at least one full calendar year before I can consider getting pregnant again. My husband also wants her weaned but we’re wavering as we think it would help our upcoming trip to Nigeria go smoothly. Perhaps when we return the gears of weaning will set in motion. I started the process when she was 10 months but between her starting to walk at that age, teething and recent sickness we keep regressing. Oh well! When it’s meant to happen it will happen I guess. Thank you for your post – it lets me know I’m not alone!

  7. I was lucky enough to nurse my first 2 children and both weened themselves. But my youngest and last child I didn’t get the luxury of nursing because of several issues but the main issue is she is severely allergic to dairy, lactose or anything to do with milk. We have almost lost her a number of times because of this allergy… How I wish I had been able to nurse and not spend $1000 a month on special formula (NEOCATE) she is 4 and the price has gone down but there isn’t anything else she is able to do that can give her the nutrients she needs… Good Luck on weening, I missed doing that the 3rd time around and kind of feel that my relationship with my youngest is “different” because of that…

  8. First, good luck with the weaning!

    I nursed my baby girl until she was 17 months old. I started dropping one session per week so I wouldn’t get engorged. It worked like a charm, and the milk disappeared like it was supposed to. My girl hates store-bought milk, so that’s an issue now.

    I was extremely unprepared for the emotional aspect of weaning. The bond was so strong and I loved every single minute of it (including the first, hellish weeks). I felt I was rushed into weaning by well-meaning family members. The last time I nursed her, I was a mess. I really don’t think I was ready, and regret forcing it on her. I treasured that last session and always will.

    Sorry for the rambling. I got emotional again, 9 months later.

  9. Breastfeeding is a great bonding experience and it’s wonderful being about to provide your child with natural feeding. I breastfed both my daughters with no bottles for a year each. Once they were old enough for whole milk I knew I would stop. I did it gradually which I think is best and easier. The older they got the less dependent they got on breast milk because they got most of their nutrients from food so it was easier when the time came to ween them. It’s takes time so don’t stress over it but do be consistent with your chosen routine to ween her off. Good Luck!

  10. Our daughter is 15.5 months, and we started weaning about a month ago. It’s a slow process, and we’re letting her lead, mostly. It started with a dinner sippy of BM/WCM, and then she moved to a sippy at breakfast too. Eventually, the ratio of WCM/BM decreased, so now it’s only WCM at breakfast and dinner. She gets a defrosted BM/WCM bottle at naptime, and nurses at bedtime when I’m home from work or gets a bottle of the same when I’m not.

    I like your idea of giving yourself something special for each month. I think I sort of did that without being official about it. We absolutely enjoyed our BFing experience, but I am ready to wind down somewhat, and start preparing for #2.

  11. I did don’t offer, don’t refuse with my daughter, then moved on to distracting her until she gradually dropped the last few nursings around 21 1/2 months. I started to absolutely despise nursing around 18 months and blamed it on birth control pills. I later learned I was experiencing a nursing aversion. It was physically and emotionally irritating and making me crazy.

    Sooo, I was determined to nurse my son longer. No BC pills but I still developed an awful nursing aversion around the same time. He continued to nurse morning noon and night until I was about 8 weeks pregnant. He stopped around his second birthday cold turkey and never looked back. It does make me sad sometimes but I know I have another baby to nurse soon.

    I just worry because I was dreading nursing my son because of the memories of the nursing aversion with my DD (it was fine BTW) and now I am dreading nursing this baby because of how much I hated nursing towards the end with my son.

    On one hand, I don’t want to wean the baby before s/he is ready, but on the other hand, I don’t want my last memories of nursing to be awful ones!!

  12. I love this post! It kind of got me emotional. I have not got to that point yet. I have 3 kids and have always quit after about a couple of weeks. I am pumping with my this last baby so she can still reap the benefits of my milk. My mother nursed all 5 of her children. We all quit when we wanted to or when we were ready. It usually happened between 1 year and 18 months. I would say just go with the flow if it does not affect other parts of your life to much.

  13. I breastfed for 10 1/2 months. I had to stop because I was pregnant and not feeling well. I wish we went a couple more months, but then she started getting teeth so I didn’t mind as much ๐Ÿ™‚

    I just cut down one nursing session every few days until there was just one left in the morning. She didn’t have any issues at all and it was an easy process. Cutting it down that way also helped with slowly stopping my milk supply. But it was easy for her because of her personality- she is a busy girl and likes to always be moving. She never cuddles with me for too long before she wants to move onto the next thing.

    You will miss nursing but you will love having your body back at the same time. It is kind of like when you give birth. You like the feeling of being pregnant because you love feeling your baby kick and move and everything. But the moment the baby is out, your body feels so much better- you’re able to sleep better, your stomach doesn’t hurt, etc. You may miss being pregnant a little bit because of those special times you had with your baby (just the two of you), but it’s nice to have your body back to yourself and be able to exercise and feel 100% again. It’s fun to move on to the next thing.

    I think as long as you still have your cuddle sessions, then it’ll be okay ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Hmm that’s a tough one…she seems pretty attached to momma. With both my kids I started nursing just in the mornings (I didn’t want them to be nursed to sleep and get attached to it) by the time they were 12 months. We did the once a day thing for a few weeks and then I just stopped. They never asked or seemed upset or anything…but they were 13 months not 16 months, a little less vocal. I think you will be surprised at how easy it is. I know the feeling of just being ready to be done. I would recommend going to once a day and that’s it. Eventually you can go every other day and then just stop. But you’ll know what will work best for you and lil J so follow your mommys intuition.

  15. WOW! You are amazing. I nursed both my kids, and at 9 months, I was finished. Luckily they can have a mixture of Whole Milk then and I also am a total cow and make WAY too much, so at about 9 months I switch them to less nursing, more sippies. Then by 12 months, they are finished, both my kids decided to quit on their own, (they also quit sucking their thumbs around 11 months, BONUS!! I totally lucked out there!)So, for advice, I don’t have any personally, but I can give you the advice I was given: “It’s gross to see a 4 yr old nurse.”
    When it comes down to it, you probably will miss it after you stop, but then when you start again, and get to the end point, you’re going to be thinking, “And why was I missing this?” Just like you’ll look at old pictures and think about how much you miss her at that age. It’s just a part of growing up.

  16. My best advice is to come up with a replacement/distraction, and do your best to make that the new normal. Get really excited about it so she knows it’s special, and hope it works! I nursed over 14 months and gradually cut down–the morning feed was replaced by real breakfast and then we’d head out the door right away to daycare. The night feed was replaced with a sippy cup and a story, I think. I think it’s really about changing up the routines and getting her out of the habit. Good luck!

  17. I nursed Moo until three weeks before her second birthday. She only nursed at night because that was how I always put her to sleep. But once I told her no nursing that first night, it just stuck from then on out. I think that she was ready to stop but kept nursing because it was like a security blanket at night.

    Try giving her milk or juice in a sippy cup with a soft mouth piece when she wants to nurse. NUK makes some great cups with mother pieces that are similar to an actual nipple. That might help with the weaning process. It did wonders for Moo on those few occasions when she wanted to get upset because I wouldn’t nurse her.

  18. I got kind of teary eyed when you said that she went to the rocking chair and pushed on it. Sweet little baby!:)

    I don’t really have much advice other than gently redirecting her to something else when she asks to nurse often. But, please don’t quit cold turkey. Nursing satisfies young children’s emotional needs as well, so maybe just nursing once or twice a day for a few months won’t hurt.

    That’s what I kept in mind with both of my children. After about 15 months, I limited it to morning, afternoon, and before bed. Gradually it went to just morning and before bed, and then just before bed. Eventually they get to the point of not really expecting it anymore.

    On the occasional times that they did, I just gently redirected them to something else, and for the most part they won’t ask for it anymore. I breastfed for a while, until my children were around 2.

  19. It sounds like you are wanting to wean but also know that it is totally fine if you just want to cut back and continue to nurse. There is such a stigma in the US for nursing a toddler, but in most countries they nurse for 2-3 years (or so the research says!) and the health benefits still carry on as long as you nurse. I thought when I began nursing I would want to wean at 1 year….now as my girl is 10 months old I am thinking….maybe 2 years? We do not nurse on demand though…we nurse every three hours so I don’t know what it would be like to nurse 15x a day! Some moms just do a morning and night feed…just a thought!

  20. Congrats, mama, on making it this far with breastfeeding – it’s such a huge accomplishment!

    I found your post really moving and I really identified with most of it. I think the biggest thing is that you’re recognizing that while your daughter can nutritionally move on to cow’s milk, your breastfeeding relationship is about so much more than nutrition. It’s a dance between mom and babe, a special bond, and something you both must want to continue so that it doesn’t become a burden. If you’re ready to move on, it may be time for some gentle nudging beyond don’t-ask-don’t-refuse.

    I weaned my daughter around 22 months b/c I was pregnant again, my milk had essentially dried up, and it had suddenly become very VERY painful for me due to the surging hormone insanity in my body. I didn’t push hard or make any sudden moves, but I started trying to distract her when she would ask, offering a cup of milk instead, etc. Daddy took over bedtime for about two weeks and she had so much fun with that that she stopped asking for nursing to go to sleep.

    In the end, I was glad to be done. I loved breastfeeding my daughter and all that came with it, but it was the right time for us. But even knowing that and being totally ok with it, I was a weepy mess for a week after I realized we were really DONE. It was the end of an era for us — for the first time in nearly 3 years, I was no longer growing and nourishing her with my body in some way. She was growing up on me!

    Once my hormones settled and milk production totally ceased, though, I felt much more stable and no longer cry over it. But it is still a tad bittersweet. It’s incredibly freeing to no longer be nursing, but I still can’t help but miss it.

    Oh, to be a mom! ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. My little guy is 15 months now and I stopped nursing in September, when he was 13 months old. I was really lucky because he weaned himself the whole way. I work full-time and I pumped up until a couple weeks before he turned 1. I hated pumping and will not miss it! I already have completely blocked it from my mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

    It sounds like you’re already going with the flow and nursing when it’s comfortable for both of you. Keep doing what you’re doing and go with your instincts! You know what’s best for you and your baby.

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