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We had quite a run.
When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed my son. For how long, I kept an open mind and just kept going. As long as it worked for us, there was no reason to stop.
This past Saturday, even though Rion and I were both under the weather and John was taking care of family in another state, we didn’t nurse. I realized right before bed time that we hadn’t nursed and I didn’t want to nurse him before bed.
We were down to one nursing session a day and I think we both just forgot. He didn’t ask. I didn’t offer.
I feel more sad than proud at the moment. I should definitely be proud of the things my body has accomplished in the past two plus years. I’ve created life and nourished that life for close to 18 months. All good things must come to an end at some point, but I am still sad about it.
If you would have told me 18 months ago I’d be weaning a toddler from breastfeeding, I wouldn’t have believed you.
We didn’t start off perfect. We had to supplement at first because he had low blood sugar and I was on the pump as soon as we got home from the hospital. Rion reached birth weight two weeks later. I then had a clog and had to be on the pump even more to work through the clog and to get my supply up. I ate oatmeal, drank my weight in water, didn’t sleep, nursed around the clock, pumped around the clock, all while recovering from a C-Section.
By Ri’s one month appointment, we had replaced his formula feeds with pumped breast milk. Being able to get off the pump and just nurse my son felt great.. I felt really proud then. I don’t think I even understood what my body was capable of until motherhood.
When I went back to work I began pumping 4 times a day. Eventually, I got down to three pumping sessions a day, followed by two, then one. When I got a new job, I started pumping twice a day. Ri had just turned a year old and we introduced whole cow’s milk. He didn’t fuss with it and drank every drop. I took this as a sign to go down to one pumping session a day, and soon, I decided I had enough of the pump and quit it all together.
The pump sucks. It’s far from natural. I never felt awkward nursing, but I was strict with pumping. I’d never give it more time than I had to. I enjoyed my time away from my desk, but hated the pump.
I’d nurse in public with very little care as to what other people thought of me. Ri hated the cover. He’d either knock it off or would get so sweaty underneath that I’d just take it off anyway. Besides, I can nurse wherever I damn well feel.
I’d ask for places to nurse. I specifically remember one incident at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in DC if there was a place for me to take my then six month old to nurse. We were standing next to a bench, and the woman said “If you’re comfortable, go ahead and nurse right here.” I smiled. I was comfortable.
Once we started adding in food, our nursing sessions started becoming more infrequent. I still nursed on demand up until a year old, and even after I wasn’t stopping if he wanted to nurse. Some days he would be sick and would want to nurse more. Other days, it would be less.
I decided about two months ago I needed to wean from nighttime feedings – especially overnight. I haven’t slept much since. It’s been rough, but I have kept with it. I will give him a cup of milk if he needs it and sometimes he does drink it down in one gulp.
With night weaning, we were down to just one nursing session a day – when I get home from work. It’s been our thing since I went back to work and now I have to stop that. I don’t know how today is going to go.
I knew our nursing journey would be coming to an end, but it hit me like a freight train on Saturday. It was here. Nearly 18 months. Over two years of my body providing nourishment in some way to my little boy.
I’ll feel proud in a few days when I look back on what I did.
We had a terrific nursing relationship.
Besides dealing with the clog early on, I was fortunate to not deal with other issues such as cracks or nursing strikes. I knew all about them because I did research so I knew what to do if it did happen.
I could probably give 1,000 tips on everything nursing. With a support system and my own research, I became incredibly knowledgeable on breastfeeding. Because Ri and I made a great team, I loved it so much that I looked into becoming a lactation consultant. It’s still not out of the cards, just is for now.
It’s been just two days and our biggest test will be tonight when I get in from work. I don’t know how to avoid nursing, but I have the rest of today to think about it.
If you’re looking into gentle weaning a toddler from breastfeeding, here are a few tips that I did that helped the process.
- Stop feeding to sleep. This was our, err, my crutch. You can start by nursing in a different place other than the bedroom and moving him back to his crib/sleeping place once you are ready to attempt sleep. Ri took to this much better than I thought he would. We can get him to go to sleep by just rubbing his back or singing to him.
- Change your routine. If your child is expecting to be nursed, change your routine so he or she can become accustomed to not nursing. This one was hard for me, but for dropping our morning feeds, I’d make sure he’d stay asleep and I’d already be dressed by the time he got up. It didn’t always work, which leads me to…
- Offer something to eat or drink. In the mornings, I started offering his straw cup of milk and a small cup of Cheerios. The morning feed was dropped thanks to replacing it with food.
- Take your time. Being completely done took us nearly six months. I wasn’t actively pursuing weaning, but I knew it was going to happen at some point. I decreased feedings and pumping sessions over time and let Ri take the lead. He’s done great weaning himself and it’s now my turn to step in.
- It’s okay to set boundaries. Toddlers love crossing boundaries and this is definitely one battle that’s hard. When Ri would try to nurse in the mornings (specifically on weekends), I’d explain that we didn’t nurse until the afternoon to keep it in line with the time I arrived home from work. I don’t think he understood, but I stayed consistent.
However you choose to wean is your choice. We did slow and steady which worked well for us.
And hopefully will work tonight when I get in the door.
Did you nurse your children? How long did you nurse for?