Warning: this post is about boobs :)
Well, it happened. The day has finally arrived. After 754 sometimes painful, sometimes annoying, but mostly wonderful days, Charlotte is finally weaned. That’s right, I am no longer a breastfeeder. Mom’s Diner has closed down. The end of our boobie era has arrived.
Before having Charlotte, I certainly had no plans to breastfeed for so long. In fact, I was one of those judgmental (me, judgmental?) prudes who felt that if the kid was old enough to ask for it, they were too old to be breastfeeding. Of course, that was before I knew of all the magical superpowers of boobie juce, before I knew that the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the American Academy of Pediatriacs all recommend breastfeeding for at least one year. And, that was before we struggled for nearly two months to breastfeed after Charlotte was born; when we finally did get the hang of it, I swore that I would breastfeed as long as she wanted (see my guest post at Offbeat Mama for more on this).
Weaning is never a quick or easy process, no matter how long or short a time you breastfeed. Here’s how we did it:
Phase 1: Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse
Just before Charlotte’s first birthday, as I prepared to go back to work, I started paying more attention to her breastfeeding habits (at this point, she’d nurse every 1-2 hours during the day, every 3-4 hours overnight) and adopted a ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ policy: I would no longer offer to nurse but would rather wait for Charlotte to show me that she wanted to. And I noticed very quickly that Charlotte was willing to drop down to nursing every 3-4 hours during the day.
Phase 2: Adapting to Mama’s Work Schedule
As my impending return to work loomed closer, I gave a lot of thought to when exactly I would be available to nurse. Over the weeks before my return to work, I encouraged Charlotte to nurse at those times more than at others- distraction worked very well here (“ooh, let’s play with this shiny object for awhile and then we’ll breastfeed”). Once I was back at work, I nursed Charlotte before I left in the morning, after her mid-day nap when I was home for lunch, in the evening as soon as I got home, before bed, and then overnight as usual. This required a bit of adjusting on Charlotte’s part, but I generally found that she was fine when I wasn’t around and only seemed to remember how great breastfeeding was when I reappeared.
Phase 3: Night Weaning
While our daytimes were going well, our nights were a disaster. Charlotte was still nursing every 3-4 hours overnight, and I was having a really hard time being zombie mom at work. After a few weeks, I could no longer function (I recall breaking down on the living floor, and then passing out on Charlotte’s playmats). That’s when we adopted Dr Jay’s nightweaning method, an awesomely gentle and effective way to kick the nighttime-nursing habit (see my post here for the details; the Leaky Boob also has some great info on this method). It took a few weeks to fully implement, but by the end we were down to nursing to sleep, an occasional late-evening feed, an early morning session, and a feeding when we woke up.
Phase 4: Following Charlotte’s Cues
Over the following months, I noticed that Charlotte no longer leapt at me (or rather, at my breasts) when it was time for her daytime feedings, and eventually she stopped asking for them as well. At around 18 months, we were down to the bedtime session, and an early morning feed. These two, I knew, were the most important to Charlotte, and would be sticking around for awhile.
Phase 5: Mama’s Had Enough
Shortly before Charlotte’s second birthday, I started to enjoy our remaining two nursing sessions less and less, and started looking really forward to their end. Up to this point, I had really liked these sessions, mainly because of the convenience of their miraculous sleep-inducing power. But now, more and more often, Charlotte would nurse but not fall asleep. And I knew it was time.
The first to go was the early morning feed, after our Thailand trip during which she surprisingly seemed to forget about our morning session. And, amazingly, shortly after she dropped this feeding she stopped her usual waking-up in the early morning and now just comes toddling in to my room when she’s all done sleeping.
The bedtime feeding, I knew, would be the hardest to give up. Partly it’s my fault, I’ve always used it as a convenient method to get Charlotte to fall asleep; she’s never known any other way of getting to sleep in the evening. So dropping this feeding also involved at the same time helping Charlotte to learn how to fall asleep on her own. One of the most effective ways I’ve found to ease this transition has been my “touch boobies” method: if Charlotte needs some extra comforting or help falling asleep, she can touch my breast. I don’t particularly enjoy this, but I also understand that Charlotte may not yet be ready to give up something that has been an immensely significant part of her entire life.
Phase 6: Getting Rid of the Final Feeding
Last Sunday, throughout the day I explained to Charlotte that we were going to do something totally silly and crazy: we were going to nurse before her bath. We would then get into bed, read a book, “touch boobie” and go to sleep. Ok? Ok.
Evening came, and after I got the bath running I offered to nurse. Charlotte paid me no attention, too engrossed in ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ to even notice. So I skipped it, and continued with the rest of the plan. When it came time to get into bed, Charlotte was a bit upset but I reminded her of our silly crazy plan, and with only a bit more whining she agreed to follow along.
And that’s how it’s been the past few nights: bathtime, read a book in bed, “touch boobie”, minimal whining, and sleep.
So it seems we are all done nursing!
I’m a little sad to have it end. But I’m also looking forward to having my body be my body again.
My little girl is growing up!