Friday, February 26, 2016

Let's talk about weaning...

So I realize I've probably already lost some of you with that title, and that's totally fine...this post is definitely NOT going to be of interest to everyone! So if talking about babies and breastfeeding isn't your jam, feel free to leave now and it's totally fine :)

I felt this very long wordy post needed a photo and this one of me nursing Henry from our family session this summer with Ashley Scheider is a favorite that seemed appropriate :) So thankful that she captured this sweet moment!
 But for those of you who are interested in that topic, I wanted to write this post to share what our experience has been like with weaning! Earlier this month, after almost 14 months, Henry and I have finally finished our journey with nursing. It's definitely bittersweet and hard to believe it's over! The reason I wanted to talk about it is because I felt like when I was looking online for information about weaning (how fast to do it, people's experiences with it, etc.) I didn't really find too much? When Henry was a newborn, I felt like I found SO many articles on how to get started with breastfeeding and increase your milk supply, but when it comes to stopping, it's almost like no one wants to talk about it? So I figured I'd share our experience and hopefully it might be helpful to some of you!

This is also the point in the post where I feel slightly obligated to throw out a disclaimer that I am not trying to push my views of breastfeeding on anyone. For whatever reason, it seems like it's still a touchy topic where people get easily offended and so I just wanted to be clear and throw that out there. I realize everyone's baby/body/life is totally different and each mama has to do what works best for her and I totally support that! I personally wasn't breastfed and think I turned out pretty awesome, so I am definitely not judging anyone else for their choices. But that being said, all I can do is share my own personal story...and I absolutely loved nursing! It was a really wonderful experience that I'm super thankful to have had, and now that it's over, I want to share of a few of the details about how things ended while they are still fresh in my mind!

I shared a lot of information about my experience with breastfeeding back in August, so I won't go into too much detail here. (But definitely go check out that post if you're interested!) Long story short, we had a little bit of a rocky start with breastfeeding the first month because Henry had a tongue and lip tie, but after we got that taken care of, things went really really great! Since I stay home with Henry, I never really had to worry about pumping and always just nursed him directly vs. feeding him with a bottle. I did pump here and there just so I'd have extra milk on hand in case I needed to go somewhere and be away from him for a few hours. However, once he was around six months old (I think? That seems so long ago now...) I basically just stopped pumping all together. At that point, he could go 4+ hours between feedings and he was starting to eat solid foods, so if I did need to be away from him for a few hours, he could manage without a bottle. When he was around 6 months old, we got on a pretty consistent schedule where he would nurse four times a day - when he woke up in the morning, after his morning nap, either before or after his afternoon nap, and then before bed. If he was super fussy or not feeling well, I would occasionally throw an extra nursing session in there, but for the most part we stuck to four times a day pretty religiously.

My pediatrician did recommend continuing nursing a minimum of four times a day until he turned one, just to ensure he was getting the necessary amount of milk and I really tried to stick to that. But when he started getting close to a year, there would be days here and there where it just naturally seemed like he only wanted to nurse three times in a given day and so I'd just go with it. (This was also around the time when he was transitioning from two naps to one so that's primarily what prompted the shift in our nursing schedule) When he did finally turn one, I was really excited about reaching my goal of breastfeeding for a year! Even though nursing was a really smooth and easy experience for us, it still felt like a big accomplishment. Now that we had met that goal, I didn't really have an specific plan in place for how this journey was going to end; I figured I'd just let it be up to Henry and that I'd just kind of go with what it seemed like he wanted.

Henry learned to walk right before his first birthday and immediately started getting more independent and all together interested in everything but nursing. When he turned one, we also introduced cow's milk for the first time. He had had other forms of dairy like yogurt and cheese before he turned one, so I wasn't too concerned about him having any sensitivities to it. We didn't do anything special to it like warm it up or mix it with breast milk, we just gave him straight cold cow's milk in a sippy cup and he did fine with it! At first, he seemed like he really loved it and then the next few times he tried it, he didn't really want anything to do with it. But we just kept offering it to him in a sippy cup with meals and eventually he started to drink it and now he absolutely loves it!
(This is usually the milk we give him, in case anyone is interested)

At his year appointment, I asked his pediatrician about how to begin the weaning process and she recommended dropping no more than a feeding a week, but to ideally go slower than that to give us both time to adjust. She said since we were currently nursing either three or four times a day to go ahead and switch to three times consistently. At this point, Henry had also fully transitioned to taking one nap a day and so I'd typically nurse him in the morning when he woke up, after his nap, and then before bed. This is what we did for most of December, but then on Christmas Day, I ended up only nursing him twice (in the morning and before bed) since there was so much going on. He was totally fine with it and so over the next week or so, we fully transitioned to only nursing twice a day.

Nursing twice a day felt really freeing and I would have been fine continuing with that schedule for awhile. But in the beginning of January, there was one night where Henry just didn't really seem to want to nurse before bed and so I just let Cam put him down for the first time without him nursing! (It sticks out in my mind because it was the night the Bachelor premiered and I just kept thinking the whole time I was watching how crazy it was that Henry went to sleep without nursing!) I continued nursing him twice a day in the month of January,  but some days I'd only nurse him once, either morning or night, just depending on our schedule. When I went to Michigan to visit my family in late January, nursing was still going but starting to really taper off. I ended up feeding him both morning and night while we were there, but I'd only feed him one side at each. (Normally I'd always nurse him on both sides at a feeding)

When we got back from Michigan, it was pretty clear that we were going to be done with nursing sooner rather than later. I would end up nursing Henry in the morning...and then not nurse him at night...and then not nurse him the following morning...but then I'd nurse him the following night. It alternated like that for a few days and when we would nurse, it was really just because I wanted to, as Henry seemed rather indifferent towards it at this point. He was just as happy to go to bed without nursing or to wake up in the morning and just go straight to eating his food for breakfast. I realized that I was keeping nursing going out of habit since he really didn't seem attached to it anymore.

At the beginning of February, a day or two went by where I didn't nurse him at all....and then I kind of freaked out that I didn't have one official "last" time to nurse him and really soak it in one more time. So that afternoon when he woke up from his nap, I just decided to nurse him so I could really savor it one more time. It wasn't some super emotional teary eyed experience, it was more just so I could have the mental closure of knowing that this would be the last time I'd nurse my sweet Henry.

That weekend, we went out of town to the coast; since we were officially "done" breastfeeding, I was a little nervous how Henry would do sleeping in a strange place. Nursing was always my go to tactic to console him if he would get upset when we were traveling, but since he seemed to be doing great with being done before we left, I wanted to stand firm and not just cave and nurse him. Sure enough, that first night at the coast, he did cry when we put him to bed but Cam and I just took turns rocking him, we gave him a few sips of water or cow's milk, and he ended up going to sleep just fine. I actually felt really accomplished for being able to calm him down without whipping out my boob, since that was sort of my go-to move for the past 14 months...ha!

Now it's been a few weeks and nursing honestly feels like a distant memory! I feel because we did it fairly gradually and just dropped one feeding at a time, my body had plenty of time to adjust, which was great. My milk supply seems to have totally dried up and I never felt engorged at all during the weaning process. I feel like my boobs have literally shrunk back down to just as small as they were before I was pregnant (sad but true) and it's crazy to me how the human body can just adapt! Also, on another TMI note...I finally got my period back the week after Henry turned one. I know that's something I was really curious about approaching his first birthday and thinking about the weaning process, but it really differs for everyone.

When Henry was a newborn and I'd read articles about moms talking about feeling sad to be weaning, I thought that was so nuts. Nursing felt like a 24/7 job in those early days, and I couldn't fathom how anyone would be sad to be done with it. But then things just kept getting better and Henry started to nurse so much less frequently. When he was around nine or ten months, I remember thinking that I was totally going to eat my words and be one of those sappy moms who would be super emotional when her baby was no longer breastfeeding. But when the time actually came to stop, I wasn't nearly as sad as I thought I'd be. These days, Henry is so active and learning new skills like crazy; he's turning into his own little person and it's truly amazing to witness. In light of that, I think I feel more excited about the stage he's at now, and moving on from nursing just feels right for us at this point. Although it is a little bittersweet not to have those moments to sit there with him and watch him nurse, we have different special moments now. Because I don't have to take the time to nurse him before bed, we can spend more time cuddling and reading stories. In the morning, I'll sometimes still bring him into our bed but instead of nursing, we laugh and cuddle and play little games to start the day. Basically, nursing was an amazing bonding experience that I'm so happy to have had with him, but I love that we're finding new special ways to keep that bond strong as he grows.

Also, I think one of the hardest things overall for me with breastfeeding was just the not knowing exactly how much my baby was getting to eat. As someone who is slightly type-A, not being able to know how many ounces of milk my baby had in a day was frustrating. But then as time went on and as Henry grew and grew, I began to relax a little more and not worry so much. By the time we got to his first birthday, here was this toddler who was walking all over the place, eating food, and clearly thriving. It definitely made weaning less stressful because I knew that however the process went, he would just fine. And that's probably why there isn't as much info about weaning out there because everyone just kind of figures it out for themselves and doesn't necessarily feel the need to read a million articles about if they're doing it right...ha :)

But I hope that this information may be helpful to some of you out there who may be embarking on this process! Weaning ended up being much smoother, quicker, and easier process for us than I could have imagined. I'm glad that for us it just sort of ended naturally with Henry losing interest in it, and I just followed his lead. I'm happy to answer any specific questions anyone might have about weaning, but in the meantime, thanks to those of you who are still reading...you deserve a gold star :)


3 comments:

  1. This is super helpful! My son is going to be one on March 6th and I am not really sure how to tackle weaning. I have two boys and for the first nursing didn't really work out. I exclusively pumped for him, so that weaning process was easy. I just gradually weaned myself and didn't really have to consider him since he did not nurse. I work outside of the home so I pump during the day and have weaned that down to just once per day right now, but my baby will nurse pretty frequently at night and on the weekends. I think we are on the road to quite the transition!

    I know sleep for babies/toddlers is often just as controversial as how we feed them, but I am curious about your process to get Henry to go to sleep (particularly without nursing). I feel like I have blinked and my baby is almost a year and still needs to nurse to sleep and is really hard to get to sleep in his crib or not nurse at night. I remember at 6 months thinking to myself I needed to change these habits and what do you know... here we are still living them :) Was there anything that worked for you?

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  2. So I'm kind of surprised you aren't nursing longer, although I get it that you might not want to!!! But being in the land of crunchy mamas, I feel like there has to be a lot of pressure for long term breastfeeding, no?

    I had to wean Ellie around 17 months because I was pregnant. I wanted to nurse through the pregnancy, but my supply dropped towards the end of my first trimester. It was pretty easy simply because I had no milk so she lost interest, but the night nursing was the hardest. She cried a couple of times because she wanted to nurse and there was just nothing there. It didn't take long for her to not even wake to want to sippy cup. I don't know what it will be like with Alex because I have ZERO plans of getting pregnant again and I'll probably let him nurse until he's done. I may change my mind though, who knows!!!

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Your sweet words make my day! :)

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