My son has officially been weaned for about a month and half. He just turned twenty-two months old at the beginning of April. When the topic of weaning is brought up in my mommy groups I get asked two questions all of the time: 1) Am I OK with my son weaning and 2) How did I do it?
If I’m being honest, I’m a little tired of people asking me if I’m “OK with my son weaning.” The way that people ask often comes with the tone of voice implying surprise or pity (and worse yet – sometimes people try to make me feel guilty about it!) but the thing is… my son is almost two and HE decided that he was done so yes, I AM OK with it! I don’t need you to feel bad for me because we weaned gently and we are doing great! Was it easy? No but it’s a natural progression and it was time for us. This said though, if you are still breastfeeding and your baby is older than mine kudos to you and if you stopped before me… no judgement here! Weaning is a VERY personal and the decision of when or if the time is right is between you, your baby, and possibly your spouse – no one else! There was a time when I did consider breastfeeding until my son’s second birthday and I realize that we ended a few months short but at the end of the day my son’s needs have been met and that’s enough for me.
I chose to wean my son slowly and the whole process took about nine months. That may seem like forever and many have successfully weaned quicker but I choose to drag the process out that long on purpose. I wanted to take things really slowly because when I initiated the process part of me wasn’t ready to stop yet and because I have a tendency to get clogged ducts and I was worried about getting more. Additionally, I wanted to make sure that the process was the least traumatic for my son as possible…
Shortly after my son’s first birthday (last June) I started considering weaning. My son had already been sleeping through the night for a number of months and had not been nursing overnight. Several of my extended family members felt as though I should have already weaned my son by the time that he turned one but the truth was that I wasn’t really in a hurry. At that point the idea of ending my breastfeeding journey made me sad but I was also ready for my son to not be nursing ten zillion times a day (we were breastfeeding on demand.) After talking to my IBCLC, I decided to just try cutting out a nursing session and replace it with a cup of dairy milk once a day and see what happened. I was surprised when my son didn’t fight me. He accepted the replacement with little complaint and actually cut out three nursing session in a week without trying! I panicked a little because I felt that this was way too fast. So, I went back to offering throughout the day except for one, or on occasion, two nursing sessions.
This went on for a few months with no changes and we were happy with it. Then I started offering less when we were out and finally not at all… this happened mostly by accident. We would be out running errands and my son wouldn’t ask to nurse and when we got home I would find myself very “full” and realize that we had never stopped to nurse! The first few times that it happened I felt bad about it but after discussing it when my husband we decided that if our son wasn’t asking then he didn’t really need to nurse and that we would follow his lead. I decided that at over one, I didn’t want to force nursing on him if he wasn’t interested. Soon, we were down to nursing three times a day, once in the morning, once at night, and at nap time during the day. Again this went on for a while and I wasn’t necessarily in a hurry for things to progress further. By the end of October (approximately four and a half months after we started) we were consistently down to only morning and evening with the exception for nap time every once and awhile (we took a trip around Halloween and my son nursed more while on the trip but went back to our routine when we got home). By Christmas, we were down to exclusively morning and bedtime with no nursing sessions during the day. The only exception was our flight to Texas to visit my parents for Christmas when I offered to let him nurse on the plane but he only nursed for a minute or so and then put his binky in his mouth instead. It wasn’t that I had stopped offering to nurse my son at nap time; it was that he just wasn’t all that interested. He seemed to prefer his pacifier (which we refer to as his “binky”) and he was content so we just let it go. Part of me was happy to confine our nursing sessions to our private times together in the morning and evening but yes, I was a little sad to realize that my baby was growing up. I know that I probably could have pushed a little and we could have been done nursing fairly easily by Christmas but the truth is that I wasn’t quite ready and used the excuse that my son would need to comfort nurse while traveling as an excuse.
When we got home from our trip I noticed that our bedtime nursing session was becoming really short, more about comfort than nutrition for sure. How did I know? My son would ask to nurse but after only a minute or less on each side he would reach for his binky instead. Part of me wondered if my milk had dried up but I could still hand express some if I wanted to so I knew that it was just my son telling me what he wanted. The funny thing is that even though he preferred sucking on his binky, he wanted to snuggle and have his hand down my shirt on my boob at the same time! Clearly he just wanted the familiar warmth and comfort of the boob without the actual nursing aspect!
I was a bit hesitant to give up our bedtime nursing session but my husband convinced me that I was trying to get him to nurse for me more than him. He was right and at that point I think I decided that I needed to come to terms with my son weaning. From that night on, we read stories at night but we didn’t nurse. My son still snuggled and stuck his hand down my shirt but when he asked to nurse (which was only once or twice after that), we told him that he was a big boy and didn’t need to. For the most part, he seemed to understand! I was both proud and sad – but it was a milestone.
By the end of January, we were nursing only in the morning when my son woke up. I would bring him into bed with me and he would snuggle and nurse until I felt like getting up to serve breakfast. However, on days when my husband would get up earlier and decide to feed him breakfast before I got up, he would skip the nursing session! The first time it happened I panicked a little and wondered if we were done. I wasn’t exactly sad that we might be done, but rather sad that I didn’t get to savor the last time. I needn’t have worried because the next day he was back on the boob. I knew that the days were numbered though and I made the conscious decision to be OK with it because that’s what my son needed. On the days that he missed our morning nursing session he was happy and just fine. That’s how I knew that he would be OK without nursing and that he was using it more or less for comfort and to hold himself over for his “real breakfast” on days that neither my husband nor I got up early to serve him.
My IBCLC advised me to choose a particular day on the calendar and to make it our last day of nursing. She told me that I would feel better about stopping if it was on my terms rather than a surprise and while this may have been slightly selfish, I knew that my son was showing me all of the signs that he was ready so this is what I did. My sons’ last nursing session was at the end of February on the day of his first dentist appointment. I held him a little longer, I snuggled him, told him I loved him and then we were done. Yes, it was bittersweet but the next morning he didn’t blink an eye when my husband and I got up and fed him breakfast first thing. We didn’t look back.
So, when you ask me if I am OK with my son weaning – Yes! I am OK with it. Part of me misses it a little but I plan to have another baby and so I know that I will nurse a baby again. My son will always be my first baby and will hold his own special place in my heart but he is a toddler now – and I have accepted that. Each day he is more little boy and less baby – more independent. However, for the record, I have not been able to break my son of putting his hand down my shirt and touching my boobs. No matter how hard I try, he seems to seek them out for comfort. He has no desire to nurse anymore but when he is tired or upset he seeks out physical contact with my boobs. I am hoping that he will eventually outgrow what has become a slightly embarrassing habit when he does it in public but I’m taking one day at a time. I’m sure he won’t go to kindergarten with his hand down my shirt – at least I hope he won’t!
If you are considering wearing, no matter where you are in journey, know that you are not alone. You are doing a great job and it’s not easy.