While pregnant with my son Fletcher, I had a dream.  In this dream I was in my glider rocking my newborn baby boy.  He was in my arms, beautiful, wrinkly, sweet, and perfect in every way.  And, I was nursing him.  It was the most wonderful dream…. we seemed so happy and breastfeeding was natural for us.  I woke up excited about this particular aspect of having my son and the idea of being everything to him.  His life source before and after birth.

It seems like only yesterday I had that dream.  Today marks 7 days without nursing my son.  He weaned when he was 18 months and 5 days.

I knew it was over when I was rocking him in the glider before bed.  He had not nursed the night before so I was trying to not offer it again thinking maybe he was done.  He was crying and very upset; he didn’t want to go to bed.  I caved and offered him “milkies.”  Instead of happily agreeing he shook his head “no.”  Cue the mommy waterworks.  As much as I wanted him to be finished knowing he really was done broke my heart.  In theory, having him wean would make my life much easier.  Once I hit my second trimester my nipples became extremely sensitive.  There were many times I cried while he nursed.  He never bit me, but he does have a mouth full of teeth and one tight latch makes for a very painful experience.  Reality was a lot harder to cope with.  Realizing that I would never again bond with him in that way.  He was really done…

Our nursing journey began on a rocky road.  Latch trouble, very painful and bleeding nipples, nipple shields, lactation consultant visits, and marathon nursing sessions on the couch followed by cold gel packs and lanolin cream.

By 3 months I finally had it figured out, including the all important side lying position which transitioned us into a cosleeping family.

By 6 months I was nursing in public comfortably and proudly.

By a year I was ecstatic that we made it and was ready to go where the wind blew us.

Then I got pregnant and had to decide whether we should try weaning or tandem nursing.  At that point he was nursing on demand many times a day.  I decided to limit our sessions to a few a day.  This took about 2 weeks for him to stop signing for milk unless it was time for a nap or night time.  To get him to that point I used distractions when he would come up for a nibble.  I would offer a cup of milk or play with him, read, anything to distract him from boredom nursing.

A few weeks ago I nixed the first of the morning feeding.  This was a sad one.  I loved laying in bed with him in the morning and nursing him while cuddling.  However, out of the three a day, this was the only one I could get rid of.  He nursed to sleep for his nap and bedtime.

Then away went the nap nursing session.  I rocked him to sleep without nursing him which was a gradual transition.

I felt sure I would be nursing him to sleep every night, however.  We tried having Daddy rock him to sleep but even if he did get him asleep he could never get him into bed without him waking up.  So he would come to me them want to nurse.

Then we went to visit our family in North Carolina.  We had some major sleep issues at first.  Me and my husband took turns trying to get him down.  Some days he fell asleep very late and many hours after his “night” nursing session.  Then, he dropped it.  Suddenly he was fine with me simply rocking him to sleep.  He didn’t ask and I didn’t offer.  When I did offer, he refused.  I believe this was mostly due to a drop in supply.  There was nothing to get so why try, he decided.

I won’t call it baby led weaning because I consciously pared down feedings over a few months time.  I tried to make it as painless as possible for both of us.  In the beginning when we transitioned from 6-8 to 3 a day, occasionally when he asked and cried I would give in.  I knew he loved it and so did I.  But as a busy toddler he has quickly forgotten the days of constant nursing.  He has signed for milk once or twice but he also uses it as a synonym to “sleep.”  He knows the milk is gone.  I already had a low supply from being pregnant.  The last time he nursed it was for a few seconds.  He got the comfort then allowed me to rock him to sleep.

I know I did what was right.  Even though I would have gone longer, having 19 weeks of not nursing is good for everyone.  I dreaded nursing him due to the pain, and I know he could sense that.  I resented having to nurse him to sleep while being in pain while my husband watched TV.  This break gives me time to rest my nipples and mentally prepare for nursing a newborn again.  I’m really not sure how I would have coped with nursing my toddler to sleep on top of nursing a brand new little one.

Now I am already excited about getting to nurse my next little boy.  I hope my experience will make the first few weeks more relaxing for me and the new baby.  I look forward to watching my toddler grow and become a little person while I get to nourish a new little life.  Only time will tell if my son will become jealous of the new nursling or if he will have forgotten that that was our thing.  I am so proud that we had a happy, healthy, and joy filled 18 months of breastfeeding.  I am also proud of the transition we have made.  It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.

17 Responses

  1. My older son weaned when he was 20 months old, and I was 12 weeks pregnant. Like you, I wouldn’t necessarily call it self-weaning, because I did pare it down out of comfort. Even though it was nice to have part of my body back while I was pregnant, I have to admit to missing it and being all the more anxious to nurse a new baby!
    .-= Erin´s last blog ..Remember =-.

  2. That is so so great that you got to 18 months! That is my goal. I have thought about how sad I will be when Austin is no longer nursing, but this post really put it into perspective for me. I will cherish our nursing cuddles a little more now. Thank you.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..BBQ, Banana Pudding, & Baby Deer =-.

  3. This closely parallels the way our almost 3 year old weaned. She was naturally self weaning up to the point when we had to stop at 19 months. We had simply replaced nursing sessions with meals, snacks, and activities. And dad started putting her to bed at night instead of me, so that she could get used to that once the new baby arrived.

    I was pregnant and with a history of preterm labor – so on advice of my OBGYN, completely weaned her from the breast at 19 months (as my 2nd trimester started). At the point we stopped, she was only nursing at bedtime and if she woke in the night. It was painful for me, and not satisfying for her – although it was definitely comforting. It was a tough few weeks for both of us, but once it was over, she never asked to nurse again. Even when the new baby arrived. “Mama milk is for babies!” she would say excitedly.

    We will see how it goes for our now 10 month old girl. She has a routine and rarely comfort nurses or boredom nurses, so I expect it to be similar in that by about 18 months or so we will only be nursing at sleep times and perhaps in the mornings before breakfast. I have no plans to get pregnant again – so “Whoo Hoo!” for no incredibly painful pregnant nursing in my future! I plan to allow her to self wean completely.
    .-= Heidi Maxwell´s last blog ..Undercover Mama Winner! =-.

  4. I love your honesty! I think so many mothers get caught up in the notion of what is expected, and often forget they need to do what’s in the best interest of their family. Moms need to stay flexible and go with the flow. I hope you and Fletched have fun over the next few weeks as he gets ready to be a big brother!
    .-= Valerie´s last blog ..Granola Babies is Sponsoring a Rumparooz Giveaway! =-.

  5. My two sons both naturally weaned as well. Gradually, quietly, but still sadly (for me). It is a step towards being independant and it is a bittersweet moment for many Moms. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.

  6. I weaned my oldest child at one year old.. it was her choice, since she was excited at the prospect of drinking milk from a sippy cup and being able to quench her thirst and do her own thing at the same time, instead of being latched on to the breast. She didn’t miss it at all.

    My second child was a bit more difficult to wean; she was weaned 2 weeks before her second birthday, and it was not pretty. After 2 days though she accepted it and went on with life. We did this just this past January -at the end of the month- and now if she sees me topless, she’ll point and say “boobies!” and then I’ll ask her if milk comes out and she gives me this crazy look and goes “no!” and then giggles. I don’t know if she remembers breastfeeding, but I can take some comfort in knowing that I gave her the best start in life; as well as her older sister.

    When my youngest was born, my oldest would sit and watch me breastfeed and ask questions, but she never got jealous or upset or asked to be breastfed as well. To her, milk doesn’t come out of a can in a powder form. To her, it comes out of the breast or you buy it in a one gallon jug at the store.
    .-= Amber H´s last blog ..Ibolya the Lonely Matryoshka and a Minor Correction =-.

  7. I think it takes a lot to be able to say that you are okay with your son moving on. I mean, obviously you feel as though a chapter has closed, but a whole new one is opening. You nourished and snuggled and fed your child and helped him get to this happy, healthy, amazing place in his life. I realize it is sad to let go of feeding him… but just seeing how awesome he is should make you feel so proud!
    .-= erika – MommyBurgh´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

  8. I think I must be one of those unusual nursing mothers who doesn’t feel super affectionate about nursing. My baby is 10 months old, and I have a goal of a year before switching to cow’s milk.. I liked nursing an infant, but I get the same type of joy from reading a book and snuggling with a wiggly little boy as I do from breastfeeding – maybe more!

    I cannot possibly imagine nursing an older baby, but perhaps its because I view nursing as nourishment more than comfort or attachment?

    Thanks for the article, it was really interesting and thought provoking for me!
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..I Took My Baby To the Pool! =-.

  9. I can SO relate. My daughter weaned at 19 months–just six weeks before her sister was born. I knew I was getting ready to nurse another baby, but I still mourned the loss of nursing my daughter. My midwife said she may pick it back up once the knew baby came, but she didn’t, and that made me want to cry all over again. She seemed to know that she was too big for it now. She’s tried it a few times over the last few months, but takes one suck and stops. I’m so thankful for how longs she nursed, but it did make for a nice few-weeks break before the new baby came. The soreness while nursing was horrible at times. I didn’t encourage her weaning, my midwife said it was because the milk changed over in preparation for the new baby and she didn’t like it. That is the only hesitancy I have in getting pregnant again. I want to be able to allow my little one to nurse for over a year before it becomes “necessary” for her to wean.
    .-= Laurie´s last blog ..Happ =-.

  10. I’m right there with you. I just entered my second trimester and nursing my toddler is becoming more and more painful. I haven’t been able to wean her yet but this post was an encouragement that it’s “okay” to initiate weaning your child. Thanks for sharing a part of this journey.

  11. Our stories are very similar, except than my son was 14 months old when I know he was done. I offered to nurse him and he giggled at me and wouldn’t latch. It was at our morning feeding, the last one we (I moreso than he) held on to after a few months of gradual weaning. I mourned the fact that I would never nurse my little boy again, but being pregnant with #2 I knew it was best and would give him time to adjust before #2 arrived. Its been 6 months since then. Now I have a new little nursling and my biggie has no interest whatsoever in what I am doing when he sees me nurse. Its amazing how quickly some move one.
    .-= Madison {Life Happens During Naptime}´s last blog ..he waited for no one! =-.

  12. This is really similar to how my son weaned last February. He was 18.5 months old and I was due with #2 in about 2 months. I was glad to be done, but also very sad that it was over as well. I appreciated the break before starting all over with my second, and it was really, REALLY nice to let Daddy do bedtime for a change! 🙂 Congrats on nursing for as long as you did!

  13. My first two self-weaned at 16 and 14 months, both when I was at 20 weeks with the next babe. My third was done right at a year, and I’m now nursing my fourth, and last baby. I hope to make it to 16 months or more. Good news: it probably won’t be so painful to start nursing your second baby – first one breaks in the plumbing!

  14. My son is 13 months old, and we are still nursing. We have been pondering stopping nursing and no more co-sleeping, but I don’t want to try cry it out. Thank you for this post, it really touched my heart and has helped me.

  15. *sniffle* My journey just began 6 weeks ago and sometimes i ask myself if i really enjoy nursing. Its very natural for me and my boy took to it like a champ. I didn’t feel sad til Daddy gave him his first bottle of my milk. It truly is a special magical thing the bond we develope with that snuggly nursling!
    .-= Dea´s last blog ..Jeriah Arrives! =-.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *