The Challenge of Weaning

Posted by  | Tuesday, June 9, 2009  at 8:00 AM  

My biggest challenge this week is weaning my 14 month old son Joel. I was really torn as to whether or not I would wean him this early, but decided to take the plunge. My first son, Samuel, weaned by himself at 14 months. I was into my second trimester and I didn't have any milk left. He gave up nursing really smoothly and I didn't have any discomfort because all the milk was gone. Not so this time!

Joel is a very happy nurser and isn't fond of me weaning him. My body is also not too fond. Joel was nursing about 6 times a day up until Thursday. I was nursing him when he got up, before his morning and afternoon naps, once more in the evening (usually because he was bored or tired and wanted to snuggle/nurse), and then before bed. I spent the night away from him on Thursday for the first time and he had to go to bed without me (Daddy came home from work to put him to bed for the babysitter! Such a sweet daddy). I decided it might be a good time to wean since I had been away from him for the night. My plan was to not nurse him any more, but by Friday afternoon (24 hours since I last nursed) my right breast was pretty full and uncomfortable. I let him nurse for about 10 minutes to give both of us some relief. Daddy put him to bed for naps and nighttime all weekend. I nursed Joel once more on Saturday afternoon when my left breast was feeling pretty full. I haven't nursed him since and I think my body is adjusting. Sunday night was my first night to put Joel to bed and he didn't like it. He cried and pulled at my shirt. I had to put him down and let him be upset. It was pretty sad. He cried off and on for about an hour before falling asleep.

I'm hoping the worst is over and that our weaning time will be a success. I don't know what to do if my breasts fill up with milk again. I refuse to pump because I hate that thing. I think my body will figure it out.

Anyone else out there currently weaning or thinking about weaning? PLEASE leave a comment or a question. I'm always happy to help and I love to hear other's stories.


Sheila said...

I am weaning my son. A little earlier than you-- he's 7 months. But we're moving overseas to work and we start 8 weeks of fulltime training next month, so I feel peace about weaning now since it will make our transition smoother.

Is it horrible that I don't LOVE breastfeeding? I sometimes feel slightly guilty because of all the major mommy advocates out there who LOVE breastfeeding and go well past a year with all their children... I am relieved to be almost done (until #3 decides to appear in my oven, that is!)

Book a Day said...

I'm surprised. I've never heard of anyone weaning from 6 times a day to none in a weekend. (regardless of baby's age) Your other friends had success in doing it that quickly (both on baby and mom's end)?

I'll be interested in hearing how his diet changes now that he won't be getting so many calories from mommy's milk. Is he a water lover?

The Eckerts said...

I'm right there with you, Leah! Joseph is 15 months and is still a very strong nurser. I am trying to wean him too, but not sure what my motives are. He loves it, I don't mind, so I'm just not totally sold on why I want to. So as you can imagine, we haven't been too successful :)

I just started to ovulate this month so my motivation for ecological breastfeeding is no more. So, I am dropping one feeding every couple of days and that is going well.

I didn't have to do this with our first son, since he weaned himself.

Would love to compare notes in a couple of weeks!

KC said...

Oh Leah...I know you said you hate to pump...but it will be good to have some of that breastmilk on hand if he gets sick or constipated over the next few months :)

Sheila, are you switching to formula or will your son be getting his nutrition completely from solids? My son is 7 months and his pediatrician said he should still be getting most of his nutrition from breastmilk or formula?

Ruth Palmer said...

Holy smokes Leah! I can't believe you were still nursing 6 times a day at 14 months!! I barely made it to 9 months with Trevin and even then he was only nursing once a day. And he only has sippy cups 3 times a day now, with his meals. And I am stunned that you went cold turkey weaning him basically. Even cutting out that once a day nursing, I had to pump one last time after I stopped nursing to get some relief. I can't imagine dropping 6 feedings all at once! Yikes....

Katie B said...

I read all of the time, but don't ever comment. Just thinking about going cold turkey makes me hurt. I always dropped one feeding every few days over a few weeks. You are one tough cookie if you can do it:)

Tamara said...

both times i've weaned a baby i have found it incredibly helpful to keep a head of cabbage in the fridge...when i would start to feel engorged or uncomfortable, i would take a cold cabbage leaf and put one in each side of my bra. sounds crazy, i know, but something in cabbage causes some sort of reaction and relieves both pressure and pain...and the cold just felt good when i was miserable those first few days! i think i learned this from a lactation's a link with helpful info on the cabbage theory! :)

Allison said...

I have nursed 3 babies and I always gradually weaned them right around 1 year. I would initially drop 1 or 2 of the daytime feedings and replace those with regular milk as well as increase the solid food intake. I would continue to nurse them first thing in the morning and right before bed and then I would drop the morning feeding. My body was able to adjust gradually to the change in demand and then, once the baby was used to drinking from a sippy cup during the day, I would replace the bedtime feeding with another cup of milk. Although it was spread out over a few weeks, I think we were both able to adjust well to the changes.

If you have already started to wean him, I would probably just continue to nurse him right before bed a little longer, giving him time to figure out that most of his feedings will be coming from a cup. Your milk supply should gradually decrease, hoping with only mild discomfort. Then, maybe in a week or two switch over to milk right before bed, and I think you are probably right to let your husband put him to bed the first few nights that you will not be nursing him.

Hope this helps!

Christina said...

Our weaning was very gradual too - although she would have weaned at about 10 months if I let her. She certainly had better things to do than sit with Mom and nurse. But I forced 3-4 feedings a day until almost 14 months. By 14 months, we were down to just one, the nightime one and she dropped it no problem. I only noticed very mild discomfort. Girl - you are BRAVE to go cold turkey like that and not pump!!

I'm with the other suggestion to at least pump and get some frozen!! There were so many times after Will was done nursing that I wished he still had some breastmilk to fight illness and whatnot. (although I still didn't have any after Adeline was done nursing..) Come on - PUMP! PUMP! PUMP!! :)

Keepin' Up with the Kilgores said...

Okay....I, too, always read and never comment. I am nursing Baby #2 right now and she is 9 months old. My first, I gradually weaned around one year. With my second, we are already down to 3 times a day. I am planning to wean her just before one year because of some events we have going on.

I would suggest the gradual weaning for two reasons I guess......first, it is much easier on your body! When my first stopped nursing, I never noticed and it was not painful at all. Second, I think that it's harder emotionally for the child to go cold-turkey, especially at his age. Nursing is much more than nourishment to him at 14 months. My advice would be to try and gradually wean....I think it will be less stressful for everyone involved.

Good luck....I hope that it's a smooth transition.

Erin Medley said...

You are brave! It took me 2 months to wean Brandt. I cut out one feeding a day every two weeks. He pretty much weaned himself at 13 months. I wanted to go a little longer, but when he didn't want anymore, he didn't want anymore. Because I had gradually cut out one feeding at a time, I really didn't have an problems with pain. My milk hung around FOREVER, but I wasn't in pain. Hang in there. The discomfort shouldn't last that long.

The Smith 4 said...

I am a little late in commenting on this...but I too am in the process of weaning my second child. I had no problem weaning my daughter when she was 12 months old and I think part of that was due to the fact that I was already pregnant with my son. They say that your milk changes flavors when you get pregnant. I don't know if that is true or not...but she pretty much weaned herself right at 12 months.

Weaning my son has been a different story. He is almost 13 months old now. We gradually cut out one feeding a week for a few weeks until we were down to just the nighttime feeding. We have been doing that for a month now! He just doesn't seem to want to give it up! I guess I am ok with does give us time to bond after a long day. I am torn on how I really feel about it. I want to be done nursing, but if my little boy wants to nurse before bed I don't see the harm in that either. I am hoping that he will stop wanting to soon though! Good luck with your little one!

Lauren said...

Ok, now that it's 2012, and I've just read this article for the first time, I still feel the need to comment in case someone reads this that needs the information. I work as a breastfeeding peer counselor, and everything I know about weaning involves taking your time. When I weaned each of my four children at 12 months, I dropped one feeding per week. Even with going that slowly, I still had a touch of mastitis after the last feeding was dropped. Also, your best milk is first thing in the morning, so that's really the best one to drop last, though rarely does anyone follow that advice (I didn't!). Dropping feedings too quickly or weaning nearly cold turkey can cause problems for both mom and baby. Moms hormones changing so dramatically can cause depression issues.

Leah said...

Thanks so much for commenting here. It is funny to look at my little boy today (who will turn 4 in a few weeks!) and remember back to that weaning period. It seems like ages ago and just yesterday at the same time!

I was able to wean cold turkey. I left to visit my parents in Florida the day after writing that post. I left Joel with my dad for 2 days while I went on a girls' outing with my mom. He successfully weaned with lots of cuddle time with Grandpa. I suffered some discomfort from engorgement, but it passed without any problems.
Looking back on this post, I should probably post a gigantic asterisk stating that I was extremely ill at this point in my life. I was suffering from severe Ulcerative Colitis and had lost about 15-20 pounds in a few short months (I was down to under 100 pounds by the end of July 2009). My body was so lacking in nutrients at that point that I don't think I suffered from the weaning as much as a healthy woman would have.
And the weaning was a blessing. I went in to the hospital at the end of July for what I thought would be a 2 day visit that ended up being 2 weeks and a surgery to remove my colon. The poor baby would have HAD to be weaned at that point.
All in all, I suppose this post counts more as a "sharing my experience" post than a "how to" post. I always love to have comments because we all have so much wisdom to share! Thanks!!

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