|irrelevant picture for cuteness! :)|
Grayson has been fully weaned for a week now! Does that make me enough of an expert to write this post? I'm going with, yes!
It still feels weird saying that Grayson is weaned or that I no longer breastfeed. It happened so gradually and painlessly that it almost doesn't seem real. Where was that stretch of really hard days/nights while we transitioned? They simply did not happen! It was easier than I ever imagined.
Some of my fellow breastfeeding friends have asked me questions about it. How did I do it? Why now? Did it hurt? Did he cry? So, I hope to answer some of those questions here!
First of all, why now?
Despite uncertainties prior to being pregnant, by the time I had Grayson, I was 100% committed to exclusively breastfeeding him! At the time, I was praying for at least a 6-month journey, but ideally 12-months. I wasn't convinced that I would be weaning right at a year, but I also felt like he would be so much bigger and older by 12 months that I might feel like he was ready.
Well, babies are still babies when they turn 1. The pressure to wean at that age is just baffling to me. I continued nursing on demand and pumping at work until Grayson was almost 15 months. At that point, I stopped pumping at work and switched him to whole milk during the day at school. I continued to nurse on demand when I was with him on evenings and weekends. At that point, weaning was not even on my radar. I didn't see the point and I definitely didn't feel like he was ready.
I'm so thankful that we hadn't weaned yet because when he was so sick in February, there were days when he wouldn't eat or drink anything other than nursing. It saved us all a lot of stress and concern because I knew he was getting enough nutrients and hydration, while also getting the comfort he needed while he felt miserable.
Around 17-18 months, I started thinking about when I wanted to wean. I didn't necessarily feel ready, but I was contemplating when the time might come. I was fully prepared to continue nursing until he turned 2. That was the cut-off point in my mind.
A few weeks ago, I looked at the calendar and realized just how many big things we have coming up as a family this year! Scott and I are going to Vegas for a work conference the week that Grayson turns 2 in October, and Grayson will be staying for 4 nights with Scott's parents (I can't even think about that yet!!). I knew I wanted to wean him at least a month before then so that his time away from me wasn't anymore stressful than it already will be.
Not knowing how weaning would go, particularly the nighttime feedings, I wanted to make sure I weaned during a time when Scott would be available to help out with night wakings and bedtime routine. I figured it would be easier to transition Grayson away from nursing if I stepped out of the picture for a while during the most temping times to nurse. I realized, if that is the case, then the time to wean was ideally now! Scott officially begins training for his marathon in July and will be frequently getting up around 4 am to run. I didn't want to ask him to help with sleepless nights if he would be getting up that early. We also have a week-long vacation coming up 2 weeks from now, and I didn't want to be transitioning during a week away from home when other things will likely be thrown off schedule.
So, that's how I decided to go ahead and wean when I did! But how did I do it?
One thing I knew for sure was that I did not want this to be a stressful and traumatic experience for either of us! I didn't want to do something that would involve a lot of crying (for me or him!). I didn't want him to feel rejected. And I didn't want to look back on this years and years from now and remember it with pain and sadness. Our breastfeeding journey has been so special and wonderful; I wanted it to end peacefully as well.
My biggest piece of advice for weaning is to wait until you think you're both ready for it, and don't just do it because you think it's when you should. Yes, I decided based on the time frame of certain events, but I also was already contemplating it and thinking that we were nearing the time of both being ready. The only reason I was looking at the calendar was because I was contemplating weaning!
Grayson was only nursing a few times a day anyway. He was used to not nursing during the day when I'm at work. He always nursed first thing in the morning and when we got home from work/daycare. Then, if it were my turn to put him to bed, he would always nurse to sleep, and if it were my turn to handle any wake-ups (assuming he actually woke up), then I would nurse in the middle of the night. So, at most, it was 4 times a day. Usually it was only 2-3. I imagine it would take longer and be a little more difficult to wean a baby or toddler who was still nursing several times a day.
To make this process gradual and as painless as possible, I drafted a 5 week weaning plan, having Grayson fully weaned by the time he was just over 20 months old. It looked something like this:
Week 1: cut all nursing session to 5 minutes or less
Week 2: cut the feeding when we get home from work/daycare
Week 3: cut the morning feed
Week 4: cut bedtime feed
Week 5: cut middle of the night feed
It was really more like a 6-7 week plan because I actually had a week in between 4-5 that was to limit to only one night feeding (since some nights he would nurse twice in the middle of the night--by the time we got to that week he was only waking up once anyway) and there was a buffer week in case I needed to hang out in one week a little longer than the others. The goal was to be weaned before our beach trip. Ideally, at least one week prior.
It only ended up taking those 5 weeks, though. So, how did it go? Was it hard/painful? Did he cry?
There have been some tears, but very few. The first week was basically nothing because it turns out he was only nursing 5 minutes or less already. I had just never paid attention to the time before. It was more just a week of me preparing myself, mentally, for what was coming. Week 2 was probably the hardest for Grayson. Two days he actually cried about wanting milk and asked for it like a broken record, but it lasted less than 3 minutes each time. It made me sad to tell him no, but I snuggled him and told him I loved him, and then I distracted him. Yes, that week we had a few more snacks and watched a little more TV to help get us through! Fortunately, he also started drinking from a real cup around that time, so that was an easy distraction because he was always eager to try out his new skills with ice water!
Week 3 was surprisingly not hard at all. He shares my breakfast smoothie with me every morning, so instead of nursing first, we just jump straight to that. He still asks for milk afterward sometimes, but now I just offer to get him some in a cup or just snuggle instead. He usually just lays his head on me and snuggles. No tears or begging. He just asks and then moves on quickly.
Week 4 was easy because I just eliminated the temptation. Scott put Grayson to bed every night that week. When I started alternating with him again during Week 5, Grayson easily accepted no milk, just snuggling. I also offer water in a sippy, and sometimes he'll take a few long sips of that.
Week 5 had only one night with real tears, but again, they only lasted maybe 2-3 minutes. He still asks for milk in the middle of the night, but I just say, "no milk...let's just snuggle." And he doesn't cry or get upset. He may ask a few more times, but it passes quickly.
The hardest thing for me was the night before Week 4. My last time nursing Grayson for bedtime. That is such a precious time for us. We rock, nurse, snuggle...I sing to him, pray over him, and sometimes whisper him a story. It's one of my favorite things. So, it was a little hard to let that go. I feared it meant I would lose all of it if I couldn't nurse him. I cried after putting him to bed. But I'm pleased and relieved to say, we still share all the special aspects of bedtime, just minus the nursing.
And there was no physical pain for me. The gradual approach meant no painful engorgement or leaking and no drastic hormonal shifts. It also helped that my body was already used to nursing only a few times a day. I can still feel that there is milk---one side more than the other! But I know things will go fully back to normal...one day! I'm just glad there was no pain or risk of plugged ducts or mastitis. If you're weaning earlier or more quickly, you really have to be careful about that!
Weaning looks different for everyone. Every mom and every baby is different. What worked for me may not work for you. Follow your mommy instincts. Do what is best for you and your baby. Don't let your decisions be made for you by anyone or anything. If you wait until you think you're both ready for it, you should be fine. There are various approaches, but this gradual and gentle approach worked wonderfully for us. I highly recommend it, or something similar.
Feel free to email or comment with any questions! I would love to help or offer any suggestions! :)