The End of an Era: Our Weaning Story

Me and Lydia

One month ago, at the age of two years and five months, Lydia nursed for the last time.

I would have been happy to continue our breastfeeding relationship, but I finally decided I wanted to do every last thing I could to make it possible to have a second baby. None of my other efforts so far (taking supplements, night-weaning, using progesterone cream, etc) had been able to do it so far; so with a heavy heart I finally decided we needed to try complete weaning.

She was already night-weaned – she never asked for it at night any more, and slept amazingly well. I mean, she still came into our bed at some point almost every night, but we had no problem with that.

A few months ago she was still nursing three times a day — right in the morning, before her nap, and before bed. For the first time since her birth, we had a perfect routine down. But for the sake of a potential sibling, I threw that beautiful routine in the garbage. (Can you tell I’m a little bitter?)

We  started with the bedtime nursing. Ben started putting her to bed, rocking her to sleep in the rocking chair. That one was quite painless, and within a week she had totally forgotten about bedtime nursing.

Next we tackled the morning one. That one was brutal, as it was her favourite one. We have a lamp on a timer in our bedroom that goes off at 6:30am, which had acted as her signal that she was allowed to nurse again (since nighttime nursing was out); the second it went on she’d always roll over and latch on.  There were lots of tears on both our parts when I started telling her we couldn’t have mommy milk anymore when the light went on. It was impossible for me to change that routine in any way because we always woke up together — we both need exactly 8 1/2 hours of sleep at night, and there was no way I could go to bed or get up before her.

We offered chocolate milk (cow’s milk, cocoa, and maple syrup) every morning while cuddling on the couch as a substitute. It broke her little heart, but she eventually accepted it. Again, it took about a week and she was over it.

Dropping the nap nursing was the hardest for me because I never managed to find an alternative way to get her to sleep during the day. For months, at 2:00 every day I would put her in the Ergo carrier and she’d nurse while I’d sing her lullabies and walk her to sleep. Then I’d put her down in her bed. I had to quit with the carrier because it reminded her of nursing, and nothing else has worked so far to take its place.

Since I stopped letting her nurse to sleep, she no longer naps consistently. It’s awful. Some days she won’t nap at all and then is miserable all evening; other days she doesn’t nap until supper, and then she’s up til midnight. Then we both sleep in the next morning and it just spirals into further chaos. I hate it.

But she’s finally weaned. She hasn’t nursed in a month. She rarely asks any more, and when she does, she laughs, like she’s half-joking.

I have to admit, if I don’t see any improvements in my cycles, I’m going to be pretty ticked off, because then we did this for nothing.

But of course, she would have had to wean eventually. She was totally old enough to wean — she didn’t need it any more for nourishment. She’s a great eater, and can get everything she needs from table food.

But it was something we both loved. It’s biologically normal for humans to continue to nurse until they lose their milk teeth. It was great for our relationship and her immune system. In other words, there were only pros and no cons. (Except that I wasn’t able to get pregnant.)

But this new stage is great, too. She’s eating better than ever. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll get a little brother or sister out of the deal yet.

Our Breastfeeding Relationship, In Sum

I loved breastfeeding from beginning to end. The moment I put that brand new baby to my breast for the first time, just minutes after she was born, I loved it.

I’d never felt so powerful as in that moment.

first nursing

And I continued to enjoy the experience. I loved those moments of intimacy with my daughter. I loved being able to provide her with that perfect nourishment. I could soothe any hurt or anxiety with my body. I never once minded her dependence upon me, and will never regret a single moment I spent nursing my baby.

I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to share this experience with my sweet Lydia, and hope that it blessed her, too.

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Comments

  1. You’re such a brave mama! My first weaned very suddenly and my 18 month old still nurses a lot! When the time comes I sense I’ll have to lead our weaning, thank you for the valuable ideas.
    Gretchen recently posted..Dubliner Broccoli ChowderMy Profile

  2. Beautiful! Nursing my babies was one of the most important things I have ever done. My “babies” are now 28 and 39, but your story brought back many lovely memories. Thank you, and much luck in your quest for a sibling for Lydia.

  3. What an emotional experience! It’s great to hear how you tackled the transition with so much grace and I’m sorry about naps. Lucy doesn’t nap anymore either, but she goes to bed early and sleeps about 12 hours now. I hope you can find a sleep routine that works for all of you!
    Laura recently posted..Five Sense FridayMy Profile

  4. What a beautiful post. I’m nursing my 9.5 month old and struggling with her new teeth, and this was a good piece of encouragement! I hope and pray that you’re able to get pregnant soon!

    • Thanks, Julie. Ah yes, the teeth! What fun that is! Haha, that part was actually quite rough for me, too. I guess it’s stretching the truth to say I *loved* that part, although I still never wanted to wean, even when it was so painful. Good luck during this trying time, and thanks for the prayers.

  5. Giving up naps is hard. I used to nurse Saf to sleep in two minutes for naps and now have to basically convince him that he needs to sleep nd then bounce him on the end of the bed for ten minutes. Although at 31/2 he is basically done napping more than once a week. I do enjoy the early bedtime that no naps allow but sometimes in the middle of the day I just want a break.

    I hope that your cycles find their right rhythm soon. I think weaning opens up a lot of new possibilities for growth in the parent child relationship although it’s always a loss as well. I still wonder what the psalmist really meant when he talks about quieting his soul like a weaned child with his mother.
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  6. i was just thinking about this yesterday and wondering how you were doing with the weaning! oh man. this brought tears to my eyes because i know your sentiments exactly. we will be down to nursing just once or twice a day and then sam will get sick (we hang out with way too many preschoolers apparently!) and i’ll be eternally grateful to still be nursing! but it comes at a cost, i had a breakdown over christmas because i was nursing him all night on our trip just to get him to sleep in a new place while he was sick and i knew i could never do this weaning thing without a little more help from my other half.
    but he hasn’t asked for it but once in the afternoon lately. i wonder if the end is near and i think i will mourn it whenever it happens. it was hell for me the first 2 months ( i think i have large nipples….) but the best thing i have ever stuck with. by. far.
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  7. How are you liking progesterone oil? I’ve been looking into trying it to help with PMS and cramps. The reviews and experiences I’ve read vary so widely. Some people say it worked miracles, others say it did nothing, and still others say it made things worse or totally screwed up their cycles. I was put on a mini-pill BC a few years ago to balance my hormones and that helped significantly, so I’m thinking that using progesterone would help my symptoms. I’m just wary to try something that could go wrong so badly. It doesn’t seem like the kind of thing where it helps or it just doesn’t change anything. I’ve been reading reviews of different creams and oils on Amazon, and on every one I’ve seen there are reviews saying things like ‘this is the worst cream I’ve tried, use x brand, it’s way better!’ ‘this one contains x which is bad for you!’ ‘this one doesn’t contain x which means it’s fake!’ ‘the ingredients list on this is different from what it says online/the place that makes it looks fishy/false advertising’ etc. All the varying reviews of each brand make me so unsure about which one to choose even if I did want to try it! Do you use it only between ovulation and your period? I read something that said you should use it all month except when you’re bleeding, but everything else says to use it just in the luteal phase. I’d be very interested to hear how you chose which one to use and how it’s affecting you if you don’t mind sharing!

    Thanks!

    • Oh I hear you, Carolyn. It’s definitely overwhelming. I think I like mine just fine — I haven’t experienced anything negative whatsoever, but it’s hard to tell whether it has done anything positive yet, either. MAYBE it helped lengthen my luteal phase by one day — I’m still waiting to decide. I’m going to give it a few more rounds (I’ve only tried it for two cycles; this will be my first without nursing). I decided to go with Progestelle, since I wanted to avoid parabens/xenoestrogens, and this kind only contains bioidentical progesterone and coconut oil. (It’s not actually a cream). The reviews seemed mostly positive and reliable. It’s rather expensive, but the first time you buy it you get one free.

      I agree that instructions for use are generally confusing, but I think that’s due to two factors: (a) women mostly use it for menopause, and (b) most people don’t know when they ovulate, or don’t know that you can KNOW when you ovulate. So they’ll say things like “start on day 14 of your cycle” (which for me would be a disaster, since I don’t ovulate till day 19 or 20).

      I only use is between ovulation and my period, because your body only really produces progesterone after ovulation. (It’s also what Marilyn Shannon recommends in Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition, and I trust her.) I suspect that the people whose cycles get totally messed up by progesterone cream are applying it at the wrong time. It will throw your body all out of whack if you use it before you ovulate, because where is all this random progesterone coming from?! Since you DO know when you ovulate, you shouldn’t have a problem!

      Hope that helps!

      • Thanks for your quick response! That’s a great point about people taking it at the wrong time and that causing problems. I hadn’t thought of that. I think I’ll give it a try. I have about 6 days until I expect to ovulate this month, so I should have time to get some by then. My cycles are pretty regular so I don’t want to throw things off, especially since I’m getting married in about 4 months and I’m trying to be super on top of tracking my cycles. Thanks!

  8. Oh, Kathleen! Such a beautiful post, brought tears to my eyes. I hated nursing at first (it was ridiculously painful for two months). But now I love it and I’ll be SO sad when we have to be done.

    Also, STUPID INFERTILITY. I’m so sorry you had to wean in hopes of baby #2. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up in that position too. Ugh. I’m praying for baby #2 to come soon for you guys!

  9. I am not looking forward to the day my little doesn’t want to breastfeed. He is still going strong so I am thankful for him and for me. When my first one weaned himself I was a little shocked, he just stopped drinking one morning and now gets freaked out if I try to feed him.

    You probably are sick of ideas for fertility but — not sure if you would be into EFT but it may help with emotional stress if that exists. I know stress is a factor in everything and can be a culprit for almost anything. You can do it at home and its painless. Also acupuncture or acupressure is fabulous too!

  10. Hi! On a bit of a side note… what kind of natural progesterone cream do you use? I used to be all up on natural progesterone and which ones were the best (read a book by Dr. John Lee and a few others) but it’s been a few years since I studied it. Anyway, now I’d like to find some! :)
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  11. Hi Kathleen

    I just read this after Googling night weaning, and I thought you might be encouraged by my experience. I was also struggling to get pregnant two years after my first was born. My periods didn’t even return until she was 2 years and 1 month old! (Currently I’m still in amenorrhea, 2 years and 3 months after birth of second child). Once my periods did return we tried to conceive for several months, me taking agnus castus and b6 supplements in an attempt to increase fertility (my LP was too short, like yours). Anyway, the very month I cut my dd down to 2 feeds in 24 hours, I fell pregnant. So I almost weaned, but didn’t go quite the whole way. I wasn’t brave enough to lose that nap! But I really empathise with your feelings of desperation to conceive another, whilst also yearning to nurture the one you have. I really hope that your efforts result in a pregnancy very soon.

    Sarah

  12. I’m waaaay behind on blog reading. I’m so sorry you’ve had to wean before you wanted to. We’ve been praying for you. I hope this is the key to pregnancy for you!
    Michele recently posted..Motherhood with a Toddler, while ExpectingMy Profile

  13. I’m so behind the game right now! Your blog notification emails have been going into some random folder since January. And I just realized I haven’t seen you on Instagram lately either, so I checked your profile and saw you unplugged for Lent.

    This entry is so bittersweet. I teared up reading about L’s response to losing her morning session. I can completely empathize with you.

    I’m praying that you will be adding to your family very soon.

    The pic is gorgeous, too. She is just a doll. (And you’re adorable too!).

  14. Henry's Mama says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your night weaning method was very familiar to ours and now my son is going to be two years and 5 months old and I too have started to try to completely wean him. He was at the point where he wanted to nurse before bedtime, in the morning, and at nap time. Now his dad puts him to sleep at night and he was surprisingly okay with not nursing, and in the mornings when he comes to my room for milk I tell him mommy’s still sleeping and he can’t have milk yet, and it’s a little bit of a battle but he eventually will leave me alone. The hardest is at nap time. I still nurse him at nap time. Hopefully this gets easier. I’m only trying to wean him now because we’re going to try for baby no. 2 real soon. This whole weaning process breaks my heart, and so far your story has been the most similar to mine and if you and your daughter are okay, then I know my son and I can gently do this as well. Best wishes to you and your family.

    • Hi Henry’s Mama! Yes, our stories sound incredibly similar! Now that it’s been several months, I can say with certainty that we made the right decision. I’m glad we nursed for so long; but it was definitely time to move on to the next phase. We have a wonderful relationship and even though I don’t think she consciously remembers nursing, it’s deep inside both of us still. Blessings to you and your family!

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