6 Things You Need To Know About Weaning
A few weeks before Brody's first birthday, I found myself mentally over breastfeeding. My body would tense up when it was time to feed, my mind would wander to a world where we were no longer nursing. Brody started to become more aggressive with the feedings--yanking at my shirt in the middle of the day and becoming upset immediately if I didn't give him the boob whenever and wherever he wanted. My milk supply was dwindling and I felt like I was becoming a human pacifier. My body was craving to be mine again.
And so we began weaning. We slowly started cutting back on feedings and changing routines. Some days I would feel like we were making progress and then we would regress into our old habits once again. I began to second guess myself a few times--thinking Brody and I would lose this special bond we had developed and then a few hours later, I would be pleading for my body back. Like all things motherhood, it was a time filled with contradictions. It took time to accept that weaning would be a process. It took time to realize that it was just as much up to Brody as it was to me. It took time to understand that our bond would change, but it would be just as strong.
Below are some of the discoveries and tips I learned along the way.
The right time to wean is different for everyone
Your mom, your friends and the books you read--everyone has a different opinion and story about when you should wean. From my experience, I firmly believe that you and your little one will know when the time has come. Maybe it's 10 months, maybe it's 2 years, just trust your mind and body. I knew my supply had drastically begun to drop. I had also set a goal for myself to try to make it to one year, so as Brody's birthday began approaching, I mentally began to feel satisfied with how far we had made it. Weaning is one of those instinctual feelings.
Your connection changes
My biggest fear with weaning was the fear of losing the special bond Brody and I had created. Those late nights when he would drowsily stare at my face and smile, holding his warm little body against mine, snuggling up together--I was scared to lose these special moments. Brody was never one to cuddle, so I feared that I was going to lose the one thing that bonded us together. The one time of day where he slowed down and just laid with his heart against mine. Much to my surprise, since weaning, Brody has become so affectionate. Maybe it's his age or maybe it's our new connection, but I will never get sick of the slobbery kisses, hugs, and cuddles he now gives out freely. There is no sweeter feeling in the world.
Sleep can improve when you wean
With the teething madness of the past couple of months, I had gotten into the bad habit of feeding Brody a couple of times during the night. I knew he didn't need to eat, but it was the easiest way to put him back to sleep and most nights I was too tired to try anything else. I worried that without nursing him back to sleep in the middle of the night, he would stay up and cry. Visions of a 10 year-old who didn't sleep through the night danced through my head. But once we slowly started to cut back the feedings, Brody started to sleep through the night again. It took a couple of weeks of tearful nights, but it was worth the peaceful nights of sleep that resulted. Try enlisting your partner when you are night weaning. My husband would offer Brody a sip of water when he would wake up in the middle of the night during our transition.
Don't overthink it
It's not unusual to feel sadness during or after the weaning process. After all, Oxytocin is the hormone that causes the milk let-down and it's the same hormone that gives you those feelings of euphoria. It is no surprise that a decrease in Oxytocin could result in some less than euphoric feelings. What I found to work best was a slow weaning process. Rather than going cold turkey, we cut back feedings slowly over a period of 6-8 weeks. I also never told myself "this is the last time I will nurse Brody", as I had a feeling that would trigger some sadness. I tried not to think of weaning as a monumental event--for me, the monumental event was our heartwarming year of nursing.
Having your body back feels good
It seems selfish for me to say this, but it feels amazing to have my body back. To be in full control of my body. To pull those non-nursing bras out from the back of my closet. To be able to have a margarita (or two) and not have to plan it around when I would be feeding Brody. I loved pregnancy. I have been amazed by my body during postpartum. But having my body back to myself has been the final piece of the puzzle to feeling like the old me again.
Your Long Lost Friend Will Return
Remember that pesky Aunt Flow that used to come around every 28 days or so? If you haven't seen her in a while (ahem, two years for me!), she's likely to make a quick return. Make sure you have a stash of panty liners or tampons on hand. Oh, how nice it was to not have a period for two years!
As our year plus of nursing has come to an end, I am so grateful for my body and its ability to nourish Brody. It is something I never once took for granted--knowing so many mommas that wish their bodies would have been able to do the same. It had a huge learning curve and challenged me in many ways, but what a blessing to have been able to share this experience with Brody.
I would love to hear your weaning experiences in the comments. Did you slowly wean or go cold turkey? What was the hardest part for you?