Sunday, January 26, 2014

Questions and Answers: On Weaning

I miss doing my questions and answers posts.  Sometimes I will admit though, they make me feel really self-conscious.  I think I will feel better about them if I put this big disclosure at the beginning of every single one:

I love asking my trusted mom friends and relatives (especially the ones with older kids or adult children), for advice, and their thoughts on what worked and didn't work for them.  I love asking how they overcame certain hurdles, and what house rules worked for their families, or just when I just need some reassurance.  It's a tough world out there right now to raise kids in, I know that much. I have realized that sometimes when asked a question through email or the comment page of this blog, I am that "older" mom (eek!), and although I have quite far to go on my parenting journey still, maybe I could offer that reassurance or thoughtful advice to a mom who needs some. All answers are coming straight from the 'School of Hard Knocks', the 'University of Life'-and/or what I have learned from reading extensively, trusting my gut, finding what works for my family, observing what works for others, thinking way too much and then applying the concepts in real time experimentation on my six children.

So Questions and Answers are back, with that disclosure always right at the top of the page.  



Are you planning to let sweet Janet pants self-wean? Have you done that with all your littles? Mine is 1 soon and weaning terrifies me-but so does another year or two of nursing! Any tips or experiences you can share?


I have nursed all my children for at least a year.  I was able (see tips below) to gradually gently wean (no baby angst-I can't take baby angst, it hurts my heart!) within a few months.  So that means generally give or take I was finished breastfeeding by about 15 months with the five (exception is Janey, more on that below).  As much as I am passionate about breastfeeding and know in my heart its deep importance health-wise and emotionally-wise for both mom and baby, I wanted to throw a nursing- bra burning party in my back yard each time!  But that would be weird.  Can you imagine the invitation?

I know this for sure:  Nursing is time consuming.  It ties us mommies to our babies-we are irreplaceable-we are what keeps them alive.  It's very very selfless.  It takes lots of energy, physically and emotionally.  It makes us sit down, and slow down.  It rearranges our priorities.  And that is EXACTLY what nature intended.  I know that my babies needed not just the nutrition of the perfect food for babies, but also the emotional "nutrition" also.  I think it's best for both parties-mom and baby-to take weaning slowly and to be aware of the baby's needs, whether they fit in the "mold" of our culture or not.

For me I need a little plan to be consistent with the weaning process.  Just like potty training I want to be consistent to make it as stress free as possible for both of us.  It's not complicated: I take the feeding that is most easily "forgotten" about and drop it. I distract during that time, make sure the baby is being fed enough in meals and snacks, and avoid at all costs my nursing chair or even nursing room.  Springtime and summer is great for this because I can take a stroller ride and get outside during that time and the baby doesn't even notice.  I just gradually did this until only the nighttime feeding was left. (I don't have a perfect memory but I think all my babies woke up at night at least once even at one year to nurse.)  This is the hardest feeding to drop, because it's difficult to distract in the middle of the night.  All of my babes but two took a pacifier so I would just wake up with them when and offer them the pacifier-maybe the first night or two they would protest a little but no hard crying.  I would rock them back to sleep and after one or two or three nights that was that and they were weaned.

Janey, 17 months, is a big nurser...she still nurses 3 or 4 times a day and at least once or twice at night.  She never took a bottle or a pacifier.  I feel like right now, my mom gut tells me that she needs a little more time. I am thinking this spring we are going to work on dropping day time feeds slowly and then we'll work on the night time.  I never planned to nurse this long, honestly.  I said at her first birthday, "My goal is to be finished this month", then I said by Christmas, and now I am saying by spring.  I just know she needs to take this slow, and that's OK with me.  

For more help I always refer to Dr. Sears-I love his books-The Baby Book was my first year reference book for all my babies,  and I think he is right on spot with just about everything from birth to breastfeeding help to discipline.  Here is a short article of his on weaning. 

23 comments:

  1. This is exactly how I weaned my older two, one at 15 months and one at 26. My current little is almost 16 months and we do one daytime and 3-4 nighttime feedings. I tried night weaning him (no pacifier for him) and I had to quit because I was a zombie during the day. I keep saying spring as well, but really I don't mind the nursing cuddles so we'll see what happens.

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  2. That's the thing, all babies are different. My older one was weaned at 14 months when I was 2 months pregnant and wanted a break before starting to feed the next one. My younger son nursed until he was 2. This third baby - who knows?? It's a lot harder to "cut them off" when you co-sleep as well. Not sure if we will fall into that with the new baby as well.

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  3. I've just loved reading this ..... I've just weaned my 6th baby aged 26 months. Like you, I've fed all of mine until around 12 months but with each one the weaning process has taken a little longer. It's been a gentle process for everyone. My little Eliza still prefers to sleep with my husband and I but now, instead of reaching out for milk in the night, she cuddles and quickly resettles. Some beautiful messages in this post for all Mum's xx

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  4. Thanks Sarah! This post made me smile and "wince" all at the same time. My first experience with nursing was SOOOO NOT what I expected. First of all, it was extremely easy and never painful like so many people told me it would be. We had no issues, no problems, and it felt way more natural than I thought it would (although I still wouldn't do it in public)

    However, it was so easy for both of us, that Nora quickly started refusing any sort of pacifier, bottle (breast milk or formula), etc. and there I was, totally "stuck" as the only source of food for my baby girl. I should also mention that she refused ALL baby food, ALL pureed foods, and ALL solid foods until 18-20 months so she literally would not eat anything unless I was there to nurse her.

    Although the act of nursing was so easy and she literally "sucked it down" in 7-8 minutes flat, I felt totally trapped and started getting depressed wondering when this would ever stop.

    We finally started eating therapy around 17 months (and then I unexpectedly got pregnant when she was 18 months) and with the combination of the two, she basically weaned herself over the next 3 months (and yes, we had to avoid her nursing chair like the plague otherwise that's all she could think about!)

    Looking back, it honestly wasn't that bad, I just can't get over how trapped I felt for a while there at the end. I thought it was interesting that whenever I voice concern over her lack of eating prior to her first birthday, everyone said "oh, just nurse until she's 1". However, practically the day after her first birthday I started getting comments like "you're still nursing her?" "when are you going to wean her?"

    I should just keep reading your posts for a more normal perspective from a mom who obviously knows a little something about what she's doing :)

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  5. I never had to wean my kids, they either speed on their own our I ran out of milk (working and pumping) but what heeled to break them from the bedtime and middle of the night bottle was to give thema cup of milk. They could have a so if they were truly hungry, but it didn't soothe like a bottle or breast and they stopped depending on that for sleep. You moms that breastfeed longer than a year are amazing in my book!

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  6. told my husband about that pic of Janey (pants)!
    i would have a hard time weaning too.....

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  7. I was wondering about when you would wean...I am a 26 yo catholic mom of 2 aged 3 and 1. Just weaned at 15mo. I really trust your common sense mixed with love approach and very much enjoy reading your blog; I *do* trust you as a wiser older mom on the internet!! We really need to hear your voice on the world wode web. Thanks for posting.

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  8. Sarah, thank you for this! I have 3 kids. My two older ones both weaned easily by about 14 months or so.. but I don't think my youngest is even close to done. She still wakes up once a night to nurse. And the times that I've tried "distracting" her with cuddles, a song, etc. She just screams louder and longer. So I always give in. Thanks for cheering me up and making me feel better :)

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  9. Speaking of reading extensively- can you recommend some good parenting books that you have found useful? Thank you!

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  10. Janey's soul sister Lily is still nursing the same schedule. I always tell Mindy when she needs to go read your blog. Parallel lives I tell ya! That picture is priceless.

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  11. I loved this post Sarah. All mine weaned themselves. I think because I ran out of milk around a year. So many of my friends nursed until around 2 and it was wonderful for them. When the time is right for everyone it just seem to work out.

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  12. Thanks so much! I love your advice. My husband gets a kick out of me calling you my blog friend" ��

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  13. I nursed 9 out of my 10 children and loved every single second of it! It is one of the bonds I hate to see broken... the last physical tie between me and my baby. My philosophy has always been to let the baby take the lead and most often they have self weaned as yours, around 15 months, some longer, some shorter. My last little guy never once nursed, and being 45, I had not been able to get a good supply with the pump, so when even my lactation specialist said sometimes it just isn't going to work out, I gave in and bought formula. It was heart breaking, I literally sobbed for days. I decided that no one was allowed to give him bottles, ever, it was my opportunity to sit and feed him, for me. So, you ladies who are able to breastfeed, love it, enjoy it, and cherish that wonderful God given ability to nurture and nourish your sweet little baby for as long as they like :) Just advice from an "old" mom :).

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  14. I won't be weaning anyone anytime son (single. no kids.) but oh my, that picture. how darling. :)
    ~ Country Girl's Daybook, recently posted: A Movie Review of The Book Thief → http://bit.ly/1eSRAS0

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  15. "It makes us sit down, and slow down. It rearranges our priorities. And that is EXACTLY what nature intended." Oh my, I love this! I am nursing an 8 week old and some days it is overwhelming that I am his sole source of nourishment but on the other hand, it does make me sit and slow down and enjoy him. Thank you for these posts and your thoughts on these matters. I never take away that you know it all or that you think everyone should do it your way. :)

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  16. I nursed my baby girl till she was 2 1/2. She would have gladly continued till 4. or 5!! I had to wean her. She still loves to snuggle with me with her nukky. I am her comfort and I don't mind one bit. Those babies at the end get to stay babies for a long time! Your baby is adorable!

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  18. My #6 will be 2 this week. Oh how sad! He still nurses a few times a day, and I am ok with it. I have considered weaning completely but my sweet husband reminded me how good it is for me to sit down with him for a few minutes and snuggle. He won't nurse forever. My approach is the same as yours... distract and engage in something else... and remember it won't last forever.

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  19. Love dr sears! I shouldn't be surprised that you do too, because I love you and your style.

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  20. Thank you for sharing this! It's very timely for me, as I've been trying to figure out what to do about my little just-turned-two nursling. I appreciate your perspective and also that article by Dr. Sears. So helpful!

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  21. Hazel is my third baby (the only girl, her brothers are 6 & 4) and she is a week younger than Janey. I nursed both my boys till they were 1. I will nurse Hazel until she is ready to stop because you are absolutely right, time goes way too fast and you can't get it back. Oh, and Hazel still wants to nurse about 5 times during the day and at her bedtime feeding but, luckily, not during the night!

    Thank you for sharing your experience and letting us be a part of your world!! Hope everyone is doing great!!!

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  22. Very, very sweet photo :)
    Thanks for your advice in all areas on your blog. Your openness to mentor has blessed me over the years.

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  23. Weaning is hard business! I love the advice you gave. It is pretty much howbibhave gone about weaning. I also like Dr. Jay Gordon's weaning method.

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