A little over a month ago, I breastfed my daughter for the last time. I was just about to leave her for five nights—the longest we had ever been apart. I knew that when I got back, she would no longer be nursing. I was ready, and I knew that she was ready, too. But that didn’t make it any easier.
I’ll admit, I am one of the lucky few who had a fairly easy go at breastfeeding. My low milk supply during the first six months seemed like a relatively minor challenge compared to what a lot of women go through to keep their little ones nourished.
My original plan was to breastfeed until G was a year old. That first birthday came and went, and neither of us were really ready. I put off weaning partly because, as a stay-at-home mom, breastfeeding made those long days alone with my daughter so much more bearable. If I was sick or G was teething, if she skipped a nap or woke up early, breastfeeding was the easy remedy, our go-to when either of us needed some downtime. For this reason, I was in no hurry to wean—breastfeeding made things so much easier!
But a few months ago, I finally made the commitment to call it quits. There were a number of factors that convinced me it was time. At the forefront of my mind was that Geoff and I had started talking about the possibility of Baby #2, and I knew that tandem nursing, although a great option for many, was not for me. Plus, I wanted some time to have my body completely to myself before giving up autonomy to another tireless dictator—I mean, adorable bundle of joy.
Cold turkey was the right decision for us, but as with many things, every child is different, and what worked for me may not work for you. I knew from experience that cutting back on feeds would only lead G to ask for milk more often—and more forcefully. If she knew breastfeeding was no longer an option, I guessed that she would stop asking. (She had already spent weekends away with her grandparents, and had gone days without nursing.) And I was right. After five nights away at my husband’s work retreat, we returned home and offered cow’s milk rather than breastmilk. It only took three days for G to stop asking to nurse, and I think the whole process was harder on me than it was on her.
When we left for the retreat, I began taking a supplement of sage tincture to reduce my milk supply. It tasted awful, but I felt more comfortable testing out an herbal remedy before diving into something stronger like pseudoephedrine (which I’d also heard worked to decrease supply). I’d never been an abundant producer, and it took me almost a week before my breasts became engorged and uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself the night we got home from our trip, as I sat in bed like a fool with my nursing bra stuffed with cabbage leaves. I laughed and I cried that night, missing my daughter and knowing that such a special part of our relationship was over forever.
Two weeks after G was fully weaned, we are still facing our share of challenges. I experienced what was probably my most difficult evening alone with G since she was a newborn. She had (as per usual) skipped her nap, but she was more over-tired than normal. We had just said goodbye to a friend she had been playing with, and what ensued was her first complete toddler meltdown. She cried inconsolably for more than an hour straight. I did everything I could to try to calm her, but absolutely nothing worked. She refused to eat dinner, and she oscillated between letting me hold her and squirming out of my grasp. It was awful. Honestly, my gut instinct was to pull down my shirt and offer the boob. Nursing had always been my fail-safe, and it took all my self-restraint to resist. I didn’t want to undo all the hard work I had accomplished.
Eventually I calmed her down by offering her a bath and getting her ready for bed much earlier than usual. After some cuddles and a few lullabies she was asleep instantly. We’ve had plenty of rough days since then, made worse by G’s refusal to nap, but I still don’t regret my decision to wean. I know that, going forward, G and I are going to have to work together to come up with new ways to soothe and comfort that don’t involve breastfeeding. We are going to have to discover new bonding rituals. She weaned more easily than I could have imagined, and I know she will continue to impress me with her resilience and strength as time goes on.
Have you weaned your child? What was the most difficult part for you? Have you found new ways to stay close with your little one?