Thursday, September 13, 2012

How I Weaned My Toddler

My big girl (that's a tattoo on her arm!); when I ask her if she "drinks boobies" anymore she laughs and says, "Noooooo!"
Nia turned 2 years and 1 month old yesterday (you can see the fun video I posted in honor of the occasion here), and rather than be annoying and continue counting Nia's age in months (drives me batty!), I've decided not to continue the Life With Nia series on this blog but am working on another fun way of documenting her development. Speaking of development, since Nia's weaned several months ago, just shy of 22 months to be exact, I wanted to share how it all went down. . .


Post-nursing nap in the hospital after birth
I went into breastfeeding with the goal of making it to the 1 year mark - I had done a lot of research while pregnant and knew this was what I wanted to do. The benefits of breastfeeding to 1 year far outweighed any other option, and I was committed!

The first 8 weeks of nursing were so intensely painful. I had written before about why there was such a discrepancy between lactation consultants saying it wasn't painful and most of those actually nursing saying it was. There was definitely something fishy going on there! Hands down: nursing hurts like nothing else, at least at the beginning and at least for me. I found solace in Kellymom which helped me find a latch at last that worked. Also, one of the most honest breastfeeding posts that I can relate to over at Bower Power was something I wish I had read before I started breastfeeding. I posted the following reply:

6 Months - 1 Year

Nia's first time having solids at 6 months - homemade brown rice cereal
At the 6 months mark I felt Nia was pulling away from nursing as I introduced solids, and it actually felt natural to me at that point to wean but she didn't continue her enthusiasm with solids and then got sick and turned back to nursing more than ever so we continued. 

Nia at 6 months
I decided to start the gradual weaning process at 10 months knowing that at 1 year I wanted to be done with it. I fed Nia on demand, which I learned is the hardest to wean from, but with our schedule and her needs I found it worked best. I always thought Nia would show a strong interest in solids at some point, but it never happened. Actually when she started walking just shy of 11 months her demand to nurse increased substantially! We kept on . . .

1 year - 2 years

When Nia was 16 months old we went to Nigeria and with the challenges of international travel/food Mr. Love Bird and I discussed it months beforehand and agreed we'd continue breastfeeding. Honestly, it was such a blessing on the trip, but with my busted ankle and heat I really was worn down nursing on the trip and was quite agitated! Mr. Love Bird even (secretly) shot of video of me complaining about breastfeeding - I would post it, but it's really, really awful and makes me so embarrassed, but I was at my wits end at that point. I really felt ready to be done with breastfeeding especially with the impending move from Harlem to Jersey City we had once we returned (all with my injury). 

I had read that the bedtime feeding was typically the last to go, but for us it was the morning feeding. I remember calling my aunt and talking to her about how she weaned her 3 boys. She suggested I simply explain to Nia  - that the milk is "all gone." Surprisingly, this really helped to get us to the morning-only feedings and I actually preferred just the morning feedings.

From the beginning Mr. Love Bird and I had a "no baby talk" policy (much to my mother's chagrin!). We talk to Nia just like we talk to each other and I guess I should have figured it out sooner that I could simply "explain" weaning to her. Unlike stories of babies/toddlers who self-weaned, I could tell that despite me explaining Nia would just keep going and although mornings were fine since we got it outta the way and kept on with our day, knowing that I had overnight trips planned (BlogHer and Blogalicious) I needed her to be completely weaned. So . . .

Over Memorial Day weekend I sent her away. 

I got the idea from a friend who had a friend with a toddler who weaned this way. She was the one who actually went away to stay at a local hotel for the weekend for some pampering while her mother and husband stayed at the house to be with her daughter. When she returned her LO was weaned!

I arranged with my parents to have Nia in Baltimore over the long weekend. I took her down on Thursday night and the following morning before I left for NYC this was the last time I nursed her:

I had heard that many mothers cry during the last breastfeeding session, or post-weaning but instead I felt ELATED and relieved that this would be the last time! I was grinning pretty much the whole Megabus ride home.

Mr. Love Bird and I ended up winning a Zip Car for the long weekend and had a packed schedule. We went to every borough in NYC visiting our friends and it was such a fun weekend, however I was painfully engorged after about 24 hours which I was surprised about especially since I was only down to the morning feeding. I did fear mastitits but thankfully didn't get it. I took prescription strength ibuprofen for the pain and slept on my back throughout the weekend. It was extremely painful but worth it knowing I had weaned at last.

I went back to Baltimore to get Nia on Memorial Day and we came back Tuesday. She asked a few times to nurse and I deflected her and after a few fits of crying that week she was fine. 

What really helped while she was with my parents is that they took her to Columbus, Ohio my hometown. They kept her so busy and around her older cousins that she fit right in seeing them eat and she did too. My parents said they co-slept with her and throughout the night she'd wake up trying to nurse them! My dad even shared a picture of him up at 3a.m. blowing bubbles to keep her distracted from trying to nurse. Thank you Daddy!

It really was a family effort to wean. 

Since weaning here's what I've noticed:
  • Nia mourned weaning and started acting out; lots of hitting, screaming tantrum-ing. She seemed generally less happy than she used to be. She just started calming down in the past month.
  • Nia's picked up eating solids and now drinks so much cow's milk we had to cut back sometimes only giving her water with protein powder in it.
  • I didn't go through crazy weight gain; I've stabilized at less than my pre-pregnancy weight which I think is due to all the physical activity we've continued with going out and about NYC - we keep it moving if you can't tell!
  • It took about 5 days from the last day I nursed Nia for the engorgement to go down; breastfeeding definitely took a toll on the perkiness of my breasts (before breastfeeding I heard time and time again it was just pregnancy and aging that did this NOT breastfeeding; I, and Mr. Love Bird, beg to differ!)
  • I've reconsidered my thoughts on feeding on demand; baby #2 (and maybe beyond) will not be fed on demand past the first few weeks. As my mother did with me and my siblings, I will work towards getting a feeding schedule implemented early-on.
  • I had read that mentally it can cause the onset of depression for the mother when weaning; I did not experience this. It has been very freeing to be done with breastfeeding! I'm more upbeat, if anything. 
So that's my toddler-weaning experience! Of course, every mom is different, but this is what worked for me.

Here are my favorite thought-provoking articles/posts to share on the topic of breastfeeding and extended nursing:
  • A mother posts about her experience with BLW (baby led weaning): It's food time!
  • Sibling rivalry and extended nursing is discussed in Baby Dickey's post Sibling Rivalry: Ryan's Adjustment to Rebecca {This post really made me cringe especially because Nia is so protective of me even when Mr. Love Bird hugs or kisses me - I can't imagine how she'd react to her little sibling being close to me!}

{Image Credit}
Have you nursed to toddler-hood or considered it? What was your experience like?