Ready to Wean Baby from Breastfeeding
We made it! With the support of our family and friends, my daughter Lyla and I managed to successfully breastfeed for 19 months. From pregnancy to birth, and recovery until now it’s been 29 months dedicated to her. Personally, I am grateful to have made it for any amount of time. Just like no one told me it would be difficult to breastfeed, no one told me it would be difficult to wean! Buried in those tired, sick, rough days and nights are many milestones and achievements, but don’t get me wrong. Nothing was easy about any of it and I am still in shock at being an individual again after 2 1/2 years! Wow. There are many ways to wean but I found the best way for us was to omit the daytime feeds and then hard cut off the last 2 (morning and evening). Here’s how.
How long should I breastfeed?
My journey, similar to many, started, and hoped for the best! Breastfeeding can go anywhere from a few days to years. While it’s recommended by WHO to breastfeed for up to 2 years any amount of breastmilk given is beneficial to the child’s development and health. The best option is from the breast, the second is expressed, and the third best is donor milk. Even with the introduction of solids, their little bodies are reliant on our breastmilk to fill in any gaps in their nutrition and build good gut health. Women are recommended to breastfeed for as long as able and it is mutually desired, but living in an urban city like Los Angeles exclusively breastfeeding until 19 months is considered extended breastfeeding. There is no right time to wean, but I do believe that if either of you is ready it will happen.
Are you ready?
As we had been exclusively breastfeeding for 19 months I was ready to stop and felt she was ready developmentally. The easiest access to information to “how to” wean was of course on vlogs or social media, but after a quick browse, I knew this information perhaps could work across the board, but if there was anything I learned from my difficulties beginning to breastfeed it’s that every child and situation is unique and personalized advice from a professional is key to succeeding on this journey. If you are in the USA I found Stephanie my lactation counselor in my insurance network on The Lactation Network. One key piece of advice she gave amongst many is to not associate weaning with growing up by saying things like “big kids don’t ____” or “only babies drink milk” as that associates shame with nursing.
So you have been breastfeeding for however long and now it’s time to wean. You’ll find that as breastfeeding goes on it becomes more than sustenance. Especially when they become sick nursing becomes key and we have absolutely no schedule to feed them anymore. We all have our ways of coping and using the boob to soothe, distract (at doctors anyone?), connect, hydrate, and sleep we really have to first work on eliminating those gap feeds. Take note of your day and see how you both are reliant on the boob you can choose first which ones you can eliminate and drop them one by one. Slowly training yourself and the baby to do “other” things by offering “other” things and coping in “other” ways is key to keeping a connection while slowly severing the time at the breast.
How long it takes you to wean is your and your baby’s business; however, I want to highlight again the readiness required to fully wean your child. If you have doubt in your mind you will not be able to follow your intention and the baby will pick up on your emotions. This will be confusing for them because they follow your lead. Also known as gentle weaning we dropped one feed every 1-2 weeks on the advice of my lactation counselor Stephanie in order for me to regulate and manage but I have heard of mothers regulating at as little as 3 days. During this time I completely covered up my chest (in a body suit or turtle neck even in summer) and supplemented it with food, snacks, and distractions such as coloring, dancing, or playing outside. We definitely kept busy still with time for loads of snuggles, holding her close, baby-wearing her again, and letting her nap on me.
For some reason, vacation was when the last two, morning and night, feeds were completely cut out. I was so resolute that a trip to Asia wouldn’t derail our weaning process even if it was a 16-hour direct flight from Los Angeles. On the plane, I gave her as much as she wanted. By the time we landed, I was so touched out that I was desperate to unlatch her completely. I put nipple stickers on to fully cover and hide my areola so she wouldn’t have access to them at all hours and offered her fresh fruits in bed and her favorite snacks before bedtime as an alternative. If she asked for the boob we would check on them to make sure that they were still resting. From her reaction, the nipple stickers seemed like a sort of repellant. She would ask a couple of times the first day, less the next, until gradually not at all after a week or 10 days. Out of sight, out of mind.
After 1 month I can say we have successfully weaned! I as well was extremely hesitant to say anything or tell anyone because what if we relapsed? I thought that weaning meant your supply will completely dry up, but even months later I am still able to squeeze milk out in the shower. I doubt that the supply is adequate, but at first, the sight of milk was enough to make me doubt if weaning was the right thing and if we were ready. Sticking to my path, staying close, and loving allowed us to take the time we needed to do this together. My greatest worry for weaning Lyla is that she wouldn’t get her nourishment, so I got some liquid supplements like calcium, multivitamins, and DHA. Of course, this doesn’t substitute for real food but it gave me some peace of mind that she would still be getting what she needs.
Besides having a lactation counselor on call, my husband Henry was very helpful in stepping in when we needed him to. In the early morning hours, he was the one to make multiple trips to the fridge to get more snacks. He could tell when I was completely touched out and take Lyla off my hands, so I could do things without her clinging to me. She has now also taken to her doll and water bottle (with ice lol) and won’t go anywhere without it which I believe has become her “loveys” or a new source of comfort. I didn’t feel the crash of hormones (also called post-weaning depression) some women experience and feel extremely connected to Lyla. Coming out of all of this I have confidence and trust ultimately everything is going to be ok.
*This article is written personally by Liv. If you find it insightful, please copy the link & share it with friends. Sharing is caring 💞