Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weaning Tales

I feel like I can finally write this, several months down the road.

After 5 difficult months of pretty much dancing on my head to get Eowyn to nurse, I had the joy of nursing her easily for 16 months.  I am so thankful.  I got to fulfill all my motherly dreams-- nursing my baby (right after birth, no less!), nursing through 21 months, and getting to have a nice break between nursing and whenever we have # 2.  (Sick as I was with E, I want a nice cushion of rebuilding reserves!!)

So... weaning?  How did it go?  It was pretty much painless.  We never associated nursing with sleeping, though I did nurse her right before bed, so there wasn't that to overcome.  She was used to nursing right after waking up, which made it pretty simple to offer a snack instead.  I started the process when she was totally healthy and we weren't traveling or going through any major transitions.  It was also quite warm outside (April) when we started, and by the time we finished (June) it was downright hot.  It seemed to make "cold milk" (raw organic cow's milk) more attractive and snuggling less so. At 19 months, she was nursing 7 times a day-- three meals (mostly solid food, bm was just to complete it), plus a mid-afternoon snack, bedtime snack (loved those), first-thing-in-the-morning (love how it got me 2 extra hours of sleep!!), and dream feed just before I went to bed myself.  I dropped one feeding per week, starting with her dream feed. I was afraid she'd start waking up hungry but she did absolutely fine, actually seeming to sleep longer stretches BETTER... rookie mistake.  I definitely won't make that again-- dream feed will be bye-bye MUCH sooner!!

Next to go was her post-nap afternoon snack, and then breakfast, dinner, lunch, before bedtime and finally the first-morning-nurse. I replaced them with whole food snacks (except for the dream feed & before bed, those I just dropped totally). I dropped them the way I did to try and keep the demand as even throughout the day as possible, so I wouldn't be engorged all morning and dry all evening, or vice versa. Eowyn never insisted on milk since I started, so it wasn't traumatic or anything. I'd try and prevent her asking by offering a snack or meal before she asked, and when she did ask, I'd say "not now" and offer something else.

Last to go was the first-morning-nurse, which I kept going for 3 weeks, and didn't feel like I had much milk left at all.  I kept expecting my supply to totally go, but it seemed to be holding fine, and the little cold she'd gotten went away, so I finally just had to cut it.  One morning (June 7th to be exact =D) I just got her milk from downstairs when she woke up wanting milk, and she took it great.  But I wanted to remember my last time nursing her, as opposed to the half-conscious state of my early-morning nursings. (vague memories most mornings) so I ended up taking a few more days of either nursing her first thing in the morning, or offering "cold milk" and then nursing her later in the day.  I reasoned that this got my body used to making milk even less frequently.  Also, it's bittersweet to let such a precious thing go.  We'd come so far in our nursing relationship, from new and amazing to hard and frustrating to the norm and easy... yet I've always treasured this privelege.

Post-weaning reunion after 9 days apart
(Ryan & I went sailing in the BVI)
The last day I nursed her, we had been out and she'd fallen asleep in the carseat (or stroller?  I can't believe I've already forgotten!).  I carried her up to her bed, but I knew that she would wake up as soon as I put her down, despite desperately needing more sleep.  So, I sat down by her bed, and nursed her one last time, savoring every minute of it.  I will always remember the soft afternoon light filtering just so through her red polka-dot curtains, her warm trusting body nestled into mine, her sweet sleepy breathing, her still-fuzzy-head.  I laid her in bed happily milk-drunk, and she finished up her nap in peace.  I closed the door behind me, so glad that (Lord willing!) this would not be my last time nursing a baby,... because I knew I really would miss it.  I also felt very freed-- strange to feel both at once.

Since then, she didn't ask to nurse until she saw some other moms nursing younger babies. Once she even specified "I want mama's milk."  But she happily accepts it when I tell her that it's "all gone!" and that she can have "cold milk" or a snack if she wants it.  It was painless, happy, and non-scarring all around.  She still nurses her baby dolls (and a friend's baby in one hilarious instance) and knows that when little babies cry, sometimes they "need milk."

I don't know if it's related to the weaning, but she did go through a SUPER OUT OF THIS WORLD clingy phase around weaning time (I think it started before actually). Several friends have said that their kids did the same thing around 18/20 months, others say that big developmental milestones (like potty training) sometimes cause that sort of behavior.  She did have a lot going on-- potty training, weaning, Daddy traveling... But we have gotten through that too.

Anyway, hope this helps someone... and even if it doesn't, it's so good for me to have a record so my forgetful mommy-brain doesn't forget it all!


Sarah said...

Thank you, Christina. It helps me!

Kristen said...

Oh, your post totally made me tear up because I remember the last times I nursed our girls and how bittersweet it was...thanks for sharing!

Ashton said...

Thanks for this, Christina! I was getting a little teary-eyed too because I know how much I'm going to miss nursing Talitha when we decide to wean. It's funny, but I never looked forward to nursing. Now, I'm afraid that weaning is going to be much harder for me than her! Go figure.

Eowyn's Heir said...

i thought it would be way more
painful than it was! It's bittersweet for sure...but when it's time, it just happens, and you know it's ok and good.

Rebecca said...

i'm sad just thinking about it!

Eowyn's Heir said...

tee-hee...and then... you know it's time to start all over again with more babies!!!

Sarah said...

Thank you for sharing. What have you learned about gap time between weaned baby and next pregnancy?

Eowyn's Heir said...

Sarah I am SO glad you asked! Stay tuned for a blog post on that very topic later this week!! :)

Basically, I've learned that 2 years is almost vital between pregnancies (as in, the kids would be 3 years-ish apart) to rebuild maternal reserves, especially of fat-soluble vitamins (like A &D)-- these that are crucial in brain development! Not to say I wouldn't have been thrilled to get pregnant several months earlier... :)