Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
*Update* Our first child, Abbey, recently weaned all on her own at the age of 4 years and 10 months. This post details some of the the amazing moments we had at the breast, in addition to the way we made nursing to a natural age of weaning work for us – I believe in nursing and nurturing my children until it is no longer needed by my child, which is a biological norm, though not a social one. Thank you for reading with an open mind!
Our Breastfeeding Back-Story
I started breastfeeding Abbey with the knowledge that breast milk was simply the way you fed babies. Formula feeding really didn’t even occur to me as a choice, which was wonderful for my commitment to breastfeeding Abbey and pumping during her NICU stay.
I continued breastfeeding Abbey while learning about human lactation and child development through my recruitment and work as a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for the WIC Program in Texas.
When Abbey reached the age of 12 months, it seemed so silly to me to arbitrarily stop nursing her or even cut down on nursing her just because of her age, so I decided to keep nursing her on demand even though she was well into eating solid table foods. I knew of the benefits to “extended” breastfeeding, and so I decided to breastfeed Abbey past infancy.
And I’m so glad I did! Abbey’s first “I love you” was at the breast. Her first “thank you”, too. Breastfeeding her was a part of mothering her. It seemed silly and cruel to take it away, and I was still happy to have her at the breast. . . so we nursed. On and on through the months, we nursed. Just like Abbey needed to.
Going With The Flow
At 18 months, we experienced a big move – our military PCS (Permanent Change of Station) from Texas to Maine. The previous six months had been without daddy, who was away at training before our PCS. Abbey benefitted immensely from nursing as a form of comfort and intimacy. She developed the word “mamas” for mommy’s milk, and wasn’t interested in drinking cow’s milk at all. She actually had some skin reaction to it, so we limited her dairy intake till a little while into her third year. Every night, there was rocking, singing, stories, and “mamas”. Naptimes were sweet, milky cuddle times, that I was sometimes able to sneak away from. Her little hand on my chest was precious and loving, and I loved nursing her. Even if it meant that no one could put her to bed but me.
When we became pregnant with Joseph, I did some research and determined that there was no reason to stop nursing Abbey – even though she nursed 4-5 times a day at the time that I became pregnant. I fully intended to continue nursing through the pregnancy and I really looked forward to being a tandem nursing mama!
I succeeded in nursing throughout my pregnancy with Joe, and here I am today – a proud tandem nursing mom to a three-year-old and a one-year-old (update – Abbey nursed to 4 years, 10 months, and Joseph is currently still nursing at 2 and a half). But what I would like to share is not just my pride and delight in meeting needs of both of my children through my mothering “mamas” – but my experience and hindsight about a mother’s comfort in nursing a toddler and older child, especially one as intense and spirited as our dear Abbey!
Demands of a Nursing Kind
Because I just wrote “I loved nursing her, even if it meant that no one could put her to bed but me” this will come as a bit of a shocker. . .
But at a certain point, I started to loathe nursing Abbey to sleep.
If I remember correctly, I started struggling with nursing her to bed at nap and bedtimes around the beginning of my second trimester of Joseph’s pregnancy, but in hindsight, I struggled with it earlier on in toddlerhood, too.
It wasn’t that I thought that I was training Abbey to be dependent on the breast to sleep, or that she was attached to me all night. Abbey’s slept in her own bed since she was a young toddler, and there were nights when she only nursed a few minutes and turn over and drifted off. My discomfort with sleep-time nursing was the intensity of Abbey’s demand for breastfeeding at those times of day, and my changing physical and emotional needs during Joseph’s pregnancy. I needed nursing to be enjoyable, and to be demanded to nurse her wasn’t comfortable for me.
We got to a point in our nursing relationship where Abbey really only needed a few minutes of nursing to calm her and allow her to drift off for nap time or bedtime. So, at that point, I introduced a new limit: We would nurse until the end of a certain set of songs that her musical stuffed animal played – and then mommy would put her “mamas” away. I could tell that I was starting to need more personal space with my growing belly, and I thought that this would be a good agreement to help me get some independent rest, in my own bed, instead of staying with Abbey until she was solidly asleep and then unlatching her from the breast.
Well, needless to say, this didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped. Abbey caught on to the fact that I was trying to shorten our nursing periods, and as she got older, she could tell the difference between fore milk “little milks” and hind milk “big milks” and she demanded that I allow her to have “big milks!” every time that we nursed. This meant that I was nursing her for 30 minutes or more sometimes, as my body was changing during the pregnancy and my let-downs and milk supply was up and down and in between and rarely consistent. It didn’t happen every day, but on some days, after 30 or 45 straight minutes of nursing at nap time, my nipples were sore and my body was achey, and my tolerance was really really low. So to have Abbey wake and screech “but I want big milks!!!!!” when I’d gently detach her sleeping form after a marathon toddler nursing session . . . it was completely and totally deflating and frustrating and led to far too many arguments and failed attempts at gently coming to a compromise that worked for both of us.
Eventually, a few months after the arrival of her brother Joseph, this struggle led me to wean her of her bedtime and nap time nursing sessions. Wakeful nursing is far more peaceful and mutually beneficial for the two of us, and now that I am not anchored to nursing her as a part of her sleep routine, I enjoy our continued nursing relationship with pride and purpose, and no negative feelings.
When Twiddling Goes Too Far
Twiddling mother’s nipples and massaging mommy’s breast are normal, natural, and functional nursing toddler behaviors. But with us, when twiddling went (literally) too far, it caused a problem for me. My baby’s sweet little hands quickly became explorative child’s hands, and that became a huge discomfort. I wish that I had set firmer limits earlier on in our nursing relationship to encourage Abbey to twiddle and knead something other than my body — because by the time she was two and a half, she had developed a keen interest in massaging my armpits with her fingers to help my let-down while I nursed her.
This started as a massage on my breast when her arms only reached that far, but as her arms grew, so did her reach, and thus, her strange affection for my armpits. I mean, really, I know I’m the only mother that I know whose daughter says “I love you, and I really love your armpits, mommy.” Picture explaining away that scenario in public! I have felt embarrassed plenty of times by Abbey putting her hands in, grabbing for, or trying to kiss my underarms while out and about – - and I know that for her it makes total sense. . . for her, armpits are the gateway to getting “mamas” to flow and for her to enjoy the comfort of my milk! But when I think back, the benefit of my comfort level and bodily integrity would have greatly outweighed the miniature challenge of providing Abbey with an alternative to twiddling and kneading. A nursing necklace perhaps. . . or introducing a lovey for her to cling to and squeeze as she nursed.
When Abbey was an early toddler, I was falling headfirst in love with Attachment Parenting and Natural Parenting, and at that time, I didn’t realize that AP an NP are not all or nothing parenting camps. I was really interested in doing the best I could for my daughter, and I thought that that meant allowing breastfeeding to take it’s natural course, and not interfering with the natural weaning process at all – - by obstructing Abbey’s desire to twiddle and cling to my body or by setting firm limits on nursing etiquette and timing at sleeping time.
I realize now that doing these things to achieve an appropriate comfort level for me would not have undermined either my conviction as a natural and authentic parent, nor would it have harmed Abbey in any way. At 3 and a half, Abbey is perfectly fine nursing a time or two per day, while keeping her hands to herself (or on her lovey, “pup pup”) and has become accustomed to our new nap and bedtime routines that do not include nursing. In hindsight, I probably could have set these limits earlier in her third year, and with Joseph, I am already starting to introduce some limits to prepare our nursing relationship for when we get further into toddlerhood.
Now that I have made my limits clear with my daughter about what is and is not comfortable and appropriate for our nursing relationship, we continue to nurse joyfully and will do so until she finishes her weaning process.
- On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity — Jessica at Natural Parents Network has been nursing one or more of her children since 1993 – breastfeeding is wrapped up in her concept of mothering and herself. She shares her thoughts on weaning.
- two tales of weaning — Aspen at Aspen Mama writes about their countdown to wean.
- Wean Me Gently — Tam at Please Send Parenting Books shares a beautiful weaning ceremony.
- You say potato, I say bleeeuuuuch… — Anelie at Mindcradle had read the books and knew just how to introduce her baby son to solids—unfortunately, he had other ideas.
- A Post Called Weaning — (Not) Maud at Awfully Chipper writes about how weaning her son took longer than she expected.
- On Weaning, Pregnancy and Emotion — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about her mixed emotions as she allows her son, Little Man, to guide her through his weaning process.
- half of her life — Staci at Springpatch Jam looks back on her nursing relationship with her first born.
- Is it just this After Forty Mom or is it harder to wean when its your last? — Amanda of After Forty Mom shares her emotional journey towards the impending self-weaning of her toddler daughter.
- Nursing Limits — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she has weaned her toddler down to minimal nursing and her guilt about the decision to do so.
- Weaning Video Series #1: Preparation for the Weaning Process — Why is weaning such a taboo topic? Dionna at Code Name: Mama got mamas from across the blogosphere to start talking about weaning – on video. Come check out the first video in a series of five that she’ll be posting this week.
- On the weaning of the boy in the middle — Kelly at Witness To Hope shares the lessons of a little one self-weaning at 18 months in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy, after nursing his older sister for three years.
- Weaning due to anxiety — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about how she had to wean to preserve her mental health.
- When Will I Wean? A Guest Post — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a guest post from a mama who contemplates when her breastfeeding relationship will end.
- On His Own Terms — Momeeezen shares her heartbreak from when her son weaned much earlier than she anticipated.
- Our Weaning Story – Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season — Weaning doesn’t always go how we imagine. That Mama Gretchen shares the story of her daughter’s sudden weaning and how she has embraced this new season of motherhood.
- A Tale of Two Weanings — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares the similarities and differences of how her nursing relationships with her now six-year-old and four-year-old daughters came to a close.
- She Doesn’t Remember — Alicia at Lactation Narration finds that her 6 year old no longer remembers nursing, only one year after weaning.
- It’s The End of the World As We Know It — A story about the end of a tandem nursing relationship on Never Mind The Rain: A toddler moves on to a new phase in her life before mom is fully ready.
- A Natural End To Our Breastfeeding Relationship — With two self-weaning children, Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots does not know when the end will come, but that it will be natural and without regrets.
- Child-Led weaning: It’s Not Extreme; It’s Biological — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children explains why child-led weaning is based on biology rather than social constraints.
- 6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps — Jess at miniMum shares how and why she let her first child stop when he was good and ready.
- Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
- Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
- Weaning Aversion’ — Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced ‘feeding aversion’.
- Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma’s evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
- Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
- Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn‘s super power is diminishing.
- Reflections on Weaning – Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
- Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success — MudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
- Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer’s Daughter.
- 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
- Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
- I thought about weaning… — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
- Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
- Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
- Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
- Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn’t have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
- Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
- Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
- Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure… — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it’s time to wean?
- Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.