How to Wean: Tips & Tricks
Breastfeeding is not an easy feat. Weaning is just as hard. When I first found out I was pregnant, I told myself "I will breastfeed Addie through her first birthday, after that, I will let her decide when she is done." I decided that this decision could be made on sheer will power and that if I made up my mind, nothing could stop me. I believe part of that is true.
I had a few things that worked in my favor. I was able to stay home with Addie and able to nurse on demand with her. As an infant, when ever she was hungry, she got it. When ever she was in need of comfort, she got it. I nursed her - sometimes for hours on end - when ever she wanted it. I worked my schedule around her and nursing. I think this allowed my body to produce a heavy supply. I also invested in Nipple Guards - this was recommended by my lactation consultant early on. In the first few months, I have chapped, bleeding nipples. It was so painful on some occasions that I would nurse her and cry. The nipple guard allowed Addie to nurse without being directly on my nipples - this provided much needed relief.
I was able to nurse Addie for 27 months. And then, I started having some health issues. Because I was nursing, I had to be on a special birth control pill that did not contain estrogen. These health complications were brought on by the BC pill not the nursing, but in order to be placed on a birth control that would stop the issues I was having, I had to stop nursing. After long conversations with my doctor and Aaron, we decided it was time to wean.
From about 18 months on, Addie would only nurse in the mornings and at night. This was sacred Mommy and Addie time that I was not ready to give up. We decided that we would still keep our mommy and Addie time, but instead of it focusing boob and nursing, I shifted her focus to books and rocking in her rocking chair. For me, the decision to wean was brought on earlier than I originally planned. I thought I would start to wean her at 2 and a half.
The decision to wean is incredibly personal. It is often done with a lot of care and consideration. When I talk to moms who have weaned there was a lot of stress around the stigmas that come with weaning early or later. I felt incredibly guilty for taking away Addie's sense of comfort. If you have to wean, and it is not baby led, here are some tips and tricks to think about that might make weaning a little bit easier:
Start slowly. When we first started weaning, we shortened feedings in increments. Slowly making both her morning and her evening feeding ten minutes tops. Then we slowly eliminated the morning feeding. Then after successfully giving up the morning feeding, we started eliminating the evening feeding.
Find good distractions. When Addie would ask to nurse, we would try to distract first. At the beginning, I did not outright refuse to nurse her. I thought that would be traumatic for both of us. When she chose a book over nursing in the morning, I would praise her decision and be as animated as I could reading. I wanted her to know that just because she wasn't nursing anymore did not mean she was going to lose Mommy time. Allowing her to choose an activity other than nursing gave her the sense of control and made it easier on her to let go.
Increase affection. One of the fears that Addie had when we started weaning was that she was losing mom. There were nights when it was easier for Aaron to put Addie to bed than it was for me to say no to nursing. Addie would get anxious when I was out of sight at home and needed to be on my lap whenever possible.
Provide a comfort toy and snuggy. If your child is older like Addie was when we weaned, nursing may be more about comfort than nutrition. Addie has a few stuffed animals she loves. When she is needing extra comfort and wants to nurse, I will grab one of her stuffed animals and scoop her up in my arms, we cuddle and I provide comfort. She now knows that she can be comforted by mommy or daddy, or even her yellow puppy. *Side note, if mom sleeps with the stuffed animal for a few nights prior to giving it to the child, it will smell like mom and help provide a deeper sense of comfort!*
Breast feeding is an incredible journey for both mom and baby. No matter when you decide to wean or whether the decision is made for you, know that you did an amazing job. Whether you breastfed for a day, a few months, or a few years, you should be proud. It is not easy. Weaning gradually and replacing nursing with lots of affection can help make the transition easier on you and baby.
I would love to hear your breast feeding stories and how you decided it was time to wean or what tricks you used to wean.