The Sadness and Joy of Weaning

While pregnant with my son Fletcher, I had a dream.  In this dream I was in my glider rocking my newborn baby boy.  He was in my arms, beautiful, wrinkly, sweet, and perfect in every way.  And, I was nursing him.  It was the most wonderful dream…. we seemed so happy and breastfeeding was natural for us.  I woke up excited about this particular aspect of having my son and the idea of being everything to him.  His life source before and after birth.

It seems like only yesterday I had that dream.  Today marks 7 days without nursing my son.  He weaned when he was 18 months and 5 days.

I knew it was over when I was rocking him in the glider before bed.  He had not nursed the night before so I was trying to not offer it again thinking maybe he was done.  He was crying and very upset; he didn’t want to go to bed.  I caved and offered him “milkies.”  Instead of happily agreeing he shook his head “no.”  Cue the mommy waterworks.  As much as I wanted him to be finished knowing he really was done broke my heart.  In theory, having him wean would make my life much easier.  Once I hit my second trimester my nipples became extremely sensitive.  There were many times I cried while he nursed.  He never bit me, but he does have a mouth full of teeth and one tight latch makes for a very painful experience.  Reality was a lot harder to cope with.  Realizing that I would never again bond with him in that way.  He was really done…

Our nursing journey began on a rocky road.  Latch trouble, very painful and bleeding nipples, nipple shields, lactation consultant visits, and marathon nursing sessions on the couch followed by cold gel packs and lanolin cream.

By 3 months I finally had it figured out, including the all important side lying position which transitioned us into a cosleeping family.

By 6 months I was nursing in public comfortably and proudly.

By a year I was ecstatic that we made it and was ready to go where the wind blew us.

Then I got pregnant and had to decide whether we should try weaning or tandem nursing.  At that point he was nursing on demand many times a day.  I decided to limit our sessions to a few a day.  This took about 2 weeks for him to stop signing for milk unless it was time for a nap or night time.  To get him to that point I used distractions when he would come up for a nibble.  I would offer a cup of milk or play with him, read, anything to distract him from boredom nursing.

A few weeks ago I nixed the first of the morning feeding.  This was a sad one.  I loved laying in bed with him in the morning and nursing him while cuddling.  However, out of the three a day, this was the only one I could get rid of.  He nursed to sleep for his nap and bedtime.

Then away went the nap nursing session.  I rocked him to sleep without nursing him which was a gradual transition.

I felt sure I would be nursing him to sleep every night, however.  We tried having Daddy rock him to sleep but even if he did get him asleep he could never get him into bed without him waking up.  So he would come to me them want to nurse.

Then we went to visit our family in North Carolina.  We had some major sleep issues at first.  Me and my husband took turns trying to get him down.  Some days he fell asleep very late and many hours after his “night” nursing session.  Then, he dropped it.  Suddenly he was fine with me simply rocking him to sleep.  He didn’t ask and I didn’t offer.  When I did offer, he refused.  I believe this was mostly due to a drop in supply.  There was nothing to get so why try, he decided.

I won’t call it baby led weaning because I consciously pared down feedings over a few months time.  I tried to make it as painless as possible for both of us.  In the beginning when we transitioned from 6-8 to 3 a day, occasionally when he asked and cried I would give in.  I knew he loved it and so did I.  But as a busy toddler he has quickly forgotten the days of constant nursing.  He has signed for milk once or twice but he also uses it as a synonym to “sleep.”  He knows the milk is gone.  I already had a low supply from being pregnant.  The last time he nursed it was for a few seconds.  He got the comfort then allowed me to rock him to sleep.

I know I did what was right.  Even though I would have gone longer, having 19 weeks of not nursing is good for everyone.  I dreaded nursing him due to the pain, and I know he could sense that.  I resented having to nurse him to sleep while being in pain while my husband watched TV.  This break gives me time to rest my nipples and mentally prepare for nursing a newborn again.  I’m really not sure how I would have coped with nursing my toddler to sleep on top of nursing a brand new little one.

Now I am already excited about getting to nurse my next little boy.  I hope my experience will make the first few weeks more relaxing for me and the new baby.  I look forward to watching my toddler grow and become a little person while I get to nourish a new little life.  Only time will tell if my son will become jealous of the new nursling or if he will have forgotten that that was our thing.  I am so proud that we had a happy, healthy, and joy filled 18 months of breastfeeding.  I am also proud of the transition we have made.  It wasn’t easy but it was worth it.

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