What No One Ever Taught Me About Weaning

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No matter how long you breastfeed, you have triumphed over so many obstacles in order to give your baby a gift of love. That’s something to be proud of.

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Fun times! Age 1.

I would like to have a little conversation today about WEANING. In my personal experience, there was very little information out there for me about it. Most of it I learned by trial-and-error, and with a great deal of anxiety. If y’all could just grab the information and leave the anxiety, you’d probably be a lot better off!

Let’s go ahead and explore some MISCONCEPTIONS (about weaning).

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The real expert … the baby

Misconception #1: It To Has To Happen At a Certain Age

Who says? Your aunt? Your mother? Your pediatrician? Your OB-GYN? Are any of them an expert on you and your baby’s breastfeeding relationship? No.

You’re the only expert your baby needs.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way ~~

In the March 2012 issue of Pediatrics “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

How long, and where, and how, you and your baby decide to continue your nursing relationship is up to you. If you are not comfortable breastfeeding your 3-year old on a New York City subway, that’s ok. If you aren’t comfortable telling your coworkers that you aren’t still breastfeeding your 3-month old, that’s ok. IT’S NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS.

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Misconception #2: It’s The Only Way to Get Some Sleep

Have you ever heard of NIGHT-WEANING? Just because you wean the baby at night doesn’t mean you have to wean altogether. We night-weaned ours (I say “we” because weaning was a family effort) at 16 months old. I continued breastfeeding quite a bit longer than that.

ESSENTIAL READING:

Sleep, Changing Patterns in the Family Bed, by Dr. Jay Gordon, MD

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Cut her off! She’s had too much 😉

Misconception # 3: It Has to Happen All at Once

This is the one I hear and see most often. Almost all women/parents I know set a “calendar date” for their last breastfeed. Of course, this works for some, and for others undergoing (very certain) procedures or starting a new medication, this technique is a necessity.

But I found that weaning gently (and sloooooooowly) was the easiest and least stressful for me and my kid. It happened so slowly and so gradually in fact that my daughter didn’t really ever realize that her last breastfeed had come and gone (I didn’t really, either).

I used the techniques suggested in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding*, cutting one or two feeds per day at a time, letting a couple of weeks go by, then cutting another. Eventually we were nursing once a day before bed. Then we were nursing once every three days, then once a week, etc. until we were done.

I never experienced engorgement or stretching-out of the breast tissue this way.

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Misconception #4: It’s the Only Way To Get My Body Back to Myself

Many women/families wean because they are tired of sharing their bodies. In my experience with the gentle technique listed above, I found that I got most of the benefits of weaning (breasts back to normal size, post-lactation hormones leveling out, more sleep and personal space) along with the benefits of continuing to nurse (closeness to my baby, balm against times of stress in the family, a secret weapon against cold and flu season).

tumblr_mru2pnUJID1rzm1s9o1_1280 Did you know that breastfed toddlers have more adventurous palates?

Misconception # 5: There are Only Two Ways to Do It

Something I struggled with during this stage of my daughter’s life was feeling pulled between the two camps of thought:

1) Typical American parenting/mothering (putting kids on a schedule, including a weaning schedule and reinforcing independent sleep habits), OR . . .

2) Attachment mothering/parenting (co-sleeping, unrestricted breastfeeding and “baby-led weaning.” WTF is this? I don’t know.)

I found the typical American mothering/parenting technique was a little too severe and didn’t fit our family’s trust-our-instincts (some call it laissez-faire) style of parenting. But my daughter was obsessed with breastfeeding. I sensed that if I were to honor the “baby-led” model of weaning, I would be breastfeeding through kindergarten (which is just not something I was willing to do). Also, at a certain point I realized that good self care for me meant that I could have my breasts back to myself.

I’m just here to remind you once again to TRUST YOUR HEARTS, AND YOUR GUTS. Trusting your heart/guts is an intense path sometimes, when you need to balance your love for your child versus your need to love and care for yourself. No one else can teach you how to do that. It is you and your baby’s journey to take together.

READ MORE:

What Nobody Tells You About Weaning After Breastfeeding

Kelly Mom: Weaning

La Leche League: How Do I Wean My Baby?

*Re: The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding … I love this book and also hate it. In my personal experience I felt very shamed by it for going back to work. I wanted to fling it at the wall and yell, “SO IS FILING BANKRUPTCY GOOD FOR ME AND MY CHILD’S BONDING? Because if I follow all y’all’s advice, that’s what we’re going to have to DO.” Hmmmmmph.

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