In my post, Realizations of a Breastfeeding Mother, I talked about my decision to nurse beyond my son’s first birthday. I wanted our nursing and weaning journey to be a natural one. I was ready to take my son’s lead and continue breastfeeding as long as he was interested.
Breastfeeding a Toddler As my boy grew into toddler-hood his nursing become much more about comfort than actual hunger or thirst. On a typical day our nursing was rather predictable: wake up in the morning- nurse, get ready for nap time(s)- nurse, wake up from nap(s)- nurse, get ready for bed time- nurse. When he was up playing he rarely asked to nurse, but then again he’s a very busy guy, a “whose got time for that” kid. The main exception being if he was sick or got hurt, then he’d ask to nurse for comfort.
Beginning of Weaning The first sign that my toddler was beginning to wean himself surfaced when he was around 15 months. He no longer needed comfort nursing to recuperate from minor bumps and bangs. A simple hug and kiss was all he wanted, and then he was off to the races again. Though it made my mother’s heart ache, my little boy was gaining independence.
Pregnancy Played a Role When my son was 15 and a half months old I found out that I was expecting Baby #2. After doing some research and talking to my midwife I decided I was going to continue nursing while pregnant. My milk supply stayed steady throughout my first trimester. Though nursing was uncomfortable and, at times, down right painful, I was still committed to breastfeeding as long as my boy wanted.
Shortly after I became pregnant I noticed my boy’s bed time nursing decreased. This is a bit of a chicken or egg question for me. I could tell from watching him nurse that my supply was fine, but I wondered, Is my pregnancy affecting my boy’s interest in nursing? Did pregnancy change my milk’s consistency or taste?
The decreased bed time nursing was a gradual change. On a normal night he would ask to nurse after getting in his pajamas. He typically nursed on both sides. Then my husband or I bushed his teeth, read a few books, sang lullabies, and put him down in his crib.
Starting around 16 months he continued asking to nurse after getting in pj’s; yet he would only nurse briefly before wanting to move onto story time. Often he nursed on only one side. Eventually at bed time he was more interested with books than boobs. At this point we starting giving him a sippy of milk during story time and brushed his teeth after books. This change in the bed time routine worked great for us.
Dropping Feedings Fast forward a couple of weeks and a similar pattern of weaning happened at nap time. He’d nurse a little but quickly wanted books instead. Until one day he just wanted books and lullabies at nap time. Instead of nursing he was happy with his sippy of milk during story time. Thus we had another dropped feeding.
Around 17 months he also dropped the post nap feeding. He preferred a snack over nursing. Fast forward a few weeks and the same thing happened when he woke up in the morning. He was more interested in getting out of his room and having breakfast than he was in nursing. My boy was definitely weaning himself.
No Asking, No Offering I believe weaning was a smooth transition for us because I followed his lead and allowed it to be a gradual process. First feedings were shortened. Next he stopped asking and would nurse only briefly if I offered it. Finally I stopped offering and feedings were dropped one by one.
Challenges & Relapse While weaning was overall a smooth process for us we did have some challenges. First, I needed time to emotionally process no longer breastfeeding my son. Would I still be able to comfort and love my boy to the extent that I desired? Luckily being pregnant and the discomfort that accompanies that, helped me be at peace with or relieved by the idea of weaning.
Then two weeks after my boy weaned he got a nasty cold. While he mostly just wanted to cuddle there were a couple of times he wanted to nurse. One morning he was desperately asking for milk. I cuddled him, offered him his lovie blanket, sang his favorite songs, and tried to give him a sippy but there was only one thing that would make him happy, mama milk.
It’s only been a few weeks, maybe I still have some milk left, I thought. So I tried to nurse him. He happily latched on, but was soon frustrated. Then, CHOMP! Ouch! I yelped. Well, this led to tragic weeping on both our parts. Thankfully Daddy was close by and was able to sooth our boy as I escaped to the bedroom where I attempted to pull myself together. For the next hour or so my little guy gave me the cold shoulder, but eventually we “made up.” That was the day we were officially done nursing.
Moving forward, I learned new ways to comfort and love my boy. Also Daddy played a huge role in helping smooth the transitions during weaning. After that tragic morning, he became the one to get our boy out his crib. Now they adore their morning time together and I adore seeing that bond strengthen.
I’m grateful for the 19 months I had breastfeeding my son. I’m so glad I nursed him until he initiated weaning. There are times that I miss it but to be completely honest, I’m glad to have a small break from breastfeeding until Baby #2 arrives.
Everyone’s breastfeeding and weaning journey is unique. My story is my story. Your story will be your story. My hope in sharing this is that it sheds some light on the unknown territory of weaning for other first time moms. Here are more stories about nursing and weaning from some other fabulous bloggers:
When did your little ones wean? What was that process like for you?
Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.