How I Weaned My Toddler Suddenly and Gently

One of the last pictures I have of Peanut nursing is while getting kicked in the face.

Peanut is weaned. It’s actually been a two months since she nursed.

I’ve flip flopped back and forth about this decision about a dozen times. I felt so certain that we would wean that I wrote a post about it. Felt so certain I’d made the wrong decision that I wrote another. In the end, I was feeling more resentful by the day. More resentful by the nursing session. I was beginning to really not want to be around my daughter.

It was our time to stop.

I think a big part of my problem was trying to play within the rules. Everything I’ve read has highly discouraged sudden weaning. Do it slowly and gently. In a way, we did do that. It’s taken us almost 3 years to fully wean, considering that she started having something besides my milk at 6 months. I’d call that very gradual.

It’s just this last step that’s been sudden, and that’s okay. We tried all of the delaying and shortening ways to wean and she just fought it. She’d get more and more upset that I was denying her and I’d get more and more resentful that she was upset. It was a downward spiral.

In the beginning, she still asked to nurse, especially when Twig was nursing. Generally though, her need was satisfied with some cuddles or table food. More the latter, actually, which I didn’t expect. We also talked about it a lot. I hate the term “big girl” so we steered clear of that, but we talked about how old she is and how when you grow up, you don’t drink mama milk anymore. We talked about people who are older than her who don’t nurse, like her friends and family members. Even Mama and Daddy.

There were times where she would get upset. She’d ask me “Mama milk for just one hour?” It was heartbreaking, but I didn’t want to take a step back. Though I did end up having her nurse a few times when she was really sick (of course, she didn’t vomit for the first time until about a week after she weaned). When she would get upset, I held her close and we talk about how it’s hard to give up mama milk and mama loves her so much. We cuddled and read books. We would get her a special treat.

Amazingly, it went pretty smoothly. There were those rough spots where she got upset, but they were actually not that common. Even when she did get upset, it wasn’t that upset. We just talked and cuddled and she was okay. There was an immediate relief for me where I felt more able to handle her being upset. Like the irritation of her constantly asking to nurse until I finally give in was over, so I could just focus on helping her through the way she feels.

There were rough spots for me too, but my husband, along with my awesome Twitter friends, have been a wonderful help. Even those who are doing child-led weaning tried their best to support and help me. And I’m amazed at how many of them have been in my situation. It feels like weaning is such a taboo topic in the breastfeeding world. I had no idea how many other moms have pushed it along too, even some ending it suddenly like me.

I miss nursing Peanut. Over the first week, I cried about it multiple times. It just feels like she’s so much bigger now. I will always miss that closeness. It’s like the end of an era. But this was the right choice to make. We’re both happier now, even if it does get tough sometimes. I’m finding new ways to connect with her and I’m actually enjoying her more.

So while some may say that weaning suddenly isn’t gentle, I think otherwise. I think that you can wean your child suddenly and with love. It’s alright to take that last step if it’s what you need. You can wean suddenly and gently.

How did your weaning story go? Were you planning on child-led weaning and ended up doing otherwise? Or did you stick with your original plan? Were there any hiccups? 

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When Self Weaning Becomes Self-righteous

Peanut tandem nursing her pocket monsters.

The other night when I was lying with the girls in bed as they fell asleep, I decided to check Facebook on my phone. This is pretty normal for me. Another common activity is answering questions on Facebook. Other bloggers often re-post questions they’ve been asked on their wall. It’s like an online La Leche League meeting and it’s lovely.

So this is what I did that night. A breastfeeding blogger who I used to love reading, but has since quit blogging (and I was very sad to see her go!), still keeps her Facebook page active. She frequently re-posts questions and this night, had re-posted this:

From the wall: Best way to wean a 1-year old.. Please help?

I clicked on it thinking I might find some answers that I can apply to our weaning situation. Sadly, some of the responses were pretty judgmental and not helpful at all. Multiple mamas responded something along the lines to “I don’t know because I do child-led weaning.”  No advice, links, references, or anything else that could help her. Just a holier-than-thou attitude.

They don’t know this mother’s situation. Maybe she is agonizing over weaning. Maybe she’s about to start chemo or has another medical reason. Maybe she’s pregnant and can’t stand it anymore. Maybe she just doesn’t want to nurse anymore. That’s okay. Both sides need to be happy in the relationship. Why does this have to become another dividing issue? Why is a mother not good enough for nudging weaning along? Why must mothering be all about self-sacrifice and never taking your own feelings into consideration?

If that mother doesn’t want to wean, but feels pressure from her family and friends, address that. If she thinks she has to wean because of a medicine she needs when there’s a breastfeeding-friendly alternative, inform her. If she’s weaning because of the problems she’s having with nursing, help her. But don’t give her more guilt to deal with. Don’t force your opinions on her. Don’t try to show her how much of a better mother you are than her because you’ll nurse until the end of eternity.

All mothers should know that it’s an option to let their child wean on their own. It’s a wonderful option at that. In our society, where so many lies about breastfeeding are circulating around posing as truths, mothers may not know. It’s okay to inform her. If she decides not to though, respect her choice. Don’t guilt her into breastfeeding longer. Don’t try to show that you’re a better mom than her. Just let her make the decision that is the best for her family.

Leave the self-righteous attitude at the door and learn to help your fellow mom.

Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop

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.

Gentle weaning means knowing when to stop… weaning.

Recently I wrote about my attempt to help Peanut wean a bit more quickly. I just feel done. Not angry or frustrated (as I did directly after Twig was born), just done.

So, even though I am a big proponent of child-led weaning, I decided to push things along a little. I tried counting, singing, delaying (though really I’ve been doing that for a while because she often asks to nurse at really inconvenient times), rules (e.g. we only nurse in this chair), and so on. Things I’ve considered to be “gentle” weaning techniques. Things that, apparently, aren’t so gentle for Peanut.

Tears. Increased irritability. Increased clingy-ness. Anger. Begging me not to count or sing. And more tears.

My 3 year old isn’t ready to wean.

Many people would tell me to just do it anyway. She’s 3, she can handle it. No. She’s manipulating you. No. She’s too old to continue nursingNo.

She’s not ready and I respect that. Even if I feel done, she’s not, and that’s okay. She’s still so young in the scheme of life. Over the last few months, her world has been turned upside-down. Why would I forcefully take away something that comforts her so much right when she needs it the most? Why would I purposely hurt my child?

One day, my oldest will cease to nurse. Until then, I plan on trying my hardest to savor every minute of this special time in our relationship. We will never get this back. One day I will miss it. One day, someday sooner than I can imagine, she’ll be grown and gone and I’ll miss the ability that I have now to cuddle her in my lap while I nourish and comfort her.

Gentle weaning means listening to your child. Gentle weaning means taking their feelings into account. Gentle weaning means knowing the difference between being ready and not.



Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

Steps Towards Weaning

Peanut nursing when she was 4 months old.

I’m officially there. I’m weaning.

Well, more like I’m nudging her towards officially quitting breastfeeding. Technically, you start weaning the day you introduce something besides the breast. Even for exclusively breastfed babies, this starts early. It can be when you introduce a pacifier (which has been shown to decrease the overall breastfeeding relationship) or when you give them their first foods. For us, this started over 2.5 years ago when she had that first meal of apricots and bacon. Then, for us, it moved onto what they call “Don’t ask, don’t refuse” when she was over a year old. As she got older, it moved into refusing when I was busy. Then I started refusing more when we were out and about, which is pretty much the same idea. Just too busy and moving around to stop and nurse. Plus it was more difficult to nurse her in a carrier as we used to do.

Peanut nursing at 8 months.

We stayed there for a long time. She rarely asked outside of nap time, bedtime, and morning. During my pregnancy there was sensitivity, but nothing unbearable. I expected the uncomfortable nursing to get better when Twig was born, but it didn’t. It’s getting better now, but I think the contrast from a baby nursing to a toddler nursing that I experience every day will make Peanut’s nursing never truly comfortable for me again.

Then, of course, since Twig was born, Peanut has been asking to nurse much more frequently. In the beginning it was more often than Twig wanted to nurse. Now she’s to the point of asking a few times a day. All in all, things are getting better. The problem is, for me, that it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

Nursing I love yous at 15 months.

I feel frustrated every time Peanut nurses. I feel frustrated every time she asks and I tell her no (though generally in nicer terms and attempts to avoid actually saying no). I get even more frustrated when she asks Over. And Over. And Over. even when I have a valid reason why we can’t nurse (e.g. we’re driving in the car). I feel like nursing is putting a strain on our relationship.

Spiderman nursing at 26 months.

So we’re working on weaning. I never thought I’d say that. I’ve always been a firm believer in child-led weaning, but I need to take my own advice and realize that this is a relationship and both sides need to be happy for it to continue. Someone in La Leche League the other day told me that breastfeeding is the first place where your child learns limits and boundaries. It is important that she learns that, right? My feelings count too, right? I have to keep telling myself these things. Eventually they’ll stick.

Obviously, I feel a bit of guilt.

I know that Peanut probably isn’t ready to wean. I don’t think she’s young enough that it’s going to be traumatizing for her, but I do know her well enough to know that it will need to be really gentle. I’ve kept this in mind while looking at ways to help along weaning. For instance, some moms do a “weaning day” where it’s the last day that the child nurses, but I don’t think would work for her because it would be too sudden. If I left her for a weekend and expected her to wean during that period, I honestly think it would be traumatizing for her.

Getting kicked in the face by sister at 35 months.

I think Peanut’s weaning process will need a lot of yeses. So right now, what we’re doing is counting to ten while she nurses. I’ve heard of moms doing this during pregnancy because of the pain. I can count as fast or slow as I’d like, so that determines how long she gets to nurse. She’s already asking me not to count, but I tell her that she’s a big girl and big girls get to count while they’re nursing. I’m trying to act like it’s something fun. I’m also saying yes whenever I can, even if it’s not a super convenient time to nurse. We’re also trying to eliminate her nap time (there will be a post about that in the near future) and that’s a big time that she used to nurse. It was the only way she’d get to sleep for nap. Bedtime and morning time aren’t nearly so vital.

This is what we’re trying for now. Just like everything in parenting, we may change things if they stop working. New ideas are very welcome too.

Did you wean your older nursling? Are you happy you did? How did you do it to make it gentle? Has anyone weaned an older nursling while tandem nursing?

Tandem Nursing a Toddler and a Newborn

We’ve made it a month into nursing two and it certainly hasn’t been easy.

Well, it’s been easy on one side of it. Twig is a great nurser. She nurses quite frequently at times, but overall goes much larger intervals than Peanut ever did at this age (because Peanut had reflux). She spits up quite a bit, but I think that’s more because of a forceful let-down (she sometimes gags and coughs during nursing) and a high supply. Things seem to be calming down though, whether that’s because she’s getting used to it or my supply is naturally evening out.

The more difficult side has been Peanut. The biggest problem has been herConstant. Insistence. On. Nursing. During the first couple of weeks, she was literally asking for it more than Meredith. She didn’t get it every time that she asked (mostly because it wasn’t feasible to nurse herthat much), but I tried to give her what she needed as much as possible. I know that she was using nursing as a way to reconnect more than anything. I keep trying to tell myself that when she asks for it over and over and she has decreased the amount that she’s asking over the last couple of weeks. Regardless, it’s driving me crazy.

The secondary issue has been her latch/sucking/something. I’m honestly not sure what it is, it could just be a toddler’s nursing versus a newborn’s nursing. We’ve worked on her opening her mouth “really big” when she’s going to latch on, but even when she has all of my {huge} areola in her mouth, I still sometimes end up with teeth marks that seem closer to the nipple than they should be. I’ve also tried nursing her laid back like I do with Meredith because someone is La Leche League suggested she may be reacting to my forceful let-down (because the pain often increases when I let-down), but that doesn’t always help. The pain is far from unbearable and doesn’t leave any lasting effects (I haven’t needed to use nipple cream at all since Twig has been born), but it’sveryirritating.

So this combination of Peanut constantly requesting nursing and me being irritated when I let her nurse has brought me to a place where I didn’t think I’d ever be–I’m thinking of weaning. The other day I was actually irritated to the point where I wanted to stop letting her nurse right then an there, but after getting my cool (and reading some Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Adventures in Tandem Nursing), I realized I don’t really want to cut her off like that. I honestly think that it would be traumatizing for her.

I am going to make some steps towards weaning though. I don’t enjoy nursing her anymore. I am outwardly irritated when we’re nursing and I’m sure she sees and feels that. It makes me feel awful that I know she knows that, but that just gives me more fuel to move towards weaning. Maybe after cutting out some of the bad parts, I’ll be happy to continue with nursing her during the good times. Hopefully cutting away the nursing times that irritate me the most will make everything better.

So I’m giving up our first thing in the morning nursing. This used to be my favorite nursing. Even when we’ve experienced difficult times in the past, that one has always been grand. It has allowed me to sleep longer and cuddle with my baby. Sadly, it’s not like that any more. Since Twig was born, this nursing session has been moving earlier and earlier in the morning and Peanut doesn’t go back to sleep after. It also often wakes me up fully because nursing isn’t comfortable. So we all end up awake and grumpy way too early in the morning. I’ve been trying to put her off (“not until the sun comes up” and “once the clock says 7:00” and other similar things), but she just cries and eventually ends up getting out of bed. Or some of the time I give in hoping she’ll go to sleep and she doesn’t, which makes me extra irritated.

Secondly, I’m going to try to avoid nursing during the day. She’s asking to nurse at least every time that Twig nurses right now and I’m trying to distract her. This has been difficult though because she will keep asking over and over. Even when I say “Yes, in a minute” or “Once I’m done with such-and-such thing” she still asks over and over. I’ve tried distracting her with other things, but then she’ll ask again once she’s no longer distracted. I’ve mostly resorted to telling her “Mommy doesn’t want to right now” and I don’t particularly like putting it that way. I tell her it’s my body so I’m allowed to say no, but I don’t want her to feel like I’m rejecting her or that I don’t want to be around her.

So my goal at the moment is to get us down to nursing at naptime and bedtime. Once we get there, I’ll reevaluate.

Any tips for reducing toddler nursing? Things that will make me not as irritated when she is nursing? Ideas for ways to distract her or things to tell her about why we can’t right now? Especially important to me, any ideas for getting my child to not wake me up at 6am? I miss sleeping in until a normal time like 7:30 or 8!

What Is Weaning?

In the rocking chair
with you hitching in my arms
your head against my chest
I’m holding you so tight
How did we get to this place?

It was a simply request
on both sides
a request for comfort and love
in the way she knows best
a request to simply try
try to survive without

The clash caused upset
caused screaming, tears, anger
Don’t touch me!
Feelings hurt, but with understanding
This is hard
harder than we could have ever imagined

Even when I let you lead our way
I still must set limits
but how do I know those limits are right?
How can they be right when they cause you pain?

This is a poem I came up with while I was attempting to get Peanut to go back to sleep without milk. She had just gone to sleep less than an hour before, so she definitely had a full belly. She wasn’t sick as far as I could tell. She seemed to just randomly wake up and stay up for whatever reason. This is a fight we’ve had before, but it’s hard every time.

Of course you all know I’m against cry-it-out. What you don’t know is that my child does cry in the room with me. When she’s not falling asleep, but is really close, I sometimes unlatch her and try to get her to finish falling asleep on her own. I don’t particularly want to night-wean, but it would be nice if she could sort of fall asleep on her own. I feel like it’s the natural progression with the fact that she’s mostly sleeping through the night now. (knock on wood)

She of course fights it and gets upset. It does end up working sometimes. I’ll tell her “Just try and if you can’t, then you can have milk.” Sometimes she tries and it doesn’t work. Sometimes she tries and actually falls asleep on her own. Sometimes—like tonight—she tries, it works, then she wakes back up within a few minutes and gets milk. Either way, I try to stay consistent and make her try to go to sleep on her own before I give her milk, even if it’s just for 30 seconds.

While this feels like the natural progression, it also feels awful. I don’t like making her cry at all. Heck, I don’t like her crying at all. And when she’s screaming at me “Mama mil mil mil Mama mil!!!” it makes me want to cry too. I could solve her crying right then and there, but I don’t. I am choosing to let her continue crying when I have the answer to her problem—literally—right in front of me.

At the same time, I feel that she’s old enough that I can set some limits. In the day time, she’s mostly okay with it. If I’m in the middle of something and I tell her to wait, she may have a bit of a tantrum, but after she’s done she’s on her merry way. It’s only when she’s trying to go to sleep that she screams and cries like this.

So followers, what do/did you do as your nursling grew to set limits? Did you set limits?

Facing It As It Comes

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about child-led weaning. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


I obviously haven’t had a child wean yet. Peanut is 16 months old and we have no plans of stopping. I’ve written before about how I used to think I’d stop when Peanut was one year old. Of course, that was before she was actually here. Stopping now would be way too much strain on both of us both emotionally and physically. I don’t even know how I would parent without breastfeeding!

Weirdly enough, I got more questions about when I was going to stop before Peanut was a year old than I do now. Maybe it’s because I’m more confident now? Maybe it’s because they figure that if I’m still going, I’m probably not stopping soon? Maybe it’s just that I’m lucky so far.

I am lucky actually. I’m lucky enough to have the people around me support our breastfeeding relationship. This extends to my friends too. The friends who I was afraid to breastfeed in front of when Peanut was tiny don’t even bat an eye now. These people just see it as part of who we are.

Peanut doesn’t nurse much in public anymore. Not because I’m against it, but because she’s too busy. When she does nurse in public, I try to view every time as a teaching moment. Not for me or her, but for the people around us. I feel that every time that I breastfeed in public that I’m helping to normalize breastfeeding for the people around me.

I’m sure it will get more difficult as she gets older—we’re not even past the World Health Organization’s minimum. I am already expecting some backlash from certain family members. I’m sure that I’ll get more complains as she gets older when she nurses in public. I’m sure that it will bother my friends more.

I’m also hoping that the people around me will see her breastfeed regularly enough that it won’t be a big deal to see her nursing as she gets older. I also know that if they can’t respect our breastfeeding relationship enough to not try to interfere that they’re probably not worth it. Of course questions are always welcome, but I hear of other moms being told they need to stop and that is simply wrong. People like that just won’t have a place in our lives.

Guess we’ll just have to face all of that when it comes.

 


 Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.