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the mommyhood memos: waning about weaning (when did you stop breastfeeding?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

waning about weaning (when did you stop breastfeeding?)

I was one of the lucky ones.

Long before having Levi I had decided that I wanted to try breastfeeding. I had done a bit of reading about it and talked to a lot of other moms about their experiences. I would have considered myself pretty well-informed on the subject, and I was very well-prepared for the fact that it might be extremely difficult… and painful. 

Actually, I had heard so many horror stories that I thought there was no way around it.

I thought to myself, “If I can just make it through the first six weeks it will get easier and it will be so worth all of the pain and trouble.” I would prepare for the worst and then grit my teeth with sheer determination until it got easier. (I know, I know. You’re already snickering here… Classic first-time-mom response right?)

And then I gave birth… And tried breastfeeding… And from the first moment it was…


Imagine my shock! 

Imagine my relief! 

Imagine my joy!

I know that my experience is not the “norm” unfortunately, but for me breastfeeding was as natural and easy as anyone could ever hope for. (And after my unexpected c-section, I think it was grace to me… I'm not sure if I could have emotionally handled breastfeeding dramas at that point in time.)

And aside from the standard clogged duct here and there (yeah, that’s painful!) it has continued to be easy and hassle-free up until this day.

My plan has always been to breastfeed until Levi is twelve months old so that I wouldn’t need to wean to formula and then over to cow’s milk. I figured that if I could make it to his first birthday then I could easily wean straight over to cow’s milk and that would be that. Easy peasy.

It is now 24 days until Levi's first birthday and I’m faced with decision-time. 

And--although I'm normally an incredibly decisive person--I find myself... waffling on this one.

Do I really want to wean? Is this the right time? If I do, will I regret it? If I don’t will I resent it?

I’ve loved the convenience and ease and experience of breastfeeding and there’s a small part of me that wants to hang on. (Oh, the simplicity when traveling and the unrivaled ability to quickly comfort a sick or teething baby!!!)

And yet there’s another part of me that is more than ready to say good-bye to sharing my body in that way (yes, I sometimes feel like it’s “milking time” at mama’s bar *moooooo*). And I’m also ready for the freedom of not being bound to feeding times. (I still nurse at wake-up and bedtime and 1-2 times during the day… and have never really gotten into the swing of pumping much.) And then there’s the wanting to have my hormonal balance back to normal… for many reasons.

I’ve read what the experts say – there’s really no ideal time to wean… other than when mom and bub are both ready (and when there’s no major changes or sickness happening).

So the question is, am I ready? Is Levi ready?

Never mind cultural norms. Never mind convenience. Never mind what I thought I “should” do. Never mind age or months or measured out food.

Are we ready? And if we are, then how long do I give us to go through the process? A week? A month? A couple of months?

I’m not expecting anyone to answer these questions for me. It’s our decision, it’s personal, and I’m more than comfortable with that.

But what I am wondering is how you experienced weaning? Did you lead? Did you let your baby lead? Was it a combination? What it for medical reasons or going back to work reasons or emotional reasons?

Did you just know when it was time?

Would you go back and do it differently if you could?

Dear friends, I’d love to hear your experiences with weaning? Did you waiver a little like me? Or was it a cut-and-dry decision for you?

waning just a little,

adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
do not reproduce without written permission

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At January 6, 2011 at 12:34 AM , Blogger Greta: From Transparencies of Motherhood said...

I had all the same questions, concerns, fears, etc. But I think I was more ready than not to be done. I decided at 1 year that I would slowly start taking feedings out see what happened. I knew we were ready for baby #2 and I wanted to be done nursing before I got pregnant so 1. my hormones would be somewhat back to normal. 2. I could have some "me" time. 3. I didn't want my oldest to become old enough to think I stopped nursing him because of his younger sibling.

I decided to start slow and drop one feeding at a time over a period of several weeks. Once I took the middle of the night feeding out it was a lot easier on me. But that's also when he sort of lead...we were dropping feedings left and right. He didn't even balk when I got rid of the last one (which was right before bed). I was done nursing by 13 months and pregnant with our 2nd 4 weeks later :)

I wasn't prepared for him to HATE cow's milk though. So trick to try for moms out there that have babies that hate cow's milk...add chocolate syrup to it until it's sweet enough for baby to like. Then, slowly decrease the amount of chocolate until it's only milk. Now, he LOVES milk. It took 3 or 4 days.

At January 6, 2011 at 1:37 AM , Blogger Ana said...

Ah weaning! I started with Isaac with the concept of "I'll wean at 6 months...cold turkey!" But I ended up enjoying breastfeeding more than I thought I would. It was easier on the pocketbook, and it gave me a reason to take my babs and escape from everyone for a while...just him and me. Perfect bonding time! Luckily, Isaac wasn't digging the whole "cold turkey" idea, and I just kept on nursing until he was ready to quite.

I'm not sure how it just did. We had stopped all nighttime feedings and most of the daytime ones. He just wanted a little comfort before bedtime so at 13 months, I decided to give him a small bottle of milk before bedtime. And that was the end of breastfeeding. He was weaned. It was a sad day for me, but it was nice to have my body back.

At January 6, 2011 at 2:52 AM , Blogger Laura said...

Oh good luck with your decision. I was like Ana and said I'll wean Miss C off the boob at 6 months. It came and passed. We were having a bit of money problems then so I decided to continue to save the expense of bottles but also because I really wanted to keep going. Having not had the best experience with breastfeeding Wee Z, I was thrilled to find it so easy with Miss C. I decided to aim for 12 months. It came and went. She is now 19 months old and still breastfeeding. Only morning and night so it's not bad at all. I am starting to feel though that I'd really like to stop. However another part of me doesn't because I feel like I'd be losing my baby and as I don't think we'll have another one I don't want to have her leave me just yet. Selfish? Well she isn't too keen to stop herself, she goes mad the times I've placed her in bed without her bed time feed.

At January 6, 2011 at 3:30 AM , Blogger Mandy said...

I can relate so much. I struggled for months over the decision to stop breastfeeding. Like you, I always knew I was going to BF, and Bennett caught on right away so I was very very lucky. However, when he turned about 8 months, he sort of started weaning himself. I was devistated at the thought of stopping so soon. Cause I had also planned on going till he was 12 months old. But the fact is, that he had other plans. I held on as long as I could. Struggling, trying to force him to nurse when he obviously wasn't interested. We made it to 10 months. And I've made peace with it.

Best of luck with your decision, I'm sure it will all work out!

At January 6, 2011 at 4:12 AM , Blogger Carol said...

This is hard, and I think most of us who had positive experiences miss it when it's over. We did baby lead weaning, although I prompted it by giving her a bottle. My supply wasn't quite keeping up, so we started with one bottle a day when she was around a year old. Around 14 months she decided she liked the bottle better and she would no longer nurse without pulling off and getting distracted. I knew then, that she was done. Since we'd been missing feedings here or there since 12 months, I didn't have any engorgement issues. She was weaned effortlessly, and I think it was the right time for both of us. When it's time, you'll know it.

At January 6, 2011 at 4:31 AM , Blogger Lynda said...

An upcoming birthday, in my opinion, is no good reason to wean. Is cow's milk really a better alternative than formula? It's just that formula has a stigma attached to it, but it all comes down to feeding your child another species' milk. It's kind of unnatural.

To get the best of both worlds, maybe you might want to try night weaning first to see if that helps you regain a sense of your body?

I have insufficient glandular tissue and was forced to supplement both of my children from very early on. With my first, my milk dried up completely by 6 months. With my second, we made it to a year. I would've loved to have the option to continue breastfeeding them past a year.

Regardless of what your choice is, know that you've given Levi a WONDERFUL gift in his first year that will benefit him immensely throughout his entire life. Not everyone can say that!

At January 6, 2011 at 5:40 AM , Blogger Cameron said...

You know, I was thinking about this today - I'm obviously not breastfeeding Isis anymore, but I made it 10 months. I won't get even near that long with my future kids. If I hadn't had to go back to work & I had been able to keep breastfeeding her, I'm not sure when I would've stopped either. It seemed so easy to say "12 months." Like it's no big deal, but it is! It was hard when I stopped and it will be hard whenever you stop. I like how you're not defining it exactly anymore. Just let it go how it goes. You'll know when you're both ready.

I will say, it's definitely been easier having my body back to myself. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't have continued breastfeeding if I could have. I think about it sometimes, how I wish I could've kept going.

But weaning to milk - oh my gosh - breastfeeding or not, it's rough. I'm gonna write a post about that soon. Isis is now totally on milk, but it's brought its own combo of struggles. LOL

Good luck!! And congrats for such a wonderful breastfeeding experience!!!

At January 6, 2011 at 6:06 AM , Blogger Tiffany Larson said...

Here's my experience....With my first, I exclusively BF until she was 8 months and then slooooowly weaned until 10 months. It doesn't take that long but I wasn't sure I was ready to be done. By 10 months, I was DONE. I was so happy to have my body back. No regrets. A couple months of formula and then she easily switched to milk (even though we eat mostly organic foods and I'm super careful about anything chemical, I don't think formula is the devil :P ) On my second, I started weaning around 5 months because I needed to take some medication that I didn't feel comfortable taking while BF. So by 7 months, I was done. Again, it doesn't take anything like 2 months to wean but I was waffling. 5 months of organic formula and he transitioned to milk easily. Neither child had a problem with weaning, they could have cared less. They were both super wiggly and had a hard time paying attention to it anyway. I like having my body back to myself and *things* got back to something a little more normal after I was done nursing (you get my drift). Like you said, it's a personal choice and I think you'll know when you are done. Also, it doesn't have to be all or nothing. I was able to nurse just 1x per day with both kids.

At January 6, 2011 at 6:23 AM , Blogger JIll said...

you know I was just thinking about this the other day. With my O I was done and more thany ready to stop when he was one. I was working at the time and hated the pump. Now with Little B I am at home, now that does not make me love nursing I do it becuase it is what works for us, I am not sure when I will start. The only thing I am sure of is I do not want to stop to fast and get engorged. With O I was so uncomfortable for days and days. I even started to run a fever. I guess I stopped to early for my body. This time around I am just going to do it slowly. Good Luck with your decision.

At January 6, 2011 at 6:49 AM , Blogger Sarah P. said...

My first son decided he was done at 11 months. With my second, I had to cut him off at 15 months. If it were up to him, he'd still be breastfeeding and he's 2 1/2. :) Trust your gut, if you're not ready, don't stop. You'll know when it's time.

At January 6, 2011 at 7:03 AM , Blogger Casey Martinez said...

I could have written this post nearly word for word as you have echoed pretty much exactly what I have been deliberating on as of late. Daisy is over 9 months and I had planned to start weaning her at around one year old because that is the "norm" but, I really don't have any set goal. I hear that transitioning to cow milk can be a challenge and at this point Daisy doesn't take a bottle or a sippy cup...I keep trying. I am going to start by working on getting her to take a sippy cup and maybe when she understands that I'll feel better about weaning her off. Let me know what you think and decide! Great post and feedback!

At January 6, 2011 at 3:06 PM , Blogger Lori Vernon said...

I also had ideas about when I'd quit. At one point (maybe even before I got pregnant) I thought 9 months, when I gave birth I thought 12 months. Well, somewhere along the way I turned into a hippie and we ended up bfing until 2.5 years. It was so convenient and I realized that at 12 months she was still such a baby, she had the rest of her life to eat table food but only this time to enjoy this special relationship with mom. Also, my little one was so busy she barely ate anything at the table, so I was glad that she had the extra source of nutrition in the breastmilk. By the end, I was pretty ready to be done, but my little one was not (she was a mommymilk addict! :) , so we weaned slowly and finally weaned for good due to a my being hospitalized with food poisoning when I was 2 months pregnant with #2. I'm not sure I would have had the heart to cut her off if it wasn't for that. So it was a blessing in disguise, it gave a good ending point for both of us and she was old enough to understand that mommy was sick and so she needed to be a big-girl and drink some cow milk to help mommy.

At January 6, 2011 at 4:39 PM , Blogger Getrealmommy said...

With my first son I went back to work at 12 weeks. I pumped, and hated it, and found that my milk production was not keeping up. I would go to all this trouble to pump in an unlocked file room twice a day, and I would only make enough milk to get him through 1-2 feedings at daycare. I gave up at 7 months. With my second son I was at home. He nursed better and I had no production problems. We stopped nursing around 14 months, he seemed to lose interest, and was using his teeth to bite...he drew blood and that was enough to tell me we were done. It seemed like the right time for both of us. I am glad that I nursed as long as I did with my second son, as a result I think he is more affectionate and cuddly than my older son, but who knows that could just be their natural personalities.

At January 6, 2011 at 6:17 PM , OpenID thehoovertribe said...

I know what you mean! :) These boys are growing too quick for me. Good thing they keep growing in cuteness. That hug they shared today made my heart soar.

At January 6, 2011 at 9:58 PM , Anonymous Georgia said...

Adriel, did you know that the World Health Organisation recommends to nurse until a minimum of 2 years old (and beyond that as mutually desired)? There are SO many benefits for Levi if you continue to nurse him and let him wean when he is ready.

I am still nursing my 2.5 year old and I have 5 close friends who have nursed beyond two as well. You might be surprised at how many people nurse beyond 12 months.

Weaning at one year seems very foreign to me, especially if things are going really well. One year olds are still so very much babies. The health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding do not stop because your child has reached one.

If you're unsure what to do and don't want to regret your decision, how about following Levi's cues?

At January 6, 2011 at 11:26 PM , Blogger Pam said...

I have had three very different experiences as far as weaning goes with each of my kids.

Peapod weaned herself, right before we found out we were expecting another baby--she was about 13 months old...I tried to nurse after we got the big news, but it was too painful for me and she didn't mind milk at all. I remember sitting on our bed, knowing that it would be her last time nursing.

Z-Man...he weaned himself around the same age, no problems there either.

Newbie, on the other hand, is closing in on 14 months and still nurses when she wakes up, at bedtime, and at least once during the day (most days). I am very ready to have *all* of me back, but at the same time I'm not sure I want to stop's SOOO easy to soothe her!

Good luck with whatever you end up doing!

At January 7, 2011 at 5:03 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a couple things for us. I planned on going to a year and then we were going to try for baby #2. Well I guess I was one of the "lucky" ones that didnt get her period while nursing. But we wanted 2 babies close in age so I started dropping feedings in hopes of my period coming back.

It was never against Andrews wishes. He was walking by 11 months and very independent. At 11 months I was nursing 3 times a day, and decided to cut out the midday feed because he was eating plenty of food. I gave him pumped breastmilk then. Well I found out I was pregnant a couple weeks later with out my period ever coming back. Excited but shocked. When Andrew turned 12 months we gave him a sippy cup with milk @ night and I nursed in the morning. Its nice because my husband rocks him to sleep now and loves it. Its the best part of his day. At 12.5 months Andrew decided he was done and didnt want to sit still enough to nurse.

He was such a natural nurser I thought he would miss it, but its like it never happened. He loves his milk in a cup and loves his freedom. He really began to fight me at the end to sit still and nurse. And it wasnt as hard on me as I thought it would be to end because he pulled away so many times it litterally was a fight to get him to sit still.

Good luck!

At January 7, 2011 at 10:23 AM , Blogger The Planet Pink said...

With my first I did it by the book. Weaned her at 12 months exactly. We took a month to do the whole process - each week I cut out a feeding until we were done.

Looking back, I wish I wasn't so clinical about it. With my other 3, I let them lead. They naturally slowly decreased the amount of times they were nursing during the day until we were down to just the bedtime feeding. And then, eventually, we just stopped. It wasn't planned out, it wasn't a decision I labored over. It was just time, and we both knew. And it was different for each child. #2 nursed until 13 months, #3 until 16 months and #4 until 18 months.

You didn't ask for advice, but if you did mine would be this: Think about what feels most natural and comfortable for you and Levi, and do that. :-)

At January 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM , Anonymous Jane B. said...

Hi Adriel
I never had a date in my head as to when I would wean.

I knew from having worked in Africa with different health organisations that the World Health Organisation recommended 2 years. Breast feeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Great news. I also knew that the bonding and nutrition benefits were also great reasons to consider their information.

I am only calculating right now, when I weaned my first born Noey - it had to be just after 18 months. I know we wanted to get pregnant again and I needed to wean - to get my period back. It only took a couple of months before I was pregnant again. I was 37.

My experience was like most probably, by dropping the few feeds that were left, until they were all gone. I think this helped him adjust well, and me too. I loved breast feeding!

A different story with my second munchkin. I managed to get a nasty case of pneumonia when he was 15 months old and I ended up with IV antibiotics, analgesia etc and I stopped breast feeding cold turkey. I don't know why, but he coped really well. Was it because he was already older and eating adult food??? I didn't cope very well! I felt the decision was taken away from me. However once my body was clean from the drugs, I decided to leave things as they were. I still had milk for many months to come. Our bodies are amazing.

All the best with your decision.

At January 7, 2011 at 1:37 PM , Blogger Kerry McCullough said...

I had a horrible breastfeeding experience- 2 months of excruciating pain... but that's beside the point. The point is that I still cried my eyes out and really felt like I had lost something between us when I gave up-- and I get the feeling that no matter when you decide to stop, it's going to be pretty difficult. It's letting go of something special. So I don't think you'll necessarily come to a time where you think to yourself "I will be ready __ months from now"... but at the same time, you know it has to come to an end at some point. It's a tough decision and it will certainly take some preparing and adjusting... Good luck!

At January 7, 2011 at 1:38 PM , Blogger Thru a Tori-lens said...

Don't be in a hurry to wean. The baby stage goes so fast as it is... what's a few more months? I'm sure you've heard that the global weaning age is somewhere between 3-4 YEARS old. Well, we fit the norm. I tried to wean my dd when she was about 2 and we were both miserable. I slowly cut out "nursing" times down to one a day and we quit on her 3rd birthday. I loved the special snuggle times with my sensitive kid. She loved the chance to "check in" with mom and feel safe. Also- she's NEVER had an ear infection. And rarely gets sick. I guess you just have to do what's best for you, and this is just our little story... Oh, and for what it's worth, I didn't really get "my" body back because then we got preggers and had another. ;)

At January 7, 2011 at 1:39 PM , Blogger Thru a Tori-lens said...

Oh- and there really are hormonal changes when you quit- so be ready for that! Ups and downs... fun stuff.

At January 7, 2011 at 1:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really had the same thoughts and concerns, oh and the nagging family members. I had decided that I wanted to wait until he was ready to stop nursing, then I thought that by the time he was 18 months that I would start to try to ween. A week before he turned 18 months he completely stopped on his own. He had reduced the number of times that he nursed to only two or three times a day at about 15 months. The day that he decided he was done I was a little sad. I missed the mommy/baby time and I think that it was more upsetting for me than him. If I have another child I will try to do the same. I feel that if you are able to nurse, do it as long as you can. It is always good to get information and others experiences but you know what is best for you and your baby. Just do not let anyone pressure you into something that you do not want to do. Good Luck and enjoy him as long as you can, they grow up so fast.

At January 7, 2011 at 8:55 PM , Blogger adriel, from the mommyhood memos said...

Wow, what a response! Thank you so much for all of your comments ladies. It's really great to hear your experiences and your input. Some of you have given me some great food for thought, and all of you inspire me. You're great moms. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to leave your experiences here. These comments contain several posts worth of great content alone. xx

At January 7, 2011 at 11:57 PM , Blogger Sara at Miller Moments: said...

I love what Georgia said...not sure about Aussie folks, but the "norm" in the US seems to be if you make it one year, then you're a super hero! (Which, I wholeheartedly agree, YOU ARE!) However, the education provided by the WHO is vital to recognize. I think that just like the "birth club" issues - this could have it's own issues, too. I'm proud of ANY momma who nurses their baby for ANY length of time, but I'm also a big advocate for extending breastfeeding. You might search out some other mommy blogs that are going that direction (Adventures in Babywearing is one of my faves). With all of my 4, I nursed until at least 12 months and some a big longer (the longest was about 18 months with #4). You're totally right, at times I felt like just hollering "mooooo." But just like anything in parenting, it's a dying to self and recognizing that we are doing the best for our children according to what we know and believe. I do personally think that child-led weaning is the best, because then you will really know when they're ready to be "done." Just watch the fertility issues, too. :) After #1 stopped nursing at 12 months, I was pregnant with #2 at month 13 (and that after a year of infertility struggles!) :) Same with #3 and #4 - so watch out! :)

At January 8, 2011 at 12:06 AM , Blogger Lindsey said...

We're in the same boat right now. Abigail's birthday is in three days, and we've begun the weaning process. We started about 3 weeks ago, forced a bit into it because my milk started to dry up with this new pregnancy. I still nurse at night because it is so incredibly convenient, and I'm not sure when I'll give that up, but as for the daytime, it's a rare thing. Sometimes it's nice to not have her hanging off me, but sometimes I miss her little giggles when she's about to nurse. I think it was time for us because I was so tired (1st trimester) and something had to give. I know Abigail isn't crazy about it, but all in all, she's adjusting pretty well. She's grown pretty attached to her bottle now. I always said I wanted to make it to six months, then I changed it to twelve, and I am pretty happy that we mostly made it!

Lindsey @

At January 8, 2011 at 4:39 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

It's great to read all of the responses on here, especially all the support to do what feels right for you and Levi. I completely agree.

Q weaned at about 17 months and it was a combination of things. It felt like the right time, he was biting me pretty regularly, and he loved his cow's milk. I think he could have stopped earlier, in fact. I just enjoyed the cuddly nursing time together. I miss it!

At January 9, 2011 at 10:38 AM , Anonymous Rachel said...

Its been really great to read all these responses! Xave is only 10 weeks right now and I've no intention of weaning anytime soon obviously but to tell the truth, breastfeeding is A LOT more painful for me than I thought it would be. I'm pushing through though (for now at least) because I did my research before even getting pregnant and I can see the health benefits for extended breastfeeding win hands down. I always had visions of feeding much longer than a year -- especially since toddlers get so busy, the thought of just Mummy and Xave time is very appealing.

I read the WHO information and use Nursing Mother's Australia for support. Have you been to the local group in your area? They might be able to help you with your decision. Also, being in China where BFing is all but obsolete, formula is expensive and formula AND cow's milk are often tainted (hello, melamine!) I think BFing as long as we can is the best idea for us. BUT I think you have to do what's best for you and your family but don't feel you need to stop just because Levi's 12 months and its the 'norm'!

At January 11, 2011 at 5:11 AM , Blogger Jessica said...

I know I am late on this post, but I just wanted to let you know that I am also struggling with this one too. I had originally set 12 months as my breastfeeding goal, but now that we are almost there, I am having second thoughts.

There are so many intangible benefits (beyond nutrition) of breastfeeding, so I worry that if I stop and my milk dries, then I will have regrets, that I will be missing out on something, etc.

Sorry I don't have any advice or wisdom to share. I just wanted to let you know that you are not the only one waning about weaning. (Hugs)

At January 23, 2011 at 6:21 PM , Blogger The Empress said...

Hi, I've been reading over some of your old posts, and realize what a difference blogging makes in the life of a young, first time mom.

I was , felt, so all alone when I first began mothering...and dial up first came out. That was 16years ago.

And I was such an odd man out, with my mothering style.

I let my children ( 3 boys) call all the shots. I let them decide when to wean, they all became disinterested at between 2 and 3 yrs old. The oldest stopped at 18 mos., the 2nd at about 2, and the 3rd at 3 yrs old.

It was easy that way. They just grew into other foods. But I never fretted about weaning...the people I knew though, for some reason I don't understand, they worried.

Strange. It wasn't even their lives...and they worried.

Good luck to you in your decision. Whatever works for you.


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