April 19, 2012

Wean

Breastfeeding in general and certainly weaning is a topic that feels very personal to me and while it's been in the forefront of my thoughts for a few months I haven't written much about it. I worry about opening the door to judgement (which I've gotten plenty of in my daily life, blissfully this community has been nothing but supportive). I also worry that other women will think I am judging them if they've made different choices than I have. Whether you never breastfed your baby at all or you did it for a week or are still doing it at two years, it's your body and your baby. I firmly believe that what is right and healthy for each family is different and those individual choices demand equal respect.

early may 2011

I did and do choose to breastfeed. It didn't come easily to me and since Little Smith was  born a month early, it didn't come easily to him either. We worked hard for months and months to get it down to a science. Looking back though, it was a deep bonding experience and evolved into a special ritual for us.

I've certainly received some negative comments about breastfeeding past the one year mark, but it feels natural to me. I don't know when I would have chosen to wean Little Smith if it was all up to me but the reality is that at sixteen months (plus a bit), he is slowly but surely weaning himself.

I know that there are those who don't think children chose to wean. I am certainly not an expert, but I can see that this kid is willfully electing to cut down on nursing and would be happy to give it up entirely if I never offered.

I do offer. For the last couple months I have offered frequently and been refused all but morning and evening. I've tried going to a quiet space and he just has no interest and clamors to get off or sits there with his face pressed against my boob hanging out and waiting for me to free him... that is some serious rejection. Now he's cutting back at night and even getting faster in the morning and my body isn't producing much milk.

Most people would wonder why I keep trying at all. It seems to be the best possible outcome that we breastfed for over a year and now have gradually weaned without tears... from him. But there are tears for me. It isn't just about him growing up or some strange need to keep nursing him, it's knowing that this particular bond that has been so much a part of our daily life is going to end forever. It's so final.


I know that Little Smith will soon be fully weaned. We might string things out for another couple of months but it's coming, faster than I really wanted or was ready for. I am already finding new ways to comfort him and put him to sleep at night. It's been a very gradual and natural transition, but change is always a struggle for me. I'm pleased that my son seems to tackle change with far more grace than his mama.

16 comments:

  1. I can only speak for my baby but he definitely was on the path to weaning himself when I switched from our "scheduled" nursings to the don't offer, don't deny route. He was nursing less and less and given that he went from nursing 6+ times a day to 1 time a day overnight I think he was just doing it because he thought that's what he had to do. Ha! Everybody has a different experience of course but we weaned about a month ago and it's been SO GREAT! I hope that whenever you guys get there that the transition is easy for both of you.

    Also- you've had me craving popovers since yesterday so I'm going to make them right now.

    ReplyDelete
  2. although i was never able to breastfeed olive (serious attachment issues and we tried and tried and i cried and she cried) i completely understand your words, feelings and the emotions associated with weaning from breastfeeding. because even though i wasn't able to bf olive, i so wanted to. so when it didn't work out, i felt a failure. i felt that i had failed her, myself and it really hurt. and because there was nothing wrong with me or my milk...i expressed and gave her breastmilk in a bottle. and i did that for six months....pumping day and night. i wanted to be a part of her growth journey. i wanted that bond with her.

    so i understand (in a round about way) where you are coming from. i think it's wonderful that you've bf for sixteen months! and i think it's really sad that we as women are judged by our choices regarding bf. i was judged, and i felt like shouting "it's breastmilk in that bottle!!" ...even though i shouldn't have cared what other people thought. but as you said, it's so personal that we can't help but take it personally.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I breastfed both our babes until they pretty much refused. Well, Fletcher bit me, and I was done! And Rowan weaned EARLY. But then we supplemented, so that was part of the early wean for her. I think it's great that you are doing what YOU want to do without judgement on what others want to do. Who could judge you for that?? Oh, and I cried when both my kids weaned, so cry away, mama!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think it's SO wonderful that you breastfed for this long AND that you're allowing for such a natural transition.. I can imagine that it's hard to lose this bonding ritual, but it's so great for both of you that it's a gradual change!

    ReplyDelete
  5. It is so emotionally hard when they wean! even though Audrey was driving me cray when I finally weaned her, I still get really sentimental at pictures of her breastfeeding as a tiny baby. Good job on keeping it going for so long!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am learning all about breastfeeding at this point since I am going to be doing it, maybe you could write a blog on how you were able to manage DOING it. I think that's the hardest thing for women (that I've read so far) that they have such a hard time maintaining the breastfeeding for more than a few months.

    I would love to read about that! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Flourish, I think the challenges of breastfeeding are so different for each woman so it's tough to advise. The one thing I will say is that every new mother worries that they aren't making enough milk and their child is hungry... but give it time because it's more than likely you ARE making plenty of milk and you'll make more if you just stick with it. If you have any specific questions I'd be happy to chat via email, projectlittlesmith@gmail.com

      You'll do great! The fact that you are thinking about it so much ahead of time is more proactive than I was :)

      Delete
  7. I hated breastfeeding—HATED it—and I was STILL a wreck about weaning at 22 months. Completely weird.

    ReplyDelete
  8. shane weaned himself at two years. i was ready at that point, but i immediately got pregnant again :0 marianne is almost a year and is still going strong. i'm in no rush for her to be weaned, but a little more freedom would be nice. i like breastfeeding, it's totally worth it. wish i had known more about the difficulties when i had my first two children, i only nursed them for about 3 weeks each :( oh well. i just try to inform new moms about it now so they don't think they aren't producing enough milk like i thought.

    love the pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I weaned Milo at 13 months and Oliver at 15 months and after each time I wound up pregnant shortly after! Now with Emil, I plan to wean him a little later, or maybe let him wean himself. It is such a personal decision, but I think it is awesome that you have been able to breastfeed W for this long! More power to you! And just as a heads-up, when you completely wean W, look out for some MAJOR mood swings and feeling low. I felt like a complete wreck for a couple of weeks, then felt wonderful after that!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I think it's awesome that you've been able to keep going this long! It really is such a struggle for most women at first, I believe. Some are able to keep going, some aren't!

    Aww, I bet it feels sad when he rejects the feedings! But he's growing up. Isn't it strange how quickly and smoothly little ones are able to transition themselves into the next phase? It ALWAYS seems to happen before I'm ready with any milestone for Audrey. As soon as you grow accustomed to your baby as they are now, they go and start doing something new...

    ReplyDelete
  11. That last photo is beautiful. Hearing you on the lovely bonding moments that breast feeding provides. I actually don't dread the night time feeds because these moments are so precious.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think it's wonderful that you have been able to breastfeed for this long and although I wasn't able to do it myself I completely understand the sentiment. Breastfeeding is such a deep and personal experience, which is why I believe many women feel so strongly about it. Whether it works or doesn't, goes for a month, a year, two years or not at all, we feel so connected to that experience. Hat tip for you for continuing this relationship for as long as you did!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks so much ladies for your collective encouragement, wisdom, and anecdotes. I love having this resource for support and information- I very much appreciate you all sharing your own stories as well!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Change IS hard. Be kind to yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Lovely post. I just found your blog this evening and my son turned 16 months old today. My son is still breast feeding without any signs of weaning. Some days I'm so ready to be done and others days the thought of no longer breast feeding him makes me very sad. It's been a very difficult journey at times. But the moments we've shared together are absolutely priceless. Thanks for your sharing your experience.

    ReplyDelete