First of all, welcome back and happy 2013 to all!
I am really behind on responding to blog comments and email messages (oh, and writing posts, in case you hadn’t noticed), so please bear with me as I get caught up over the course of the next week.
When I started breastfeeding Oliver, I knew that I wanted to do so for at least the recommended six months. I had no plans or ideas as to how long it might continue after that point. I also knew that infant formula did not fit into our Paleo nutrition paradigm, so we were going to avoid it unless it became medically necessary.
Oliver is now 17 months old and still nursing twice per day: first thing in the morning and last thing before bedtime. I dropped his occasional third feed (late afternoon) about six weeks ago, and I can’t remember the last time he’s asked for it since. I feel as if weaning is looming on the horizon.
A few thoughts at this stage in the game:
I always felt comfortable nursing infant Oliver in public, whenever and wherever we happened to be. In my experience, Vancouver is an extremely breastfeeding-friendly city. Since Oliver’s birth, I’ve never received so much as a strange look — let alone a negative comment — when nursing in public. All of the community-based places we hang out (recreation centres, YMCA, etc.) have a culture that is highly supportive of breastfeeding mothers, and it’s even commonplace to find special nursing areas (not washrooms!) at local malls, shops and attractions.
At around 13 months, I suddenly became self-conscious about nursing Oliver in public — not so much at community play groups, but in places like restaurants, coffee shops and airplanes. Oliver was tall for his age, with a lot of teeth and a full head of hair, thus making him look older than his actual age. It was becoming physically awkward to nurse him in cramped spaces or on small chairs. I somehow felt as if people would judge me, yet I can honestly say that nobody ever made me feel uncomfortable or self-conscious by way of their actions or words. From 13 months onward, we greatly cut back on our nursing outside the home, and eventually eliminated it completely. But now, instead of feeling relieved, I have this niggling guilt about not being out there publicly supporting extended breastfeeding. Sigh .
Breastfeeding is becoming really tedious, especially in the morning. It used to save me having to prepare and feed Oliver breakfast. Nursing while lazing in the comfort of my own bed was vastly more appealing than the alternative: preparing a meal, enduring some 30 or more minutes of feeding, and then cleaning up the inevitable mess. Now, Oliver wants to nurse for a whopping 25 to 40 minutes, and then eat breakfast! We spend a good hour or longer on feeding-related tasks every morning, which makes it hard to get out the door at any sort of reasonable hour.
Breastfeeding Oliver can be really… annoying, for lack of a better word. It has been this way for a long time, as he is a charmingly active little boy, who simply can’t stay still for a moment. Oliver does not nurse calmly nestled into my arms, as the pictures in the brochures suggest. Instead, his hands pinch, scratch, grab, knead and slap. His legs push and kick. He squirms. Oh, and he’ll never miss an opportunity to suddenly pop off the breast and blurt out a hilarious response to something J or I have said or done .
Recently, J thought it would be a good idea to give Oliver his favourite plush Doggy during nursing, to provide a distraction for the busy hands. This has backfired big time, as Doggy (whom, I might add, is an incredibly beloved — and very smelly — animal) gets shoved in my face repeatedly. And nursing without Doggy, now that he’s become part of the ritual? Not a chance.
Yet, some days I love breastfeeding. I love having that special way to reconnect after a long day of daycare. I love being able to literally nurse Oliver back to health when he is sick — especially with things like stomach bugs, where food might not otherwise be tolerated. I love that Oliver loves to nurse, and that it makes him feel happy and secure. Breastfeeding is a really special part of his bedtime ritual; a way to calm down from the excitement of the day.
At this point, the nutritional and immune benefits of extended breastfeeding are debatable. We know that toddlers in Third World countries fare better when they are breastfed for longer, but this is mostly because breastfeeding provides proper nutrition and hydration in the absence of adequate food and safe, clean water. In developed countries, toddlers of Oliver’s age should be able to get the vast majority of their calories from food. In Oliver’s case, solids have been established for more than a year, and he is considered by anyone’s standards to be an excellent eater. He eats an impeccable diet, so I don’t honestly believe that there is much of anything in my breast milk that he is not already getting from food. We are nursing mostly for comfort, which is a perfectly valid and wonderful reason to continue nursing, but not a nutritional necessity by any means. And any remaining immunological benefits that may be conferred by breastfeeding have probably been negated a hundred times over by all the germs Oliver is exposed to at daycare!
I am ready to wean. I truly believe that Oliver is too, though I’m sure that he would happily carry on for as long as I’d let him. I am ready to speed up our morning routine so that we can get out sooner and do more fun activities together. I am ready to stop being inextricably linked to Oliver’s bedtime routine, so that I will be free to work some evenings once my sleep consulting business is up and running. I would still be happy for Oliver to nurse on occasion — say, once every two or three days — but I’m not sure if it’s realistic to expect him to accept those terms, and for my milk supply to continue accordingly.
When we wean, we are going to skip the cow’s milk, other milks and milk substitutes. Oliver receives a certain number of calories from breastfeeding — it’s anyone’s best guess as to how many — and they may have to be compensated for with extra food. Or they may not, as his food consumption should decrease when his growth begins to slow.
I am considering weaning Oliver off the morning feed starting at 18 months old, and then figuring out how to proceed from there.
At what age did you, or do you plan to, wean your child(ten)? What tips do you have to make the process as gentle as possible?