SOME THOUGHTS ON NURSING — AND MAYBE WEANING

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.

_____

Image courtesy of: www.northernhealth.ca

Image courtesy of: http://www.northernhealth.ca

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?

13 responses to “SOME THOUGHTS ON NURSING — AND MAYBE WEANING

  1. I weaned at 13 months 3 days 😉 The morning feed was my favorite, and we were down to that one only. I had signed my son up for ISR swim classes and because of my work schedule we did it at 7:30 am. And they don’t allow food or drink for 2 hours ahead. “Luckily” C was waking up early enough to make it work, but then he started sleeping an hour later and I wasn’t going wake him to feed when he needed his sleep! So one morning we stopped. It was difficult for me, but not really for him! I think he only nudged my way once. That being said, we do offer dairy so I think that helped in the transition. Good luck!

    • It’s really interesting that you managed to wean the night feed before the morning feed. I have always thought that last feed before bedtime would be the most difficult one to cut out, just because sucking seems to be such a big factor in getting primed for sleep.

      • I’m not sure how we ended up with doing just the morning. I guess we had engrained a different night time routine (I didn’t want him to learn to only fall asleep on the breast), so morning lasted the longest. Just thinking about it make me miss it…

  2. “…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!”

    …and vice versa?

    My Olivia is 9 months. The doctor says we can start dropping nursings if we want since she is eating three full meals a day (finger foods); but my instinct says, “not yet.”

    • Yes, I probably should have explained that statement better :). From what I have read, the immune benefits of breastfeeding at this age mostly come from Oliver receiving antibodies for specific pathogens that I have been exposed to, rather than him receiving general immune protection. Since Oliver is the one experiencing the initial exposure to all the daycare bugs, I’m not sure that breastfeeding is terribly helpful in keeping him protected from those things, specifically.

      I was definitely not “there” when Oliver was 9 months either! Part of the idea of doing baby-led feeding/weaning was for him to transition from nursing to food at his own pace, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t giving the process a little bit of extra encouragement ;).

  3. We weaned at 16mo and we were only bfeeding once in the morning at that stage. It was a completely painless step (aside from mummy being a bit sad). J simply didn’t care…didn’t ask for it again. At that point it was 99% mommy daughter quiet connection time over any nutritional benefits, I’m sure. Does O still ask for it? Have you ever tried just not offering it prior to breakfast? My only suggestion is to go about your day like nothing’s changed, minus the bfeed…and go from there…trying not to highlight the fact that you’re skipping this part of your morning routine….since he is such a busy, active, little boy, he may just not notice! Good luck!

    • Another one who kept the morning feed until the end! Maybe I should try cutting the night feed first, since it’s likely to be the more difficult of the two. Perhaps the morning feed will just naturally follow a few weeks later?

      Oliver does ask for it, which is part of why I’ve been hesitating. In the morning, J gets him up and dressed, and then Oliver comes running into our room, grabs my iPhone and shoves it at me (it has the breastfeeding timer app that, ridiculously and inexplicably, I still use), then says, “Mo? Mo? Mo?” until I feed him. He also asks in the evening, as soon as I come into his room before bedtime.

      I was thinking with the mornings that maybe for a few days in a row I’d just have J feed him breakfast while I get up and get fully dressed, then we could head out the door right away, minus the feed. It might be enough of a change in routine that he just wouldn’t think about it.

  4. All of this sounds like normal feelings and emotions…..and a normal breastfeeding toddler. You have to do what’s best for YOU and YOUR family. It seems to me, he sounds like he’s really enjoying the extra time in the morning, and event though i DO know how frustrating and overhwhelming it can be to keep sacrificing.. it will be over and this time will be gone before you know it so i say enjoy it all you can! I nursed my daughter until she was 3. She weaned herself, naturally. I never thought she’d give it up! She, like your Oliver liked to nurse for comfort and usually LONG sessions for nap and bedtime. It was taxing, but I am glad I held out till i was sure we were both ready. I think you will know when you are both ready if you try to wean and it doesn’t go well. Just listen to your Momma instincts. 🙂

    • How lovely to have your child wean herself! 🙂 That is, of course, what I’d ideally like to have happen, though I have certainly been encouraging the weaning process along. I do think that if the nursing sessions were shorter, I would feel less inclined to make a change right now. Maybe that’s the change I need to make instead — just trying to keep it short and sweet? Sometimes I just feel so “touched out.”

  5. Thank you for admitting that breastfeeding can be “annoying” at times (I’ve gotten some tsk-tsking at LLL meetings and on FB after commenting that I was getting worn down by nursing by people who are my “friends”). I’m glad I breastfed V for a year but towards the end it really felt like a burden and commitment rather than something I enjoyed (I feel guilty saying that, but I’d be lying to say I loved every moment), which signaled to me that it was time to finish up.

    We, too, dropped the night feeding first, partially because Violet would have happily nursed for an hour if I had let her (that was another thing I was told not to do but did anyway;I didn’t let her comfort nurse for as long as she wanted because we would have been there all night otherwise!) and I wanted her to learn to sleep without me.

    On a different (but related) note, I also wonder if I would have felt differently about nursing had I lived/worked in an environment that was more supportive of breastfeeding and working (the Midwestern state I live in has a very low breastfeeding rate) . I recently read a very good book called Bottled Up in which the author, who “failed” at breastfeeding her son, discusses the pressure put on women who choose to breastfeed and work full time. This is another book you might want to check out, Carli!

  6. At 14 months I dropped A’s night feeding and the following month we dropped the morning one, and breastfeeding was over. It was defiantly more of a concern for me than it was for A. The night feeding I did downstairs about a half hour before bedtime. A was getting increasingly uninterested in feeding, she would delatch constantly to look at things or poke at me and the feeling that it was a special “comfort” time for the two of us was kind of lost. So we just played straight up till bedtime and she never even noticed the feeding being dropped.
    I was more concerned about dropping the morning feeding since A expected it when she woke up and was much more attentive towards actually eating. But I quickly realized it was more the ritual of me carrying her to my bedroom, grabbing the boppy, and climbing into bed to feed her that signaled to her that it was time to breastfeed. As soon as I broke that cycle, she never gave it a second thought. I would just get her up in the mornings and we would head straight downstairs to start getting breakfast together. I did miss that early morning “snuggle” with her, and was actually a little sad that she dismissed it so easily. Nevertheless, there are many positive aspects to being done with breastfeeding and getting about our day.
    Good luck with your weaning. I hope that it is a painless process. I am very interested to hear more about your potty training ventures. This is something that I haven’t even thought about starting with my daughter yet, but should probably be considering.
    Side note: A drinks only water, no milk or milk substitutes. She has been weaned for almost three months now and continues to grow like a weed and have a huge appetite. She shows no signs of being nutritionally deficient.

  7. Hi! I followed your blog when I was pregnant and now here I am when I’m ready to start solids with my baby. He is almost 6 months and fully breastfed. I don’t plan to wean any time in the near future and I am hoping I breastfeed till he is 15 months if not longer. I have been reading up on baby read weaning and it sounds so interesting but I am not sure if I can go through with it. The external pressure of being asked whether my baby is getting enough to eat will,probably get to me. Do you think it’s possible to do a combination ? Spoon feed and give the baby options to play with food put in front of him and see what he does with it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s