Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Our painless 3-step weaning process

Friends, I've been meaning for months to write and explain why I've sort of dropped off the face of the blogging earth. I've mentally composed a novel's worth of explanation, but the short answer is that, as my son gets older and as I've gotten older, I've become concerned about privacy on the internet in a way that didn't occur to me when I started this blog at age 19.  I don't think I will ever share about my life as openly as I did in the past, but I would like to share bits and pieces and not stop blogging altogether, because I love the little community I've found through writing here.

Before I have my second baby, there are a few things in particular I want to blog about - specifically because I have information to share that I hope can be helpful to someone else. (This is the #1 reason I see for continuing to blog, actually.) And I'm due this Saturday (!!!) so I'm going to try to shoot out a few posts this week before I forget.

Also, just for future reference, I'm going to refer to my son as "Iggy" when I write on here. I'm not going to go back and change all the times I used his name in the past, because ain't nobody got time for that, but I want to be more cautious in the future so I figured a pseudonym would be a good reminder to myself to be vague.

Alright, so here is the first topic I wanted to blog about: weaning! Oh, fun! Any non-parent readers, feel free to click away now. ;)

When my son was born, I never set a breastfeeding goal for myself, but vaguely figured I'd wean him after a year, according to AAP recommendations.* But then I happened to get a baby who utterly despised solid food (he's still super picky, big surprise) and literally would not eat more than a bite of anything until he was about 14 months old. So I kept nursing him, pretty much so he wouldn't starve, and then it became part of his naptime and bedtime routine so I couldn't see a good way to stop. To be honest, I was dreading weaning. I'd heard horror stories of how hard it could be, and I was just sort of terrified at the idea. I thought it would be really difficult and drawn-out and emotional.

But in fact, it was the opposite of that. The entire process was shockingly easy and painless. I decided to get serious about weaning him the week after he turned two, and he was completely weaned within a week. I still can hardly believe how easy it was. So I figured I would share what I did, in case you are like me and don't know where to start.  These ideas might not work for every kid, but hopefully they can be useful to somebody. :)

(Quick disclaimer: I decided to wean because nursing had become increasingly uncomfortable once I was pregnant, and I figured just over 2 years was a good time to stop since the WHO recommends nursing for 2 years. But I wouldn't say anyone else should wean their kid at the same age I weaned mine, and if you're breastfeeding an older toddler than mine, more power to you!)

First, I polled my Catholic moms' group on Facebook for weaning advice. I took the tips that came up the most frequently and adapted them to fit my situation. Here is what I did, in three consecutive steps:

1) Nurse for ten: I started by telling my son that we were going to play a new game called "nurse for ten," that is, I would (very slowly) count to 10 and then he had to be done nursing on that side. He could then "nurse for ten" on the other side, but after both sides, he was done for that nursing session. Fortunately he thought this was a hilarious game, laughed about it, and didn't argue.  (I've heard of people doing the same thing for the duration of a song, such as "You are my sunshine," but in case he protested the idea, I didn't want him to have negative associations with any songs so I decided to count instead.) As he got used to the idea, I gradually counted a little faster each time, so that by the end of the week it really was just ten seconds.

2) Offer a cup instead: After he had "nursed for ten" on both sides, I brought a sippy cup of milk into the bedroom, and offered that instead of nursing if he asked for any more milk.

3) Bore 'em to sleep: One of the biggest concerns I had about weaning was that Iggy was nursing to sleep up until the week he weaned. I had no idea how I could get him to fall asleep without it! Fortunately, I was inspired by hearing about books that parents can read to help kids fall asleep. I figured I could probably make up my own story to fill the same purpose. Once he had nursed and had his sippy cup of milk, I would tell him a very long, extremely boring story. It was always the same story about him walking through the zoo saying good night to all the animals he passed as one by one they went to sleep. My dad often likes to come pick up Iggy on his bike and take him to the nearby zoo, so I used that familiar event as a springboard for the story. I used a very soothing, low monotone voice to tell the story, dragging out the words, trying to be repetitive and dull, and pausing frequently to yawn. It worked like a charm.

In case you really want TMI, this is roughly how the story went: One day Iggy woke up from his nap, and Grandpa was there. He said, "Iggy, would you like to go to the zoo?" Iggy said, "Yes!" First Iggy had to get ready. He put on his shirt... he put on his pants... then he put on his socks... and he put on his shoes. Grandpa buckled Iggy into his seat on the bike and put on his helmet. Then Grandpa and Iggy said, "Bye Mommy!" and off they went. Grandpa pedaled the bike, faster and faster. The wheels went round and round. Finally, they got to the zoo. They went walking to see all the animals. First they saw the polar bears. They were splashing and playing in the water and having lots of fun. But they were sooooo tired from their busy day that they wanted to go to sleep. They lay down in their cave (YAWN) and closed their eyes and went to sleep. Just like Iggy. Good night, polar bears. Next Iggy saw the lions. They were roaring and shaking their big manes and climbing on the rocks. But they were sooooo tired from their busy day, that they wanted to go to sleep. They went into their cave to lie down, and they closed their eyes and went to sleep.  Good night, lions. [You get the idea. I went on to describe each animal in turn and how the animal had so much fun with their busy day that now they are sleeping, just like Iggy.]

It was pretty much like brainwashing him to sleep. He was so comfortably familiar with the story that if I broke script to ask, "And what do you think the penguins were doing?" He would yawn and say "Sleepin'." He learned to fall asleep listening to the story instead of falling asleep nursing like he used to do. And it only took about a week of this 3-step process for him to be done nursing completely.

*Although I didn't plan to nurse for two years, I'm glad I did. I know that the WHO and other organizations recommend nursing for two years, and I'm happy to know he got all the health and immunity benefits of breastmilk for that long. I also really enjoyed the bonding and snuggling, and thought it was a lovely part of our relationship. Hopefully (fingers crossed!) I would like to nurse my next baby and any future kids for two years as well.  :)


  1. This is actually really helpful, Tess! For now I'm months away from weaning (I hope) as my baby is just starting solid foods, but I've alternately dreaded/longed for the weaning process as our breastfeeding experience has been fraught with so many health problems (thrush, chronic severe mastitis, you NAME it, ugh). Despite that I really love the snuggling time with her. So whenever another problem crops up I always think, "I don't know how long I can handle doing this!! ...But I'm going to miss it so much whenever we DO have to be finished."

    1. Oh those health issues sound awful - so sorry to hear it. That would be so stressful to deal with on top of the already stressful process of being a new mom! I'm really glad to know that this can be helpful for you. And for my future self too - part of my reason for putting this on my blog was so I don't forget it myself and can look it up when it's time to wean my future children! :)

  2. I'm glad I found this! My son will be two and half next month and I still nurse him for naps and in the mornings. We will also have our second baby next month and I am so ready to wean but I have no idea where to start. I am going to try your tips. I'm glad it went so painlessly for you!!