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Weaning: An End to Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is such an emotional journey, from start to finish its so hard to anticipate how its going to go. Will your body be able to create a supply? How long will that supply last? Will your baby latch? How long can we work together as a team to keep this journey going? Will I even want to keep it going? The type of question and amount of questions that pop into your mind can change at any given moment in your journey and the resources out there to help you along has evolved and increased with the times. But what about when you think your journey should end? Ending your breastfeeding journey can often times be met with as much judgment as choosing to start your journey. After many conversations between myself and Trev (and Savannah 😉) I have decided that I’m going to begin weaning Savannah from breastfeeding – I am so incredibly proud of our journey and fortunate that I even get to choose when it ends, but we are entering into the next stage of our life and I think this is necessary for us to move forward, you know? Anyways, my question now is what does weaning mean for me and how is it going to work? Well, lets just say the cold turkey approach is probably not the best option as someone who has experienced mastitis *twice*, I’m not gonna subject these puppies to anymore trauma! But surprisingly the information out there on how to wean a child while having a steady supply of milk is pretty sparse – which is making the process a little difficult. 

Deciding to end your breastfeeding journey is honestly an incredibly emotional one. I had really hoped that for me, it would just happen naturally (gosh I’m starting to hate that word 😒). In my mind that meant my supply would just slowly and gradually decrease and Savannah would naturally accept it and we would both move on with our lives! Now, I don’t really know *where* I got that idea, but it sounded so peaceful and gradual in my mind that I figured it’s without a doubt the best case scenario for both of us to end this journey with a smile still on our face. Well, I’m not saying that can’t still happen at some point in the future, but because I have decided its time for me to wean her, its just not happening! So, what do I do with a steady supply goin and a 15 month old that doesn’t show much sign of wanting to give it up? Well I don’t know what’s going to work 100% of the time, but I’ve been slowly figuring out ways we can take this next step in a safe (my ladies really need some TLC at this stage😰) and progressive manner that *hopefully* ends with a happy and healthy toddler ready to move forward and a mama that’s only slightly devastated that the journey is ending. I’ve compiled a small list of things I’ve learned from other mama’s and lactation consultants that I have been helping me during this journey. It may be completely different from what you have done or heard, or it could be pretty close – but this is what’s working for me and Savannah in the moment 💛

One thing I do want to mention quickly is that its very common and easy to experience *another* bout of postpartum depression, anxiety, rage – you name it – when the breastfeeding journey is ending. Much like the beginning, your body is flooded with hormones  that can easily shift your mood one way or another, so a lot of moms can experience a depression with the end of this stage. I think its very important to take note of this and to mentally check in with yourself, or a trusted individual, to help you through any sudden and unusual emotions you may experience. As you all know, I am not a lactation consultant, OB, midwife, doula or any of the above, so I am not someone you should look to for medical advice in any way! Everything I say on here is purely my opinion and just how I choose to do things for myself. I do encourage you to reach out to any medical professional if you have any questions or concerns, or seeking any further advice on ways you can safely wean! For me, I talked with Savy’s pediatrician, my OB, and read some blogs on other mama’s weaning journeys as well as some lactation consultants websites. I am also making a point to check in with Trev any time I feel a twinge of sadness during this next phase because I know myself very well and know it can escalate pretty quickly. While mamas can and have very smoothly transitioned away from breastfeeding, I think its important to know what’s possible by educating yourself and to take your own journey at your own pace, in your own time, making your own decisions along the way! Here is mine 💛

  1. Slowly take away feedings

So, I started doing this actually a little while ago (maybe a month?) because while I’m all for feeding on demand, it was kind of getting to the point where she was eating 4 or 5 times throughout the day and 2 to 3 times in the evening – not ideal! So, I started slowly and strategically taking away some feedings – first it was the feeding before her nap, and then a couple of the wakings in the night, and lastly the one before bedtime. I’ve gotten to where she feeds 2 to 3 times during the day and only once at night, which feels pretty dang cool! To some I know that sounds like a lot, but for Savannah who is a professional slacker at this point, we’ve come a long way! But, these last feedings are going to be a little difficult because baby girl is noticing the weaning and resisting these changes!

 2. Introduce another type of milk in small increments as a supplement for breastmilk – cows milk, almond milk, oat milk 

You know, I’ve heard mixed opinions on whether or not a baby/toddler should or even needs to be supplemented with some kind of milk until the age of 2. Since I am ending breastfeeding, Savy’s pediatrician recommended we start supplementing cows milk for her until shes 2 to help with the transition out of breastmilk and to also help her with brain and cognitive development. I’m all for helping Savy in both of those areas so we have started slowly introducing cows milk to her a couple different times of the day – usually breakfast or lunch, and dinner time! But I’m not gonna lie, shes completely uninterested. She will down a water bottle of water, but when it comes to cows milk she’ll drink a little and then just set it to the side to be forgotten. I had an idea that she may not take to it since she rejected formula at such a young age, but I was hoping that maybe she would be willing to give it a chance? I’m holding out hope that she will start at least snacking on it a bit to at least make the transition out of breastmilk a little easier, but I’m not too torn up about it if she doesn’t continue after that. Savannah is definitely the type though that if you present something to her enough times, she’ll eventually come to love it so I will just keep doing that!

3. Divert attention to something else – healthy snack, game to play

This has been primarily my main plan of action since starting all of this, and it honestly has been working the best! Savy is used to feeding on demand so it’s important that I allow her to see that she can fill those random feeding times with something else – maybe its playing with her puzzle blocks, or walking around the house with her, even a tickle or cuddle sesh! Sometimes I give her some cheerios with her water bottle instead, or if I can tell shes really hungry, a Once Upon a Farm pouch to tide her over until dinner. When all else fails, I pretend like I’m sleeping. Yup, you read that right – I tilt my head back and pretend to start snoring and she eventually just turns around and sits on my lap out of pure confusion and boredom. I honestly don’t know why I started doing it, maybe I was just so tired one day I just mocked sleeping and realized it worked in diverting her attention away from feeding that I continued to do it? Yeah, that sounds about right 😂

4. Move around as much as possible

Ok, this one may sound weird but it *actually* makes a difference! I have noticed time and time again that the more I divert her attention else where, the more likely she is to leap on my lap and point to breastfeed as soon as I sit down – especially if I sit down on the couch! The morning up until her first nap I can usually stay moving the whole time, but after her nap and lunch time, I get a little lazy and want to sit for a bit and that’s when she’ll pounce! If I get up and start moving immediately, shes usually pretty good at moving on and finding something else to do, but she’ll be right back at it the moment I sit down again! I’m not sure how long this will go on for but I’m fine with moving around a lot until we can wean her down completely –  for now anyways!

5. Don’t refuse, don’t offer method

This is an interesting approach I read about on the Le Leche League website and I’ve been hesitantly following it. I read that the more you refuse, the longer it actually takes to wean the baby but if you don’t refuse, and just don’t offer, it actually occurs much quicker. I’m a little hesitant to believe it because while some days it does seem to work, there are days she’ll want to feed 3 to 4 times in the morning alone and I have to work in redirecting her somewhere else. At the end of the day, I am working towards a certain number of feedings each day so it eventually decreases to one, so I’m not sure how plausible this is for the entirety of the journey. Does that make sense? Something tells me shes not going to go from 3 to 4 feedings one day to zero the next day, also I don’t want my boobs to go through that sudden change! Any who, I really love the sentiment behind this method and I’m going to try this out for as long as I think it makes sense, but I’m prepared to put the Kabosh on future feedings if I need to!

6. Give extra cuddles, hugs, and kisses to remind her I’m still here and she’s still loved

This one is very important right now! The first week I definitely saw an increase in tantrums (but I didn’t really realize that the two were connected) but since then, I have noticed that instead of crying and screaming, she cries for a second or two and then immediately hugs my arm, my leg, or just crawls up on my lap and hugs my neck – which absolutely send my emotions into complete over drive! She doesn’t even do it to try and sneak a feeding in either (I’ve kept an eye out for that one👀) it seems as if she simply wants to feel connected! So, I am making sure to hug her anytime shes close, give her a kiss on the cheek whenever I think about it, give a little back rub when she’s relaxing in my lap, and always always return the sentiment when she initiates it! Because at the end of the day, its not just me that’s transitioning from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been the one consistent thing in her short little life and I know its got to be confusing and hard being forced away from it. I would say that breastfeeding from the beginning has strengthened my bond with her and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous that that would some how change once we stopped – but I’m starting to think that maybe shes either feeling my insecurities or shes feeling some of her own! Either way, I want to make sure she knows I love her so much even though I’m ending this journey sooner than she may be ready 💛

Breastfeeding is such an intense journey, from start to finish and it honestly feels like we are making it all up most of the time as we go! Should we have scheduled feedings, should I allow her to feed on demand, should I supplement with cows milk earlier, or should I keep breastfeeding until she initiates ending it? I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong, all I know is what has worked for both of us up until this point! I have wanted to wait until it felt like the right time to stop and I ideally wanted Savannah to be on the same page, but even though she isn’t I’m going forward with it anyways. We have been going strong for almost 16 months and that’s a massive milestone I could have never anticipated! I have learned so much patience throughout this journey and I think its especially important now as it comes to an end – patience with myself and with my little Bee as she transitions into the next stage of development 💛

For those mamas out there who breastfed, how did you decide to end your journey? Did you do anything in particular to wean or did it just kind of happen? I would love to know your experiences in the comments below!