Weaning 101: How to Start Weaning Your Little One
I thought I’d rejoice on the day I was no longer constrained by my boobs. I imagined that I’d run to the nearest tall building, breasts flapping as I climbed the stairs, and burst out on top of the roof. I’d chug a bottle of rosé because I no longer had to worry about alcohol content in my breastmilk—no more limiting my caffeine, no more leaking, and sore breasts. No. More. I’d be free—or so I thought. No one told me weaning my daughter from nursing would be the arduous and emotional process that it was and that it would take much trial and error to finally put the kibosh on kibbles and tits for my baby: so I’m here to tell you now.
Stop When You’re Ready
I want to begin by saying this: and while I contemplated nudging you to stop when you’re both ready. There’s a decent chance your attached-to-the-breast baby might try to get you to move to college with them for non-nutritive suckling, so. Don’t wait until they’re ready. Whether it’s due to pain, time constraints, or emotional struggles with nursing, you have already done your baby such a wonderful service by nursing them, bonding with them, and ensuring you gave them absolutely all you had before throwing in the towel. You can take comfort in knowing you’ve done what’s best for everyone involved, because you’re an important person too, mama.
Make a Plan
As painstakingly obvious as it sounds, it couldn’t hurt to take a moment to consider your life for the next month. Are you in a position to help your child make this big adjustment? Or do you have a hectic month at work coming up? Will you be going on a family vacation. Or are you homebound for a spell and can figure out how to navigate these milky waters? It will be a bit less frustrating and futile if you plan around how things look for your family’s life over the next few weeks. Weaning might take your little one no time at all. Or it could be a drawn-out, dramatic process. Prepare for a bit of either, and you’re already on your way to no longer being a milkmaid.
It can be easy to give in to your child’s desire to nurse when they’re frustrated or upset, which might set you back in the process. I took my girl in for her 1-year checkup appointment to include shots when we were two days deep into the no-nursing zone. But as nutritious and helpful as nursing is, it’s also a total comfort thing for us both. I loved being able to calm her at previous appointments where she’d receive vaccinations by sticking a boob in her mouth, and it never failed to soothe her instantly.
At this appointment, though, it was heart-wrenching. She’s more aware than ever, and hearing her cry and say “mama” over and over was too much for my tender heart to take: so I scooped her up and attached her to my breast. Instant relief for us both, but I realized I really reset the process by not being consistent in not offering to nurse despite the circumstances. This is where my previous bit of advice in making a plan could have been beneficial, too, but hindsight is always 20/20. So try to tough it out and come out on the other side as a no-nonsense, no-nurse mama.
It can be tempting to speak with moms whose little one took mere days or a week to wean, but I am here to tell you that is not everyone’s experience. Just as every pregnancy and childbirth is different, every aspect of child-rearing is different as well. Weaning is no exception to this. Be sure to know a timeline is a wonderful thing to have but could set yourself and your child up for undue irritation if you haven’t completely “hit your goal” for weaning by a certain date. It’s important to take care of your physical and mental health, but understand this could be a lengthy process, and that it’s okay: your story and that of your child does not have to mirror anyone else’s.
If you’ve made it to the end and your sweet, precious little one is no longer clawing at your shirt or nibbling at your nipples, congratulations! Reward yourself with some self-care time in honor of reclaiming your body and time. And maybe even throw a little something your kiddo’s way, too, depending on how old they are. When my daughter and I finished our nursing journey, I went out and got a new book and sat at my local coffee shop for an hour. I drank my heavily-caffeinated espresso drink, got lost in a good book, and felt like a new woman again.
I am all for women giving everything they have to their children. However, the old adage of not being able to pour from an empty cup will forever be true to me. If your cups no longer runneth over, or you no longer have the heart to withstand little teeth sinking into your tender skin day after day. Know that doing your best by your babies in this instance might mean it’s time for this chapter in your story to end: and for lots of new, fun ones to begin and take its place.