The end of an era; or, my breasts are not so evil after all

by DaniGirl on March 13, 2009 · 23 comments

in Baby days

It’s been a good long time since I wrote about my breasts, hasn’t it? Vexatious things have been behaving themselves lately, but surely we’re overdue to complain about them. Ironically, I just glanced at the “one year ago today” widget down there in the sidebar, and one year ago today I was just finding out that my milk wasn’t enough to sustain Lucas on its own, and that we’d have to start supplementing. I wasn’t averse to supplementing, but I was worried that if there were problems with my milk to begin with that I wouldn’t be able to keep nursing for as long as I had wanted to. At the time, I really just wanted to make it to the twelve-month mark. I’d almost made it that far with Tristan, and went a little beyond it with Simon.

Guess what? One year later, and we’re still doing it! So I’m putting it out here on the interwebs for all future searchers to see: you can start supplementing your newborn with a bottle or two of formula and still keep nursing for a year or more! I so desperately wanted someone to reassure me of that a year ago. We started with one bottle of formula a day and that wasn’t enough so we moved to two when he was around six weeks old. I continued nursing Lucas three to four times a day in addition to the formula, dropping one feed in January and one in February. We switched the formula over to milk last month when he turned one year old, and I still nurse him just before he goes to bed.

I think, though, that it’s just about time for us to give that up. Sigh. He only nurses for a couple of minutes, usually not more than five. I’m sure he’s not getting much from it, but I’m so sad about ending this chapter in my life that I don’t want to stop. Poor Lucas, can’t even grow up without dealing with his mother’s emotional baggage!

Think maybe we can carry on this little five-minute interlude of babyness for another month or two? How did you know it was time to wean your wee one? Did circumstance dictate that you had to stop, or did you just drift slowly away from it? To be honest, I can’t even remember the final time I nursed either of the other boys, so it couldn’t have traumatized me too much. Tell me your weaning story, and pass the kleenex — he may be almost walking and have a vocabulary of six words already, but I’m just not ready to end this part of his babyness!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kgirl March 13, 2009 at 7:21 am

Right on, Dani! Big up to you and your boobs, supermama.

2 Kathleen March 13, 2009 at 7:31 am

Way to support other mamas. Somebody out there will need to hear this, just as you did.
And as for when to end? Well, when one of you wants to stop. Lucas may develop a renewed interest, or this may be the beginning of the end. I travelled on business when baby girl 2 was 11 months old, and when I got back, she was more interested in the bottle of milk than the boobs. I kept offering for a month, and she’d take some sometimes, but it was the easy to drink bottle that she was excited about. I was sad, but she was fine, and that was that, in August. I didn’t want the stage to end, but, really, holding her in my arms is all she needed. Now she’s almost 20 months, and she lets me know when she needs cuddle time with Mama. I love it, and so does she.
(and the captcha words are “unromantic Aug”!)

3 Mom on the Go March 13, 2009 at 7:37 am

Way to go! A year of antibodies, cuddles and stopping in the midst of a busy life to nurse is such a good thing.

I’ll probably be the “extreme” example in your comments but I’m honest. In our family, “wean” was a four letter word. Reid stopped nursing was when she was 4 years, 2 months old. I planned to nurse to a year and by the time we got there, I decided I’d let Reid make the decision. She just gradually nursed less often and then for less time until one day it occurred to me that it had been a week and she hadn’t asked to nurse. I think that the process would be similar for a boy of Lucas’ age. If you’re eager to stop, you could stop offering and just nurse him if he asks. That seems to be common and strikes me as especially gentle.

The World Health Organization recommends “2 years and beyond” and so if you don’t need to stop, why stop.

You’re a good mom, however you decide to proceed.

4 Loukia March 13, 2009 at 8:29 am

I think it is such an individual and personal decision, whether you breastfeed for a year (or longer) or only a few months, or not at all. I would never think badly of anyone who chose not to breastfeed for whatever reason she had.
I thought I wouldn’t do it with my first… I was scared – and then once he was born, it was the easiest and most natural thing for me. He was great from the get-go, and I LOVED it! He stopped breastfeeding at around 6 months old when I returned to work. It was tough for me, emotionally, but he made the adjustment to formula with ease. (Took a few days of tears on my part, though). With my second son, again, he breastfed like a champ from day 1, and again, I loved it. I weaned him when he was 6 months old and we were in Florida. I remember that week being the last week I breastfed him before switching to formula exclusively. I find it hard to believe that that phase of my life is done – unless I have another child, which I want. But I have to convince my husband! Breastfeeding is so special and wonderful.

5 andrea from the fishbowl March 13, 2009 at 8:36 am

I had Mark take a photo of Sarah’s last time. I am so glad I did. She must have been about a year old at the time…

6 Hamilton Doula March 13, 2009 at 9:36 am

To arrive at the decision to wean you need to examine a few things:

1) Ask yourself why you think you should wean? Is it because you no longer want to do it, is it because Lucas no longer wants to do it, is it because there is something interfering with your ability to nurse or nurse healthfully?
2) What will you gain by stopping nursing? What will Lucas gain?
3) What will you lose by stopping nursing? What will Lucas lose?
4) Is there a cultural/social expectation you feel you need to live up to such as babies should only nurse till 1, people are uncomfortable seeing toddlers breastfeed…? If there is, how do you feel about being restricted by these cultural/social expectations?
5) In your gut, what do you think you should do? What do you want to do?
6) Is it possible your beliefs about breastfeeding could be based in myth and not fact, such as the fact that toddlers don’t ingest very much milk in 5 minutes of nursing, that children don’t benefit from non-nutritive nursing, that after one year breastmilk provides less/no nutrients or immunity transfer…? Can you challenge an applicable myth and examine the facts?

If Lucas is still interested, and were my child, I’d still nurse. My first son nursed to 23 mths and I only stopped because I was pregnant and my nipples were extremely irritated. If I hadn’t been pregnant (and then miscarried 2 weeks after weaning and was broken hearted at stopping nursing prematurely) I would have continued till my son was no longer interested in nursing. I am fairly certain he wouldn’t have still been nursing by the time school started ;).

Good luck on making your decision. To me it sounds like you don’t want to quit. But, it’s a complicated issue for each of us.

7 Chantal March 13, 2009 at 10:03 am

I am very glad that you put this out there Dani cause if I had read this when my boy was a baby things may have been different for me. I like you wasn’t making enough to support him and was told that I had to supplement. I tried so hard to breast feed exclusively and it wasn’t working (I had already had a terrible experience with my 1st child and i was carrying a LOT of emotional baggage already). I was so devastated that I just chucked the whole thing and turned to bottles only. It was the wrong decision but it was the one I made. I try not to beat myself up about it. He is almost 4 and a wonderful child, breast milk or not. Your story might have helped me, so it may help someone else. Thanks for continuing to share it.

8 Ernesta March 13, 2009 at 11:18 am

I remember the sadness I felt weaning both my little ones…chapters close but new ones open up…I still feel very close to them with the hundred and one hugs we give eachother every week!

9 Valerie March 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

I weaned my first at 14 mo to TTC again, and it was traumatic for both of us – she was really not ready. Of course, I felt worse when that FET failed.

The second was 22 mo and doing more playing than drinking. It was getting frustrating and I was booked for a biopsy, so decided that the magic “2 yr” mark wasn’t worth the effort. He was totally ready – took the cup of milk and never asked for mom again. Oddly enough, he dropped the soother at the same time and I thought he’d never give THAT up!

10 alison March 13, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I nursed Leah full-time for 6 months, and then had to return to work, but kept the morning/evening sessions until she was 11 months or so, but she lost interest and weaned herself. I nursed Rachel for my 1-year mat leave (the leave didn’t increase to 1 year until after Leah was born, which was a shame), and went to the morning/night schedule when I went back to work, but a month later, my milk dried up. I noticed that it was starting to hurt when Rae nursed, she was sucking harder for less milk. Pumping didn’t help. My boobs just decided that they were finished. Rae was drinking homo milk from a bottle and a cup by then, so she didn’t miss it as much as I did, I loved the cuddles and the quiet time.

11 colleen March 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I saw a news item last week about a Mother in the U.K. who is still breast feeding her 8 year old daughter. The daughter is almost as bid as her Mother. She says she will stop when her daughter wants to stop.

12 Ingrid March 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I stopped with all 3 when they were 13 or 14 months, and all were down to 1 feeding per day. I worked shift work so the feeding would be in the morning or at night. With the first one, I suddenlt wanted my personal space back to it was a spur of the moment decision. She never took a bottle so she’d had 100% mommy up to that point, along with a sippy cup.
With the second one, I forgot to feed him before I went to work one night, then forgot a second day, so it was over ( do I sound like a bad mother? I hope not!).
The 3rd one was planned to stop; right after a vacation and he was 14 months. It was a little tough with shift work, and 2 other kids but I was content with what I had given him. He also never had a bottle. I was sad because I knew he was my last, and I had loved breastfeeding all of them.

Bottom line – do what is best for you and your family.

13 Fawn March 13, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Yes, some kids stop on their own and some don’t. I know one woman in town here who is involved in LLL. She weaned her son when he was 7 because he was getting too rough. I’m pretty sure he’s an only child, as I can’t imagine breastfeeding going on so long when there are older or younger siblings in the picture!

I “accidentally” weaned Jade when she was a month or two past her second birthday. She’d been taking milk in a bottle for over a year and we would interchange then for bedtime. One day I realized she hadn’t breastfed in a week and I decided, well, this is it, I guess. So I really have no memory of the last time.

Well, that’s not exactly true, now that I think of it. Jade kept asking for “mok” for months after that and every once in a while I’d let her latch on, especially after her seizures started and she wanted the comfort. Even without milk, it was comforting. She’d latch for less than 10 seconds, but that was enough. (It wasn’t even a proper latch, anyway!)

Now I can’t let her do that because of her special diet, but when the baby nurses, she’ll ask to do it, too. I just let her put her face up to my nursing bra and she finds that comforting. It’s such a nice, special snuggle time.

14 kate March 13, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I was just reminiscing about this today; my coworker just weaned her son and she’s suffering engorgement. Which is neither here nor there of course, just interesting coincidence.

Anyways, my son was probably around 20 months old when we weaned. I just used the “don’t offer don’t refuse” strategy, and one week when he was sick and his routine got screwed up, the bedtime nurse just went away. If you do the don’t offer don’t refuse, then you know that he’s still getting something out of it.

15 karen March 13, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I breast fed my son until he turned 3. It was my decision to stop, not his. He was sad a few days. I think you should stop when one or both of you feels its time. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d breast feed that long, I was hoping to make 6 months, then a year. He would not touch white milk(still won’t at 6) and wouldn’t touch soy, so I continued to breast feed. I was happy to do so and others were happy to tell me I was ruining my son. I can tell you he has not suffered from extended breast feeding, he can’t even remember doing it. He still loves the smell of my skin and mentions it daily, that I believe is the only leftover from breatfeeding.

16 Janet March 13, 2009 at 8:31 pm

My son weaned on his own when he was about two-and-a-half. It was a really gradual process over a number of months – dropping from 3 nursings to 2 and then 1. And then, one night, he just didn’t want to nurse anymore. Instead, he just wanted to be held against my breast while he sucked his thumb. He did that every night for a few weeks during the transition.

I think that because he weaned so gradually, it gave both of us the time we needed to adjust.

17 DaniGirl March 14, 2009 at 6:18 am

These are such sweet, gentle stories. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to comment. I love the variety of perspectives, but I keep coming back to the tenderness that runs like a thread through all the stories.

18 Shannon March 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Great post – I’m so glad things worked out for you and you have been able to keep nursing so long!! It will be wonderful for other moms to read this. I know of a couple moms who just stopped nursing as soon as they needed to supplement at all. And as for knowing when to stop, I do think it is a very personal decision. It has to be right for you AND for him. I basically let my kids decide – my two boys were not very interested in sitting to nurse after 13-14 months old and they basically weaned on their own. No sadness, just all worked out very naturally. My 14 month old little girl is another story. She has NEVER taken a bottle and still won’t – she drinks a little water from a sippy cup but that’s it. She loves nursing and doesn’t seem close to being ready to be finished, so for now I will just continue until I see signs that she is ready to stop. Which at this point I am a little worried may not be until high school 😉 We have a wonderful nursing relationship so I am happy to continue for as long as she wants, I enjoy every moment of it.

19 Deepayan March 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm

way to go…best of luck.

20 Amy @ Muddy Boots March 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

My oldest son weaned on his own at around 18 months. We were down to before bed and sometimes first thing in the morning when he just flat out refused. I was sad. I probably could’ve pushed it, but didn’t like that idea either.

I had to wean my now 2 year old last May. I was newly pregnant and had been having some significant bleeding. I was worried about continuing nursing. It didn’t help that once I got pregnant, my milk supply took a drastic nose dive. Nursing was getting VERY painful. So it wasn’t fun for me and, with the lack of supply, it was really frustrating for him. The end wasn’t as gentle as I would’ve liked, but he handled it well. He was around 18 months.

My youngest is 10 weeks old and an absolute champ. I love the breastfeeding relationship.

21 Chantal March 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm

I love hearing happy, contented weaning stories.

I wish I could remember the last day I nursed. I know it was somewhere around the time Alex was 2 or so. Like Lucas, we were nursing just at night before bed. It had been a long haul with that baby, harder than his sisters (with the sleeping mostly, he was an easy nurser) and I was happy to be done and so was he. We made a good team! The peaceful slow way we did it was a nice way to cap off almost nine years of straight pregnancy and nursing four babies!

22 onetiredema March 16, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Still going with my second, some days I think he’s losing interest (won’t before a nap), some days he’s clingy and wants to nurse at random times.

I might be thinking about weaning more seriously if we weren’t facing some major life changes in the coming months.

23 Elise March 18, 2009 at 8:28 pm

My son is 17 months old, nurses first thing in the morning and at night.

My parents are coming from France in June and I was thinking that I would keep on nursing during the winter and then wean him in April so that my husband and I could have a long deserved weekend by ourselves (so far since our son was born we’ve had just one day, as we have no family here !)

So April is not far and I am thinking that… in fact I am not ready to wean him. I’d like to wait until he’s not interested anymore, which sometimes seem pretty close, and sometimes very further ahead…

I was wondering, and disagreeing with my husband. The “don’t offer / don’t say no approach” sounds good to me, sounds exactly what I should do.

Thank you Dani for asking for comments and everybody for comments. It was very helpful to me !

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