Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.


…and I’m not sure that “I feel fine”.

Wow. So this is it, huh? My little girl is no longer a nursling now at 27 months old. We are moving on to new ways of relating, coping with tantrums and boo-boos, and generally finding and covering new ground together. I just was not expecting it to be so soon.

Back when I was newly pregnant I honestly didn’t think much about breastfeeding or how to feed a baby until a friend of mine had her baby and breastfed her daughter. I remember thinking how great it was that we’d still go for a coffee at Starbucks and her daughter would just get fed right there while we hung out and chatted. How convenient! So THIS is how babies are meant to be fed! A ha!

I am SO indebted to this friend for normalizing breastfeeding for me while I was pregnant and also nursing in public. It meant that when I had my daughter, I knew exactly what I was going to do and so formula never entered the picture for us. Sure… there was that one time at 5 months old when she woke every 45 minutes to an hour and a half, all night long, when I begged my hubby to buy a bottle and some formula in an effort to get her to sleep longer. She, however, would have nothing to do with it. Now looking back I thank my lucky stars that she didn’t like the bottle nor the formula. We went back to nursing and I held fast and desperately tight to my parenting mantra “This Too Shall Pass”. Right? Right? And it did. Things got better.

My goal in the early days was to get to 6 months of breastfeeding until we introduced solid foods. Then as that date got closer, and I realized that if we stopped nursing we’d need to do formula instead, I decided I wanted to nurse for a year. Given she’d need formula that long if we didn’t, and by that point I’d read enough to realize how good mama milk was, I knew that I’d much rather continue breastfeeding than to switch to formula and lose out on all the benefits.

So on we went… nursing on demand. And when she fell down and got hurt. And when she was teething. And when she needed comfort. Oh… and when she was hungry, of course. Or bored. Or sick. I soon came to realize that breastfeeding was my best and most valued parenting tool. Indeed it was my “one thing does it all” tool I often thought. Was my girl having a bad day? Press reset: breastfeed! Was she sick and couldn’t breathe? Breastfeed! Was she tired and wouldn’t go to sleep? Breastfeed! Were we out and about and I had forgotten to bring along a snack for her? Breastfeed! It was just so handy. How did parents do it without breastfeeding I wondered?!?! Honestly, I realized that it fit perfectly with my not-so-energetic personality. I could nurse in bed at night and not even have to get out of bed or fully wake up. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding meant I slept more. Thank God as I couldn’t imagine how much harder it would have been given the sleep deprivation was HARD that first year as it was. And as I stayed at home and didn’t return to work, I never even started pumping either. No pumping, no cleaning pumping supplies, no cleaning bottles, no boiling and cooling water. Ahhhhh! Everything was always “straight from the tap” for my little bean, and frankly I think we both preferred it that way.

When she turned one I realized that we weren’t ready to stop just yet. She was still such a booby baby and I knew that my breastmilk didn’t suddenly turn to water at age 1 so on we continued. I once heard it referred to as that each day she was only one day older, and indeed, that is how I felt. If she needed it yesterday, why would she suddenly not need it today? Or tomorrow? I knew that some day our time to wean would come but hoped that it would come peacefully. By a year of nursing, I felt rather “lactivisty” to be honest. I was so impressed with what all I knew about breastfeeding at that point, having read much about it, that I thought everyone should know the benefits too. I remember how shamefully little I knew or understood pre-baby and hoped that I could share information in a supportive manner for anyone who might need it. I read Kelly Mom, The Leaky Boob, Code Name: Mama, and the Lakeshore Medical Breastfeeding Medical Clinic pages on Facebook religiously. I learned so much about so many issues from mamas and experts alike.

So, given I now knew that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended breastfeeding to two years and beyond, it became my new goal. A woman in my birth club had posted a funny little post about “earning breastfeeding badges” as though it were the Olympics or Brownie badges. They made me giggle, but still… I wanted to earn my “platinum boobs” at that point.

Breastfeeding Length & Badge Earned:

3 months = Bronze Boobs

6 months = Silver Boobs

12 months = Gold Boobs

2 years = Platinum Boobs

So on we continued. Then when my daughter was 16 months old I became pregnant. How exciting! But what would happen with our breastfeeding journey? I had read quite a bit about nursing in pregnancy and tandem nursing. Could we do it? I knew it might be hard. It certainly was tough for a while there while pregnant. I felt aversion some times. The physical sensation was tough. I remember continuing to nurse her to sleep and praying to God to make it through and for her to sleep as I could barely contain myself with the heebie jeebies I felt some nights. I focused my mind elsewhere to distract myself from the physical sensation. But she needed it. She had been nursed to sleep since birth and how could I let her down now?

Somehow we made it through! My little man was born a week before she turned 2! Then tandem nursing began. It was rough those first days… I had no milk and they were both demanding. My little man was HUNGRY. He was born large at 9 lb 4 oz and frankly he wanted milk!! My daughter needed comfort as there was this new crying baby requiring my attention. My hubby was a GOD. He helped me to latch them both on a few times to settle the meltdowns. And a few times in those first few days I had the joy of watching them both melt into my arms and fall asleep one at each side of me post-mama-milk fix. It was glorious! I had my hubby take pictures. I was a Goddess! I was all-powerful!

My daughter also learned to sleep through the night during my pregnancy. We finally night weaned gently using Dr. Jay Gordon’s method of gentle night weaning and she continued to co-sleep with me. She actually settled in quite nicely as the milk really wasn’t there anyway. So she continued to nurse to sleep and then slept through and I’d nurse my little man who was now co-sleeping on the other side of me. I was a human pillow all night long often covered in my toddler’s feet and my little man snuggled up into my armpit on the other side. They were adorable.

I was willing to continue this way for as long as my daughter needed at this point. Why rock the boat? She only nursed first thing in the morning (it was always the first thing she asked for when she’d wake up), then at nap time and at bed time. And once my little man was born, she decided naps were for chumps anyway, so often it was only twice a day for nursing her.

Then… the biting started. I had introduced a “ten count” while pregnant to save my sanity. When I had all I could take of nursing physically, I’d say “milk is over in ten” and then count up to ten and unlatch her. This worked relatively well for a while. Then she started to protest when I’d say it. She would start whimpering while still on the breast. She would cover the breast with her hands to try to stop me from unlatching her. I was gentle but insistent that it was time to stop. It was SO tough. I knew she loved her mama milk SO much and I hated to do something she didn’t like. But physically, I could only handle nursing her for maybe 10 minutes tops.

After a few months she started biting when I’d go to unlatch her. She would nurse and then I’d start the ten count and “YEEEEOOOUCH!!!!”. I told her not to bite mama, that it hurt and mama didn’t like it. She persisted. I eventually started saying that if she bit at the end of a session she would not get to nurse next time. She still bit. I was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t take the biting and I had my little man to nurse and if she damaged my nipples I was in trouble with a 3 month old to feed. What to do? I started telling her that if she continued on we would have to stop nursing entirely. No more mama milk. Well… after about a week of warnings and biting… I decided we were done. Just like that. And I was completely heartbroken. I had hoped that begging her and telling her that mama milk would end would mean that she would finally stop biting me. But it didn’t matter. She kept on biting… even when I would tell her while she was nursing that she was NOT to bite mama. She still did. I wanted to cry each time she bit me. And so one last time on April 2nd, 2012… 27 month into our breastfeeding journey, I told her I would nurse her at bedtime but there would be no more mama milk if she bit me. I made sure she was paying attention. And at the end of the session I told her not to bite before I said “milk is over in ten”. And she bit me one last time. That was it. I wanted to bawl my eyes out. She went to sleep like nothing had happened, but I knew better. I knew something major had happened. Our whole world had changed in one night. We were no longer nursing.

But what would I do if she got hurt? What if she had a meltdown? How would I deal with her if she was begging me for mama milk? It was such an easy fix and such a good way to connect and calm her down. Would she let me soothe her in other ways? I didn’t know. About a week after this night she woke one morning and I was out of bed already. She came to me crying about needing mama milk. I told her we didn’t do that any more because she was biting me. She insisted. So I told her we would as long as she didn’t bite me. She said OK, nursed and… bit me. Le sigh. I thought for a moment that maybe we would go back to nursing again. But… not. It was not meant to be.

For the week or more following the end of nursing, she would ask at the usual times for mama milk. I would dread the question as I HATED saying no to her. I really did. But I hated being bitten more. So I would say to her sadly but calmly “I’m sorry honey, we don’t do mama milk any more because you were biting me. We do cuddles instead now.” She might ask twice and I would reply with the same response every time. Then she seemed satisfied with that answer and would cuddle and go to sleep.

I wondered how she was really doing with the weaning though. Did she understand? Was she okay? I sort of felt that I was taking it harder than she was. I had not expected to be done so soon as she was SUCH a booby girl for SO long. Was she really ready to move on? Then one night as I was nursing my little man in bed for sleep and she was beside me ready for stories, she came over to watch and said that my little man “loves mama milk”. I said “yes, he does” to which she replied “I bite your nipples”. I tried not to giggle and said to her “yes, that is why we don’t do mama milk any more, right?” and she nodded her head and told me “we do cuddles!” very emphatically. I was SO happy and proud of her. “That’s right precious!” I told her “we do cuddles!”. I held her tightly and gave her extra cuddles and love that night. She understood. I couldn’t believe it.

So we are done nursing, but we are far from done loving and cuddling. Nursing through a pregnancy and the first 3 months with a new baby also helped with the adjustment to these changes in her life. She knew that mama was there for her as well as the new baby. And surprisingly enough, she does not seem jealous of my little man either now. She tells me “I so love him” and kisses his head gently. She does not seem jealous of his getting mama milk either. I am amazed. My little girl grew up on me over night and I wasn’t ready for it, but it appears that perhaps SHE was.

If anything, she is even more my mama girl now. She cuddles when she’s hurt or sad. And she is safe in my arms. I know I am going to hurt and grieve the loss of our nursing relationship for some time to come. But we will learn new ways of relating. Nursing my little man is easing the pain a bit as well. I don’t know how I’m going to survive his weaning though with no new baby. I hope that with him we will just slowly ease to a natural end of weaning together with it tapering off until he doesn’t need it, but only time will tell. And we have a long way to go with him being not yet 4 months. Perhaps after more than 4 years of nursing between my daughter and son (to get him to the 2 year WHO goal) I will be more than ready to get rid of my ever milk-stained wardrobe and move onto the next phase. At least my daughter weaned me gently to break me into the idea of what that next phase will look like. But for now…I will continue to grieve a bit longer. She’s still just my little girl, and only a day older than she was yesterday.

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):