A post called Weaning

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.

Before I had my first child, the word weaning was not one I was familiar with. Actually, my confusion about its meaning, if I had considered it enough to be confused, was natural – on my native side of the Atlantic, they use “weaning” to mean the process of starting solids. In the US, it means the process of stopping breastfeeding.

Of course, my pre-child self would say, because those two things are the same. The baby starts eating food, so it stops breastfeeding. A simple, gradual process that will come about of its own accord.

This totally fails to take into account all the other things that breastfeeding provides for a baby, a toddler, a pre-schooler, even, that they may be unwilling to give up even when they’re happily chowing down on three-course dinners. Comfort, familiarity, a sure route to sleep, relief from bumps and scrapes and imminent tantrums.

I had my baby, and I hoped to breastfeed him for at least, I said, the first three months; hopefully six. My midwife said something about a year, but I thought she was getting way ahead of herself. I couldn’t imagine lending my breasts to someone else for a whole year. I need them back, I thought. At some point in the foreseeable future.

Well, after a painful start we were off and running, and by the time we got to three months everything was just starting to go really well. Why would I stop and mess around with formula now? Clearly, the six month marker was ahead.

At six months, he was starting solids, sure, but that didn’t make any difference to our nursing. Solids were for playing with, for finding out about textures and gravity and motor skills. Anything that made it into his stomach was merely collateral damage. On we went.

Coming up to twelve months I began to wonder how the stopping would work. I couldn’t really imagine not nursing him, because he still wasn’t very much of an eater – I met a friend who told me her nine-month-old ate three meals a day now; I looked at him in wonder to hear of such a thing – and he still woke and needed to nurse back to sleep several times a night. After some thought, I gave up on the 12-month notion.

At 21 months I decided that something had to be done, as I wanted to get pregnant again. I cut back the on-demand feeding and got us down to three times a day, then just morning and evening. He started sleeping through the night so I no longer had to nurse him back to sleep at 3am. But this kid is a breast man – he didn’t take any of these changes lightly, and as my pregnancy progressed – yes, it worked! – I’d give in to his pestering for some “side,” just so I could have a little more lazing-on-the-sofa time.

When his sister was born, we were in tandem nursing territory – another thing I’d always said I’d never do – for a while. Every time the baby latched on, her brother wanted to get in on the action, and afraid of making him resent her, I’d give in, though the sensation of two at once gave me the heebie-jeebies, to be honest. After a few weeks, I suppose, I started cutting back again for the big kid – he was two-and-a-half by now, after all. On the other hand, I was nursing one, so what was the issue with nursing the other now and then to keep him quiet too? We went back to mornings and evenings.

And there we stayed, for quite a while. When he turned four we cut out the evenings. When he turned four-and-a-half, we cut out the mornings. That was it; he was weaned. Only four years from start to finish. A simple, gradual process. Just as I had imagined. Just a tiny bit longer.

It took about a year for him to stop trying to cop a feel every time I fed his sister. I think that’s about standard.

And now he’s six. Here he’s reaching for the camera, not my boob.


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):

11 thoughts on “A post called Weaning

  1. Tam

    Wonderful post – it’s amazing how the time flies. My little wasn’t much of an eater either and I was so thankful to know he was at least getting breastmilk. He didn’t hold on through my pregnancy but I half expected him to. He still naps on my bare chest, but thankfully doesn’t cop a feel 😉

  2. Shannon at The Artful Mama

    “It took about a year for him to stop trying to cop a feel every time I fed his sister. I think that’s about standard.”

    Is that really how long I have until he stops jamming his hands down my shirt at every turn!?
    I too had no plans for how long I was going to nurse. I don’t even think I set a date in my head to begin with. I’m glad we made it as long as we did. Thank you for sharing.

  3. anelie

    My experience has been so similar to yours – serious Ouch at the start, everything back on track by 3 months, still nursing just fine at 6, and yes, solids as toys at the 10 month point 😉 I too had hazy initial thoughts of nursing until 6 months, but I’ll be astounded if my little guy is weaned by 12 months. Breastfeeding through pregnancy and a new bub must have taken such patience and strength, well done you.

  4. aspen

    love your reference to the midwife saying something about a year. lol. arent midwives great?! and isnt it amazing the way what we expect just changes and grows along the way?

  5. jessica

    love.the.post! And yes I would say a year is about standard ;-). That is exactly how most of my weaning storied would go if I could remember exactly how they went. Thank you for a good laugh – I needed it!

  6. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

    I had to chuckle at the thought that we lend our breasts to someone. It does feel like that, doesn’t it? But this was even better: “Only four years from start to finish. A simple, gradual process. Just as I had imagined. Just a tiny bit longer.” I am looking at the end of the breastfeeding relationship with my four year old (“four and a quarter!” according to him), but it does feel like a tiny bit longer. 🙂

  7. Dr. Laura Markham

    Yes, it took about a year for my daughter to stop being obsessed with my breasts. Long after she stopped nursing, I couldn’t wear low cut tops or sleep naked in case she came into the bed at night. She was so into breasts that I was sure she was going to go for women when she got older. She’s now a teenager and likes guys, and she doesn’t remember nursing and has no particular interest in breasts — but she does assume that she’ll nurse her babies, and when she sees babies nursing she thinks it’s beautiful. I love how we’re raising a whole generation of kids who think of breastfeeding as natural and beautiful! Thanks for your post.

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