Robin’s just about a year and half old now, and we’re kicking it up a notch on the weaning. We were already down to three nursing sessions a day—morning, noon and night. That happened fairly organically. There wasn’t much conscious scheduling on my part other than a vague notion that I didn’t want to be nursing every hour and a half anymore. I guess I just started pushing it a little, not offering the breast first thing when he got fussy (but continuing to nurse him when he really demanded it) and that’s what the schedule settled into.

The real breakthrough was giving up our midnight nursing sessions. Boy, am I happy about that. The baby book advised me to refuse middle-of-the-night feedings long, long ago, but Robin had different ideas. And when it’s two A.M. and you just want to go back to sleep and the baby is screaming his head off and you know that simply nursing him will send him right back into slumberland…well, anything the books may say suddenly becomes a lot less compelling. So Robin got his way on that for a long time.

But it’s been a couple of months now without any midnight feedings. Again, all I did was keep pushing just a little: offering pats and soothing words instead of putting him to the breast right away. For a long time Robin pushed right back, insisting on a feeding, and then something changed; suddenly he was willing to be soothed. He would go back to sleep without the nursing. It was totally a change in him, not a change in anything I did. And boy, does it make my life easier.

So yeah, that was the biggest step as far as I was concerned. But lately I’ve been feeling that we should continue the weaning process. So as of today we’re dropping the morning session. I gave him a cup of milk instead, which he drank, and that seemed to go over okay although he definitely noticed the change in routine. He has a signal he gives when he wants to nurse: we have a nursing pillow on the couch, and he’ll walk up to it and start patting it. He’s been doing that off and on throughout the morning, like, “hey Mommy, I think you forgot something.” But I when I give him his milk cup instead, he accepts it.

The other two nursing sessions are going to be harder to give up. The noon feeding puts him down for his nap, and the evening feeding puts him to sleep for the night. “Milk coma,” we call it, and it’s by far the easiest way to get him to drop off. If for whatever reason he doesn’t nod off while nursing, we know we’re in for a long evening of increasingly-crabby baby, until finally either Sam gets him to sleep by walking and bouncing him, or I lie in bed with him singing lullabies while he squirms all around and kicks me in the face. So yeah, I’m not particularly eager to give up one of the most potent tools in my mothering utility belt. We’ll keep going with two nursing sessions a day for a while longer yet.

8 Responses to “Weaning”

  • Dawn Says:

    I never really managed much nursing. I know that long-term nursing is more encouraged on the continent than in the UK – and I think that giving it up is related to working patterns and not child development.

  • shannon Says:

    The consensus among liberal crunchy moms in the Bay Area is definitely friendly toward extended nursing.

  • Madeline Says:

    I nursed Ibby till 20 months. We had the same experience you’ve described–she dropped down to 3 times a day without much effort on my part, then I consciously dropped the a.m. nursing, and we kept going with the naptime and bedtime nursings for a number of months, mainly because it was by far the best way to get her to sleep. Then, when she was a bit older, we worked on creating a bedtime routine, including a bedtime snack, the same number of books, and the same songs every night (and then nursing). Then, when she hit a developmental moment when she was less interested in nursing, at 20 months, I seized it, and weaning was surprisingly easy. I was afraid she’d never nap again, but she ended up being a regular, reliable napper till she was almost 4.

    I think there are various developmental windows when they’re focused on other things (some new skill, for example) and their interest in nursing drops temporarily, and it may help to choose one of those times. I know that it can get harder for some kids to wean if they nurse beyond 2 or 2 and a half, but that’s not always difficult, either. I have friends who have nursed their kids till 2 or 3, and one who’s gone longer. For me, 20 months was just right. Charlotte, at 14 months, is now down to 3 times a day, and I plan to wean her by the time she’s 2, if not sooner.

  • anti-sara Says:

    Would putting breast milk in a bottle work?

  • shannon Says:

    Well, I don’t want to substitute a bottle since that’s just something *else* I’d have to wean him off. It’s exactly the same issue, just a different delivery mechanism.

    Madeline: do you have any tricks for getting your toddler to nap?

  • Madeline Says:

    We used a slightly shorter version of our bedtime routine at naptime every day, and that worked well for Ibby. Books, songs, and lots of ritual, including saying the same words when we left the room each time. She was always adding on more ritual elements–more things we had to say or do.

    As she got older, she needed a later nap. I would wait to start the nap routine till she seemed tired–around 1:30 or 2.

    We also used a pacifier. Of course, that’s just one more thing to wean from… And she has a special stuffed animal, and a whole army of other stuffed animals and books on rotating duty in her bed.

    Oh, and we played the same music during her naps every day–usually a very mellow yoga/meditation CD, though she had phases of wanting other things, like Christmas music or “Pure Funk.”

  • shannon Says:

    Pure Funk! Ha! Funky baby…ohhhh yeah…

    But seriously, while we are already building up Robin’s bedtime ritual, I am pretty reluctant to go through that twice a day. I must admit that right now when he doesn’t drop off to sleep after nursing, I will either take him out in the stroller so the motion puts him to sleep (not shameful) or put on an Elmo DVD for him to drop off to (kinda shameful!) I guess I should really be building more long term sleep-triggers for him.

  • Madeline Says:

    Yeah, the twice-a-day elaborate sleep routine is a lot of trouble. Nursing is much easier for me, particularly since I can work on my laptop, check my email, or read a book while getting the baby to bed. And nursing is almost always reliable for inducing sleep. So I’m planning to keep going with it for a while longer this time around, too.

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