I read a lot on these forums about breastfeeding success and failures, improving milk, etc. However, you read very little about weaning. A good friend of mine is a lactation consultant and LLL leader. We were seated the other day, having a talk about the subject of weaning and how reluctant women are to ask for help or even share the fact that they have chosen to wean.
I firmly believe in the merits of child-led-weaning (wherein the child prompts the end of the lactation relationship usually between 2-4 years of age). However, I can also understand the endless tapestry of reasons for mother-led weaning. However, it is not something that those of us who support lactation offer enough support or open discussion about, though it can very well be part of the normal breastfeeding relationship.
I have four children. I am breastfeeding the fourth and she is about to be two. This is the longest I have ever breastfed. With my first two I weaned before they were old enough to care, with my third I lost my supply when I became pregnant with number four and he lost interest in my boobs. Now with baby four I am still bfing multiple times a day. She is lu-trained, talking, has lost all her baby teeth, and is in the 99th percentile for height and weight. So you can imagine the dirty looks I get when she insists on having some "boobie" at the mall. Now, I for one do not give a flying crap what uneducated people at the mall think about my bfing toddler. However, I am starting to feel like I want my body back. I am ready for a change and I know that the inevitable closure will come soon anyway. I would like to start pushing her in the direction of weaning. I really want to be done by the time she turns two in February, which I think gives me a good amount of time to gently prompt weaning.
Of course, I have mixed feelings, I want her to be a baby forever because she is likely my last blessing. However, I know little about intentional weaning because it is so rarely discussed. SO baby-led or mother-led I want to hear stories, advice, etc. No judgement. This is simply a space for us to discuss the end of that relationship, sad, happy, however you feel, it is all totally understood.
With my first, I weaned her onto the bottle at 12 months of age because the grandparents pushed for this - they wanted to be able to feed her. By 13 months of age she no longer wanted to breastfeed as she preferred the bottle. I was also pregnant with #2 at that point so I didn't mind her weaning. I have mixed feelings about this. I chose not to wean my other 4 children onto a bottle when they turned 12 months, and I was sad that I gave into the urging of the grandparents. I wish I could have breastfed her longer, however I was also happy that I was able to get full nights sleeps during the first 4 months of pregnancy with my 2nd child which likely would not have been the case had she weaned later.
Baby #2 breastfed the longest, weaning around 3 years of age.
Babies #3 and #4 weaned between 2 1/2-3 years of age.
Baby #5 (my last) weaned between 2 and 2 1/2 years of age, which was shorter than the previous 3. I was saddened by this as I had a feeling she would be my last, at 40 years of age.
My last baby weaned mostly because there was so much activity in the house (with 4 other siblings) that she just became too busy for cuddle time. She has siblings that are much older than her, and siblings that are close in age, so she had "play mates" and "caregivers". I was home, but I was also pouring myself into a new endeavor because I was so empty (emotionally) and I needed to know that what I was doing was valuable to someone other than my children. It was my way of coping in an empty marriage of 20 years.
So due to those three factors (my attention mostly in my new endeavor, and my youngest having play mates and care givers 24 hours a day), my little one chose to wean shortly after her 2nd birthday.
You may want to start with weaning while you are out and about. One way to do this is by keeping your little one in the trolley while you're shopping and if you stop for a rest and she wants to crawl up on your lap, keep her turned around so she's not facing your chest. If she insists on breastfeeding then try to have a cup with a straw on hand and offer that instead, or a little snack. Something to distract her from the breast, but also you can still cuddle her while you rest, and she sits on your lap with her back to you.
You can also wean during the day, so that you get her down to just breastfeeding upon waking, before nap and before going to bed. From there it shouldn't be too hard to drop a feed... or you may decide you want to stay with those until she is ready to wean.
Being that she may be your last, and you may want to cherish those cuddly breastfeeding moments before bed, but if you wean during the day, that may give you a big enough break that you feel like you have your body back during the day (and when you're out and about).
Weaning doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you drop one feed at a time you may come to a point where you're really happy with a continued breastfeeding relationship just once or twice a day.
Thank you Kate. My little one has three older siblings, who I thought would distract her, but it is not happening lol. She is very attached to her mum. I work from home, 40+ hours per week, while my husband attends nursing school. Her constant need for me gets so stressful at times, but I also understand, after having four children, that this period in her life is so precious and so fleeting. I always look forward to your advice and suggestions Kate. I definitely think that distracting her from the breast, starting with public outings, may help me to acquire some of the freedom I am seeking.
Wow - working 40+ hours a week from home plus raising 4 children and caring for your husband is quite a feet!
How old are your other children? Are they home all the time or do they go off to school? Homeschooling all of our children meant they were always here when my youngest was 2. The youngest is now 8, and the two oldest children attend college and work, but they were all here when she was little.
What does your little one do during most of the time when you are working? I'm wondering if she's possibly feeling that she is not getting as much of your undivided attention as she would like (or need?). When my oldest was 2, I was focused on starting a business and she spent a lot of time playing by herself. She would even climb over the gate I had in the doorway when I told her not to. She wanted my attention so much that she was willing to disobey even if she received correction (negative attention) from me.
I recognized this and my business start-up was short lived, which actually was a huge blessing for my children because they got their Mama back. My 2nd child was born in the middle of the start-up so he was only about 4 months old when I was able to give my full attention back to my family.
Just wondering if giving your little one 15 minutes of undivided attention every 3 hours would help her not to be so "needy". You could read her a book or play or sing together - something that involves eye contact and total focus on her without distractions.
I know - easier said than done. But I've found that when I really made a point of doing this, my days always went smoother and my children were happy.