February 20, 2014

the weaning dilemma

The fact that I am even writing this post amazes me.  If you would have told me when I first wrote about my internal debate to nurse Elsie or not, that I would be struggling with the decision to wean after she was one, I would have laughed in your face.  I was fairly certain that I wouldn't make it past the six week mark, was pretty confident that we'd be done by six months, and I was adameant that as soon as she got teeth it was all over.

And yet here I sit, with a 12.5 month old who still happily nurses 3-4 times a day, debating whether or not it is time to coax her to wean.

man, my girls and their baby blues

For the must part, Elsie and I have had a very easy nursing relationship.  I have never had to supplement with formula, and she has gotten maybe a dozen bottles over the past year.  I despised pumping and cleaning bottles and parts and crap so I pretty much always made sure that that I was around to nurse her.  Of course that caused me to miss out on a heck of a lot of free time and date nights, but I don't look back on the past year with regret for any of that.  But it was the most difficult part of our nursing relationship.  Me feeling so chained to her.

So one would think I'd be jumping at the highly accepted 'appropriate time' to essentially cute her off, right?  But I'm not.  Why, I'm not 100% sure, but I didn't even attempt to drop a feeding until after her first birthday.  As of yesterday I've cut the sessions that I offer to three, when she wakes, before nap and before bed.  They are the most productive ones and the least annoying to do, sort of anyway.  I've offered whole milk a handful of times, cold and warm (just in a sippy since she never drank out of bottles anyway) and every time she hurls the cup across the room and gives me a disgusted look.  I know that it will just take time for her to warm up to it, but I don't see it happening any time soon.


I'm antsy for the freedom that weaning would bring me.  I look forward to wearing real bras and not tailoring my clothing choices around nursing.  I want to wake up in the morning and go for a run when I want, without having to worry about pumping or waiting for E to wake up.  But are those reasons to force her to stop?  Not that I'd cut her off cold turkey, it would definitely be a gradual approach, but should I play a part in it?  Or completely follow her lead?

It isn't like I have any time away from the girls planned (though that would be nice!  love you girls, but this mama has only been away for a night once in the last FOUR YEARS).  I'm not hoping to be pregnant in the immediate future.  Nursing isn't really hindering my life that much.  I know the milk is still benefitting Elsie, especially since she has no interest in cows milk just yet.  Plus there have been a few times that I thank God that I am nursing Elsie, such as when she completely breaks down at the doctor and nothing but boobs will console her.  And it is no doubt the easiest way to get her to sleep.


But... it could be nice to be done.  And it sure would be nice to take a few less heel kicks to the jaw throughout the day.  Nursing seems to be somewhat of a contact sport in E's eyes.  So what to do, what to do.

Elsie hasn't seemed to care too much about the nursing sessions I dropped.  Both of which I replaced with snack, because they were when Ry was eating a snack and Elsie would rather eat food than nurse anyway.  But she has become noticeably more clingy to me.  Occasionally acting like she wanted to nurse, but never truly upset, just wanting to be attached to me somehow.


I suppose the best answer is to just keep at it for now, since I seem to be unsure about stopping.  But I'd love to hear how you other mamas have approached the situation.


Sandy said...

I nursed my son for 13 months. At that point, he was just nursing for comfort, and my schedule had picked up. I didn't have much success with pumping, so it just kind of ended. But, with you, I totally missed the reset button that nursing offered. If he was super antsy or upset, nursing for a few minutes would totally calm him down, and I missed that when we were done.

I think you are doing exactly the right thing to wait until you feel ready to give it up all the way.

Meredith said...

I totally understand. I felt the same way around that age with Becca--that I was kinda done, but she wasn't.

Around that time, I bought a couple of cheap Target bras (not nursing ones) and wore those along with a regular cami under everything. It was still easy enough to nurse, but it was SO NICE to be out of nursing bras and tanks and to feel like I could wear "real" clothes for the most part.

I seriously thought Becca would nurse forever, even a week before she no longer seemed interested!

Amy S said...

We mixed breast milk with whole milk to make the transition, and it worked well. A year seems so long when you think about being tied to breastfeeding, but in the grand scheme of things, it really is just a small part of the life of this sweet girl. Do it as long as you like! Well, unless she is three... LOL!

Ashley Antkowiak said...

Im facing the same dilemma soon! I nursed my first until 6 months and my second was almost exclusively on formula by 5 months thanks to supply issues. Ella is 8 months and I already know im going to have a hard time weaning her! Add a dairy allergy to everything you said and that's what im up against! I suppose ill be looking into almond milk soon... I look forward to seeing how things go for you!

amy said...

I think you're doing exactly the right thing. Replace sessions with snacks and offer drinks. With both of my girls (I'm nursing my third now) I let them lead the way. #1 stopped at 13 months when my supply tanked as I was pregnant with #2. #2 weaned at 17 months...like you I replaced sessions and reduced to morning nap and night...eventually stopped offering the morning and finally she just stopped asking and I stopped offering altogether. I'd say if you're unsure, stay with the status quo.

Sarah and Derek said...

I think you know my input on this. I defintely think you should gradually wean (1 dropping a week) but after a year, I don't think they need it. It's more of an attachment then nutrition. It's going to take her a bit to accept milk but just make sure she gets her dairy in other ways. Instead of nursing when she wakes up, go right to breakfast. Nap after lunch and offer a sippy of milk before bed. That's just my input, no way was I nursing pass 1. Stopped at 11 months

Kristin {Sea Cow Circus} said...

I totally understand your reasoning/thought process - and kudos to you for making it so long! I nursed my daughter (now 3.5) for 13 months. I think at the end, nursing was mostly habit for her, with comfort being a secondary reason. She's never taken to milk (cow/coconut/soy/almond/etc.) except for in cereal, and I think nursing is mostly the reason for that, although I don't feel bad about it and she still loves cheese and yogurt. With us, I gradually decreased the number of nursing sessions ... we dropped the night time one right before we went on a trip, and I think the change in routine/location made it easier for the dropped session to go virtually unnoticed. We dropped the last one, the morning session, about a week before I started a new job that would have me away from her in the mornings, anyway. She just started to take a bottle of breast milk from my pump stash instead of nursing, and eventually just drank pumped milk occasionally from a sippy cup. It all happened very naturally and without much fuss or fanfare. My supply is currently dwindling and I think my days nursing my 7-month-old son are numbered, but he's definitely a creature of habit and I don't want to rock his world just yet.

allison said...

My newest goal is 2 years but I'm not exactly sure what that'll look like for us session wise. Right now my daughter is 13.5 months old and nurses 4 times a day, 3 if we're busy and I don't have the time to offer. I think she'd be fine dropping down to 2 because she's never really scrambled to be fed but nutritionally breast milk is suited quite well for a toddler. Comfort nursing or not it's still an incredibly healthy snack in a world of processed & packaged goods.

I'm also able to feed her early on nights my husband & I want to go out on a date. Instead of her last nursing being after her dinner and around 6 PM I nurse her early and have the babysitter give her dinner and water before bed while we're gone.