Thursday, August 13, 2009

Weaning the Bear

I wanted to wait until we'd actually finished our weaning process, and then give it a little time to see how things went for the next few weeks as well...but I promised I'd report on how weaning went so here it is. ☺

I mentioned at the time that I did not make the decision to wean hastily. I had already been working on night-weaning (on and off) for several months, and I took the time to talk with other mothers who had weaned children of this age, as well as with mothers who had tandem nursed toddlers and newborns. It was around the first of May that I made the firm decision to wean.

Here is what we did:

PHASE ONE
We chose a date near the end of the month (the day we were leaving on the ferry) and started prepping him for it. "You are a very big boy, and I know you love nursing, but you don't need it." "When we drive the car onto the big boat and go away on the big boat then we won't have nanu anymore."
I cut out all nursing except naptime and bedtime. We had mostly done this previously, but for the times when he did ask, I worked on distracting him--offering him other food or drinks, finding a toy, etc.
Next, I cut the nap and bedtime nursing sessions to 5 minutes. Yes, I watched on my watch. I told him that we could just have a little bit of nanu, and I gave him a "one minute warning" as we were getting to the end. We did this for about a week. In the meantime I became a stickler about the night-weaning...as I said we'd worked on it before, but I started wearing a bra to bed again so he couldn't nurse without waking me--and it worked to help me wake up enough to remember that I'd rather hold a sad baby for a little while than have him keep nursing...
It was in the first couple of days of this phase that I did have some engorgement (ie, being full of milk because he wasn't nursing it out) but that was one day of discomfort and then my body adjusted to the lowered production.
As we cut back on the nursing, we made sure that other things were part of the bedtime routine--brushing teeth, saying prayers, a story, a song, some snuggles...I'd been doing this somewhat before, but I was more diligent about it as I started really focusing on cutting out the nursing.
This all lasted for about a week.

PHASE TWO
I cut the bed/naptime nursing to 2 minutes (again, by my watch) and did that for about another week...maybe 4-5 days.
We also concluded night-weaning in this phase.
I did notice at this point that as I nursed him less, I became less tolerant of it as well. Tender breasts has always been a pregnancy symptom of mine and I had feared that it might affect him nursing, but in the early months I rarely noticed tenderness when he nursed. As my body got less familiar with the sensation though, it got more sensitive to it I guess. So as I shortened the nursing times I told him--very honestly--that the nurns hurt and we could only nurse for a very short time. He was not excited about this, but was concerned about my pain (he kissed the nurns a few times) and didn't really complain about the changes.
I did notice this week that his appetite really increased. I'd noticed it a little before, but especially with the night-weaning finalized he started eating really big breakfasts (I guess he'd been nursing more in the night than I'd realized!)

PHASE THREE
I stopped the naptime nursings--I cheated a lot by putting him to bed with movies this week, but hey, it worked. I also cut the bedtime nursing to 1 minute by the clock. He often would tell me that he wanted some more, or that he "needed da nanu." I told him that the nanu hurt, and that I knew he loved it, but he didn't need it. Then I'd cuddle him and sing to him all the more.
Again, 4-5 days for this phase.

By the time we reached Weaning Day, he was not nursing anytime except bedtime, and then only for (literally) a minute. He usually needed snuggles for quite a while to get to sleep, but he was not nursing, which was the goal. He had gone to sleep for several naps (and even a couple of bedtimes) without nursing and even without mommy--usually thanks to movies but sometimes with daddy cuddles instead.
The ferry departed Pelican around 4pm, and it arrived in Juneau late, so I wanted to be sure that Bear had a good nap. Knowing that we would not have night-nursing that night, I did nurse him down for that nap. Being the last time, I let him nurse as long as he wanted (he only nursed about 10 minutes before he conked out).

AFTERWARDS
For the first couple of weeks he frequently asked to "just hold dem," which I allowed if we were cuddled in the bed, and he periodically tried to sneak little sucks when he thought I wasn't looking, which I did not allow. Ironically it was 4 days after W-Day that he woke up in the middle of the night barfing, and so I allowed him to nurse again a bit that night because I know that nothing is as good for a sick tummy as some good mama milk. By morning though he was ok and we resumed our weaned status.
After about a month I started discouraging the "holding dem" thing even in bed. He became quite the master of sneaking a hand into my shirt to hold them anyway, and expressed annoyance and frustration when I pulled his hand back out. I started taking preventative measures (mostly just putting my hand in the way) to ensure that he wouldn't reach in for them anymore.

So where are we now? He's not nursing, my milk finally dried up (it took a month or so), and he only tries to reach into my shirt occasionally. He doesn't talk to me about the act of nursing, although he does talk about "da nurns" in reference to the anatomical parts. In the tub he pointed out his own nurns and was thoroughly amused by them. Since little brother will be coming in only about 3 months, I'm going to start occasionally mentioning that babies nurse...we continue to celebrate how big Bear is, so I don't think he'll confuse himself with the baby in that regard, and I hope he won't be jealous, but who knows. I guess we shall just have to see!

4 comments:

Mallory said...

What a great weaning story. I didn't know weaning stories could be great, particularly, but you made this one great! I think I'll probably be a much lazier wean-er though. I'm such a pushover mom anyway (I blame Bug for being too darn cute!)

Josie said...

Thanks for that! I am weening too, but my little one doesnt have quite the addiction lol. SHe still signs milk and crys when I say no, but it is going well! Congrats to you!

Future Mama said...

Wow!! I'm sooo intrigued by this post! How interesting is that!? I love how you went through weening, it's so different for me to think of a talking kid telling you what they want and what not, I wonder how long I'll breastfeed! hmm. Hey... do you need any feeder covers? I'm giving a nice one away for a winner of "best breastfeeding post" this month haha! I'm sure you have good ones! I'm not the judge though, but maybe it could be nice for the new baby?

Either way, great post! How old is bear again?

Kate said...

Hey Jenni, thanks for sharing the story. So Bear was born right after Jade, right? We were pregnant together I know, so he must be close to 3. It's good to hear how it went at that age, since Jade weaned a few months after 2. Well, mostly. To be honest, she's had a few quick sips (well, nibbles more like, since she's forgotten how to latch) since Baby Carrie got here, but there's no attachment to it or anything. I was a little worried, but, just like everyone said, when she asked, I allowed, and it was no big deal. Like, a quick kiss and then goodbye, I've got better things to do!

I kinda think I might want to go longer with this baby though. Three is SUCH a hard age for my kids, it seems, and I find myself wishing I still had that quick, sure means of comfort for little Jade during her turbulent times. It's sad, and maybe just a fact of life, but I definitely don't feel as close and connected with her without it.

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