Just a week ago my daughter was still breastfeeding. It was her favorite time of the night. The past two nights she has gone to bed without even asking for breast milk. She has slept through the night, soundly, the past nights for the first time ever. My husband and I can hardly believe it.
I wish I can say I am jumping for joy. I have very mixed emotions, but overall I am relieved and very proud of her (and myself!).
It all started about a month ago. She was FRANTIC for “boobies”. I mean, it was all she thought about. Her molars were coming in, so her major comfort was being breastfed. At night we could not even finish a bedtime book before she was clawing at my shirt and trying to rip it off so we could cuddle and I would feed her. She could only fall asleep this way.
I was so nervous to wean her knowing how much she loved it and also that is has been a major part of our lives the past two years. I have always heard people tell me there will come a point where I am just ready. I realized last week I was ready. Watching her get so frantic made me realize the time had come. A friend of mine shared this bible verse with me and it helped me to recognize the peace that would come for Lillian once I weaned her:
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child. Psalm 131:2.
I read different ways to go about weaning. I went to several different sources, but in the end, developed my own approach that has worked for my daughter and I. I am grateful for an amazing breastfeeding consultant whom gave me stellar advice.
First thing, I talked to my daughter a lot about what was going to happen. As she is two years old, she is old enough to reason with and talk to. I made simple statements that helped her understand the weaning process so she would be less scared or confused. For a long time I simply pulled away my breast after fifteen minutes and said, “All done, no more boobies.” She would cry and cry! The lactation consultant told me to change my dialogue. She recommended I talk to Lillian before hand about expectations for the feedings. It would go something like this:
“Lillian, I am going to feed you now. You may drink as long as I sing the ABC song. Once the song is over, you are all done. Do you understand?”
She would usually nod, and I would begin. I could speed up or slow down the song to my liking, but once we were over I reminded her she was all done. She never cried after. It only took her a couple times of feeding like this and she would simply finish right as the song ended on her own terms. I would praise her for listening well and tell her what a big girl she was. She was always proud of herself.
We also shared our expectations of when feedings would happen. It went like this
“Lillian, from now on we are only going to do boobies when it is dark outside. Tonight when it is dark we can do that. Ok?”
The lactation consultant reminded me that children are visual and rather than say ethereal things they do not understand like, “No feeding until tonight” change it to using terms like dark and light, since they understand that better.
We did this for about a two weeks, and cut down feedings drastically this way. We were down to only one night feeding when I decided to really be all done. At this point I simply had a talk with Lillian with Brian present. It went something like this:
“Lillian, Mommy and Daddy have something to tell you. We love you VERY much! You are such a big girl now. Starting today, we won’t be doing boobies anymore. Instead we will do other fun things at bedtime. We can read books, and if you get thirsty you can have milk or water! Do you understand?”
She nodded yes, and amazingly, the talk worked. She asked for “boobies” once, I simply said, “Remember what we talked about this morning? No more boobies, honey. Would you like to read a book?”. That was it. She never asked again. It has been two full days and it is like she never nursed.
So- if you are trying to wean gradually and pain free let me summarize:
1. Set boundaries and communicate them to your child using descriptive words they can grasp.
2. Follow through. (Stop feeding when you said you would).
3. Reduce feeding. Keep a log or journal and each day cut a feeding out or reduce time during feeding.
4. Once you are down to one feeding a day, decide on a “last day”.
5. Communicate to your child using descriptive words there will be no more nursing. Use lots of praise and reminders how proud you are of her, how big she is, and how brave she is. Get a special milk or water cup for bedtime and come up with alternatives or distractions should she ask for nursing. Give it a night or two and stick with it!
Tonight I tried to imagine just a few nights ago when she was frantically clawing at my shirt to get to nurse. I remember watching her sink into deep comfort when I allowed it and also watching her drift to sleep in my arms. Now it is simply a memory. As this sweet chapter of my life comes to a close with Lillian, I am left with distant but familiar memories. In the midst of these difficult trials I simply want relief. Then the trials pass, and I try to recount what the trial felt like only to remember the sweet moments that came from that season. I will forever cherish the time I was able to spend with my daughter during nursing sessions. Even though it got hard towards the end, it was still a blessing. I still miss it, even though in the midst of her clawing at my shirt I just wanted to be done!
I am left with sweet moments and memories and am content with our close to such a beautiful blessing that we shared. I am grateful that I was finally able to let go my clinched fists and trust that this process could happen naturally and without grief or pain for either party. As my daughter sleeps peacefully tonight, I am assured that I made the right decision and that together we can transition in life from one season to another. As much as it hurts to let go, it is lovely to look back recognize our relationship growing as Mother and Daughter. I am happy to be able to praise her and celebrate her for being a “big, brave, strong girl who trusts Mommy and Daddy.” There will be so many more moments like these to come- potty training, shots, first day at school, piano recitals… first crushes, tests, competitions… getting her driver’s license, graduating high school. The list goes on. It is my job to hide the tears as I cheer her on and encourage her to move on in life as a “big, brave, girl”. It is my hope that she will continue to trust her Mommy and Daddy that we know what is best for her and to go for it, and along the way trust the Lord, too.
Sorry for this long rant. My heart is just really full tonight and honestly, I wanted to record these feelings for forever. I am so in love with my daughter and have been so transformed my being a Mom.