Hey! I hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed the Superbowl. Today I wanted to talk about something personal that I hope others will find valuable: my experience with weaning.
Let me start by saying, this past year has been a long journey. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to provide for my sweet baby for an entire year.
My little girl is now 13 months old and I exclusively breastfed her until she turned one. For the first two months, I was on maternity leave so I basically gave her “open access” meaning that anytime she wanted milk, I gave it to her. I had no set times to feed her or anything. I just let her decide when she was hungry, and fed her accordingly. This worked well for us because we got to bond pretty much all day when she was so little. Then, when I had to get ready to return to work, I started pumping. I wanted her to be on breast milk EXCLUSIVELY. I know that this sounds crazy to some people, but I was determined that if my body was capable (keyword here…I understand that some women simply cannot nurse) of giving her enough milk, I was going to do it one way or another. For the record, if you are/were capable but chose not to breastfeed, no judgement here. You do you. This is just what I wanted to do. So, our routine from the time she was 3 months until she hit one year was the following:
Wake up – nurse her
At work – pump once in the morning, once during lunch and once in the afternoon
Pick her up from daycare – nurse her
Bedtime – nurse her
Anytime she woke up at night – nurse her
Weekends – nurse her, no pumping
You can see I was pumping about 15 times every week for 15-20 minutes. The rest of the time, I nursed.
Ok, so I basically had already weaned the little one off weekday feedings because she was used to having her bottle at daycare. This left me solely with my pump sessions and nursing mornings, nights and weekends.
Now that you have an idea of where I was in terms of feeding and pumping, I can go into the process of weaning both of us.
WEANING (OFF THE PUMP)
Since I was used to pumping three times a day (at 9am, 12pm and 3pm) my first goal was to get down to two sessions. Each day I pushed my first pump session a little bit later until I got it to 10am and began skipping my lunch pump.
At first, I noticed I felt full around 2pm, but that went away quickly. My biggest issue was that depending on when the daycare gave her the last bottle, I would need to nurse her anywhere between 5 and 7pm. If I had just pumped at 3, there was no way I could feed her again at 5 because my supply was lowest in the evenings. To fix this problem, I started pumping at 2pm. So at most, I was going 5 hours before nursing.
After a few weeks of pumping at 10am and 2pm for 20 minutes, I started to decrease my time at both sessions to 15 minutes. Then, my supply was so low at 2pm that I was able to easily drop that session completely. After dropping this session, I moved my 10am pump to 12pm so that I was still only going about 7 hours before nursing. Keep in mind I did this over a few weeks.
Ok, so FINALLY I was down to one pumping session in the middle of the day. I began decreasing my pumping time by 2 minutes every other day until I was able to completely give it up without any discomfort. Yay!
WEANING (OFF THE BOOB)
Weaning off the pump was much easier than expected. In fact, it was quite a relief. Unfortunately, I felt the opposite when it came to weaning off nursing sessions. I started with middle of the night feedings. To maximize sleep time, we decided that I would nurse around 10pm in hopes of her sleeping longer. At first, she continued to wake up at 2 or 3am and cry for a bit. Some nights she would fall back to sleep rather quickly while other nights I would give in and nurse her. After a few weeks, she was consistently sleeping from 10pm to 4am (a whole 6 hours –> whoop!). I then decided to drop the 10pm nursing session. I honestly thought this would be terrible but she didn’t seem fazed at all. If anything, she slept better. Following the 10pm feed, I dropped the morning session. Dropping this one was harder for me than it was for her. Again, I don’t think she even skipped a beat.
Now to be totally honest, I haven’t fully weaned her. I continue to feed her just once per day, right before bed every night. Weaning has been extremely emotional for me and I am just not ready to close this door just yet. There is no rush and she has naturally nursed less and less without me forcing her. I really feel like she will let me know when she is ready to give up our last session. That being said, I am not trying to prolong the process or anything. I just believe that if she and I are both still happy, there is no reason to give that up. As a side note, at this point, she is only nursing from one side and I can tell that she is barely getting any milk (my supply is naturally decreasing), so even if I completely dropped this session at this point, I wouldn’t have any discomfort.
So, there you have it. It has been an emotional journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I truly savor each and every nursing session because this is a bond that only we can share. Thanks for bearing with me until the end. I hope this helps some of you and let me know if I need to clarify anything.
Have a wonderful day!