Let me first say that the one and only time I weaned my one and only child was in 1982, so what am I doing writing about weaning, you might ask?
My thirty-six year old son weaned himself on his first birthday with no warning, and my poor body suffered while he loved the autonomy of his burgeoning independent nature.
This is a guest post written by my DIL, who is now the mother of my one and only amazing and brilliant grandson.
My son turned one at the beginning of March.
I had been toying with the idea of weaning him for a couple of months.
Initially, I had tried the “only when he asks” approach, but babies are creatures of habit, so he continued to ask and I continued to feed on demand.
As soon as my son had his twelve-month wellness check and his pediatrician said he was physically and emotionally ready, I was eager to start the process of weaning.
The thought of dragging this out for six-plus weeks was too much for me, but the risks of going cold turkey are very real (infection, blocked duct, emotional trauma) so I proceeded with caution. If you do need to wean quickly for whatever reason, or your baby just suddenly rejects the breast, here are some tips to get through it more quickly.
As a disclaimer, my son was already eating three meals a day plus snacks, so it wasn’t like I was still producing a massive amount of milk. He was clearly obtaining his nutrition from other sources.
Where to start… Start with the easiest feeds. For me, those were the ones when he woke up. I first eliminated those after naps, then morning, then before day naps, before bed, and then the dreaded night feeds…
Tips for baby… I have been a RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) mom since day one, otherwise known as respectful parenting. The philosophy centers around honest and authentic communication as soon as baby is hours old. Even though I was tempted to put band aids on my nipples and say “mommy is sick”, or apply garlic so it would taste gross, my son and I faced the challenge together.
Make it positive — I bought my little guy a special cup for homemade smoothies to replace the nursing experience from his wake up feeds. My son loves rabbits, so I got him the biggest rabbit cup I could find; since he has no problem with a straw, that’s what we use, but a sippy cup would be equally successful.
Do not place yourself in familiar nursing situations — I love to read books in bed with my son in the morning, but during weaning I would get up, shower and dress, so that as soon as he woke up I took him out of the bedroom for banana and almond milk smoothie in “Rab Rab”.
(Smoothie recipes below.)
Sport the high-necks — I wore three layers to minimize the odor of milk, as well as high neck shirts that he could not pull down.
Stay busy — As we eliminated the day feeds, I made those days extra busy. We were barely ever at home so as not to place ourselves in situations where he would even think to ask.
Mr. Mousie — I bought a special blanket that I sprayed with Chanel Mademoiselle (my familiar scent), which I use to cuddle him with during Rab Rab smoothie time. (Smoothie recipes below.) This was a blanket that I could also use to place in the crib for naptime. Extra cuddles and love during weaning will help to bridge the emotional loss of breast feeding.
Change of scenery — I chose to do it while visiting Grandma. There were so many exciting things for little one to do and experience, and I got the support I needed as my body and emotions went through the change and the challenge.
Watch out for hunger — As I worked on eliminating the night feeds, I needed to make sure that he was not waking up because he was hungry. Toddlers burn through so much energy! When they have been asleep from 6.30pm, it is reasonable that at 4:00 am it might be that they need a little something in their tummy. I was focused on eliminating the breast so my milk would fully dry up, and I decided to replace those feeds with a bottle of warm milk. Try what works for you; regular organic milk, almond milk, or coconut milk.
Boundless love — I got lots of advice to let Dad go in at night so he cannot ask for milk. As part of the RIE I mentioned earlier, I faced this head on. I went in and there were moments that were heart-breakingly sad. But in my heart I knew it was time, and so I told him — I know this is hard for you. I love you so much. And found lots of ways to be close, tight cuddles, cheek to cheek.
Success! After two weeks, my little guy is completely weaned, sleeping through the night, and started walking. What a great first year!
(If your little one is also teething, try the teething biscuit recipe below. My son LOVES them!)
Tips for mom…
Sage — I drank fresh sage tea and infused sage water pretty much constantly. I also included fresh mint and lemon balm, but sage was my primary fluid. I was advised that you should drink it every six hours, but I had a cuppa going all day.
Cabbage Leaves — These have been used for centuries and I can see why!! I was a little skeptical at first, but they work amazingly well. For the first few days, I used them continuously during waking hours. I kept them in the fridge so they were nice and cold, which feels wonderful if you start to feel engorged. Place the stems out, and change every 30–90 mins depending upon flow.
Antihistamine — This is also meant to dry up milk. I took a non-drowsy type every 24 hours.
Warm showers — The first day I took three warm showers. I would massage my breasts and hand express just enough to make sure the ducts still had an outlet, but not too much to stimulate production.
Heating pad — I read varying accounts of this, but I did use a heating pad at times when the engorgement made my breasts feel hard and lumpy.
Ice-pack — I used this in-between the heating pad to cool down swelling. I was also using cold cabbage leaves, so the icepack was used when I was taking a break from the cabbage leaves.
Topless Sunbathing — Luckily I was weaning at Grandma’s house in Southern California, so while my little one was napping, I could enjoy some au naturale topless sage tea!
Rocky Road ice-cream — It’s important to remember that if you’re eaning fast, you’ll go through a pretty big hormone crash. Be prepared and have supplies. Pamper yourself with whatever you need to do for self care to get through PMS — ice-cream, movies, cuddles. I kept laser focused on the end-game — no more night feeds, no more gross nursing bras, and no more sanitary pads in your BRA!!! (and all over the bathroom floor).
Sleep — sleep when you can because you may need extra energy at night. If you’ve been used to nursing, dousing, and then crashing out, remember that getting a baby to sleep without popping them on the breast takes more energy and perseverance.
WAB WAB Smoothie I
Waking up in the morning and after nap
1/2 cup milk or almond milk
1 TBS organic almond butter
1/4 small banana
Wab Wab Smoothie II
1/4 cup 100% organic fruit juice
½ cup purified water
Leftover kale, spinach, chard, or other leafy veg, well blended!
1/4 cup Organic whole milk Greek yogurt
Chopped/grated apple or pear or organic blueberries/strawberries
1 cup almond milk or coconut water or a combination
Blend 1/2 cup dates and 1/2 cup raisins with the liquid until well chopped.
Pour into bowl
2 TBS organic agave
2–3 TBS vegetable or coconut oil
Add 1/2 cup flax meal
1 cup organic whole wheat flour (or any flour)
Oat flour is easy to make in a blender
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Mix all. Add a little more flour and knead briefly to make dough pliable.
Roll into 12×14
Cut into 1inch x 6 inch slices
Roll into finger sized shapes, easy for little hands to grasp.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes and then 300 degrees for another 15 minutes turn off oven and let them cool in oven.
January 1981–Balboa Park, San Diego, CaliforniaAt that time, my son’s dad and I lived near Balboa Park in a little section called Hillcrest/University Heights. There was a back way to the south side of Balboa Park through a canyon trail. That was a favorite walk for my two dogs, Sabrina and Beowulf. Sabrina was a Border Collie. Wolfie was an Akita/Malamute mix that I rescued when I was a junior at SDSU and he was about four weeks old. I bottle fed him and took him to classes in a baby front pack. Fully grown, he was over a hundred pounds and stood about thirty inches high. He had no idea how big he was and sat in my lap just like he did when he was a puppy. He was an awesome pet. They both attended graduation ceremonies with me, which got us into the local paper.
In January of 1981 I was seven months pregnant. I was very active, and continued to attend ballet classes and hike with my dogs. On this particular morning, we walked down 10th Avenue to Robinson and over to the end of Vermont and wound our way through the canyon trail. It was an enchanted place after a rainy winter with lush green vines, mature trees, and a seasonal creek–not at all desert-y and dry like in this photo.There was probably tons of poison oak but I must have been lucky and avoided it. I remember there was a hill covered in nasturtiums and my dogs loved to roll around in them. We walked for about thirty minutes and followed the trail toward the park and then turned around. We were halfway to the entrance at Vermont. It was quiet except for the far off hum of Highway 163. I heard a twig crack and ignored it, thinking it was a little critter. My dogs both alerted, ears pricked, hackles rising. More twigs cracked, and I turned around. I will never forget the next few seconds. A man was sneaking up behind me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Moving swiftly was not an option being seven months pregnant and fifty pounds heavier, but I tried. I remember trying to be careful that I didn’t trip and fall. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, and he was closing the gap between us. Sabrina turned to growl at him and Wolfie placed himself between me and the man. I simply FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle. My brain was screaming at me to run away from DANGER, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. The adrenaline was pumping, sending the proper primitive signals, but I panicked. Just before the man lunged at me, I picked up Sabrina because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Yes, I picked up my forty-five pound Border Collie, screamed at Wolfie to COME, and RAN THE WRONG WAY. I ran–lumbered--back into the ravine and NOT toward the street that was full of houses and humans and safety. I ran as best as I could with my huge baby-filled belly, until thankfully, a group of women came down from the park and the man disappeared. One of the women who lived nearby took me to her house and we called the police from there. I was so entrenched in fear and panic that I wasn’t able to provide them with a good description, other than noticing he was overweight and probably couldn’t run any faster than I could. This was before cell phones, and when the policemen drove us home, I called my mom. She was an RN and drove over to check my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as delivering a stern lecture about not putting my unborn baby in danger. Needless to say, there were no more solo canyon adventures. After more than thirty years, the re-telling of this potential rape? murder? robbery? still causes my heart to pound.