Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Long and Weaning Road

This was prompted by a comment from Jane.

It was 2 years ago that Margaret ate avocado for the first time and started the weaning process.

Now, at 2 and a half, she eats meals, snacks, and nurses up to 8-10 times a day. Two of those times are longer (10-20 minutes) than the others because they are for sleep. The others (and there's sometimes more- I don't count) are less than 5 minutes, most less than a minute. She nurses for owies, sleep, and when there's a disconnect.

While she does nurse often and full weaning is not a goal for us right now, we do employ some weaning techniques.

Don't ask, don't offer
This is when I don't offer the breast, but if she asks, I let her nurse. When we're out, she's usually too busy to think about nursing and since she doesn't ask for it, she'll go hours without nursing.

Changing Scenery
Margaret likes to nurse on the couch. If I don't want to nurse her, I direct her to the playroom where she doesn't have the couch to tempt her. Going for walks also helps.

Yes, Later
A few weeks ago we were having dinner at a friend's house. Margaret asked to nurse and I responded with, "We're going home soon. We can nurse when we get home." She doesn't like this answer, so I held her, to reassure her that she would get breast at home. I also use this when I know I'm going to need to be hands-free soon. The other day we had the missionaries over for dinner and I knew they were going to leave in 5 minutes (mission rules- 1 hour max for dinner appointments) and I'd have to get up and shake hands, so I told her that she would get breast after they leave.

Singing a Song
When I was big and pregnant, I lamented to an LLL leader about being touched out in the middle of the night and she suggested I tell Margaret, "I'm going to sing a song. When the song is done, nursing is done." This allows for the option of choosing a long song or a shorter one depending on how touched-out I feel. At that point in time, I didn't think Margaret was ready for that technique- especially since the issue was in the middle of the night and I didn't think a 2 year old would honor a deal I just introduced at 2 am when she's not even fully conscious. The whole rational thinking thing is too much. But for the past couple of weeks, I've been using "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on the nights that I'm touched out. She's mostly respected the boundary and will turn over and away from me when the song is done.

Cuddles and hugs
A couple of months ago, when I unlatched Margaret at night I would say, "Cuddle me?" and in the day I wouldask her if she wanted a hug. Not long after, Margaret would sometimes opt for the night cuddles, asking, "I want to cuddle you." Just last week, she unlatched in the day and requested a hug. I wasn't always consistent about not giving her breast after offering cuddles because some situations did necessitate more nursing, but I was always consistent in offering a hug or cuddle option. It took a while, but she does sometimes choose the non-nursing option, which is definitely another step towards weaning.

Sometimes the cuddle option turns into the daddy option. This usually happens when Isaac needs to nurse and I can't nurse 2 kids at the same time. It also happens at the end of days that I really really need a break.

Lately our connection issues have been my fault. I'll be knitting and concentrating on counting stitches when suddenly someone will come tug on my yarn. Or move the ball of yarn. This irritates me so much (I'm concentrating here!) that I tend to snap, "Stop!" "Don't touch!" a little more harshly than I need to. That just reiterates the lack of connection and when she would have been satisfied with a story or hug before my outburst, now only breast will give her the connection she was looking for. The other day this happened 3 times in a morning. So I nursed her. Denying her wouldn't have been nice- and I was obviously needing a way to decompress as well.

Neither of us are ready to wean. I still do occasionally offer the breast when she doesn't ask. But I do employ some weaning techniques and set boundaries. Will she be weaned next month? Doubtful. Next year? It's possible. In 10 years? For sure.


  1. Love the title and the reminder that weaning doesn't have to be an abrupt act. My daughter is 19 months and nurses a lot like Margarent in terms of frequency and duration.

    One thing I find surprising about myself is how often I offer it still. I think I see it as a way for me to reconnect with her after being away at work all day. The only times I say no or try to distract right now are when we are in public and I don't have a comfortable place to sit down.

  2. Is there a connection between avocado and weaning? I'm terribly confused.

  3. Avocado was her first food- and when a baby starts eating something other than breastmilk, they begin weaning. Sometimes the process is abrupt, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months, and in or case, years. So that's the connection with avocado and weaning: it was the beginning of our weaning journey.

  4. Our weaning process has been going on for nearly two years. The first year of nursing was completely on demand. The second year I would sometimes try to get him to wait, but I still offered at specific times in the day. Since he turned two, I mostly use the don't offer, don't refuse, except I still offer milk for going to sleep. I definitely make him wait sometimes, distract him with something else, or cut him off when I'm done nursing him rather than waiting for him to be done. I'm not ready for weaning, either, but I do like the slow decrease in the amount of nursing.

  5. Anyone still weaning an older child? My DD has been weaning for almost 3 years! I'm just wondering about other tactics used for weaning preschoolers. She was allowed to breastfeed as often and as long as she like during her first year to year and a half. Somewhere in the second year I began the not offer, not deny bit. Now I still don't offer, but do deny occasionally. I try to redirect, but when that doesn't work I allow her to nurse. She is 3.5 now. I'm not sure I'm game for nursing a 4yo and there are days that I don't think she'll ever complete the weaning process. We all come from somewhere. Her two older siblings were nursed for 12 and 13 months respectively. I was following mainstream advice then and the AAP said one year, so one year it was. I'm not sure I was completely ready for the leap from 13 months to nearly 4 years! :O) My minimum became two years (WHO recommendation). I do see an eventual end to this time however. There are days that I don't think she asks to nurse at all. Sometimes in the morning I'm already busy and redirect her and she doesn't ask much during the day (other than when she's tired around 2-3) and some nights baby brother is already nursing, so she can't. We regularly talk about our weaning party that we'll have when she decides she doesn't want breastmilk anymore. I'm almost ready for that party. :O)

  6. My 18 month old was doing great weaning, she was down to nursing 2 times a day, once for comfort and once for sleep. Then she got sick and we're back to nursing 8 times a day. Sometimes at night I am able to nurse her briefly then tell her, time to sleep, I'll cuddle you. And that will work. Neat to see that's not just a weird me notion!


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