W-E-A-N. That dreaded four letter word that has really been haunting me much of late. My son is 16 months old and has never slept through the night. On a good night he wakes only twice. On average he wakes 5 times. To nurse. And nurse. And nurse some more. I LOVE breastfeeding, especially in the daytime. But at night, I love my sleep more, and I am desperate to get it back.
I worry though that night weaning may affect our daytime breastfeeding relationship, especially if it is done too abruptly. Nursing is what has really brought us close together. We spend a good amount of daytime just staring into each others’ eyes while we nurse. It is really something so magical that if I force weaning too quickly it would definitely be emotionally painful for both of us. I’m not ready to fully wean, just to sleep.
But this is my reason. Sleep.
Why Parent Led Weaning?
There are several reasons why parent led weaning may be appropriate for you. For example, you may need to return to work, are expecting another baby, are having breastfeeding difficulties, have health complications, or are just simply ready to have your body back. Plain and simple, breastfeeding can be very hard and carry with it a lot of social stigma. Whatever the reason, it may be time for your nursling to wean.
Because weaning can be a very emotional experience for both mother and child, a gentle approach is most recommended. This gives time for both of you to adjust not only emotionally, but physically too. If you wean too quickly, your nursling’s diet may not adjust in time to compensate for the decrease of nutrients. Similarly if a mother stops too quickly she may experience painful engorgement since her body did not receive the time to adjust.
Emotionally the change can be very painful like a hard break up. Especially if your nursling is not quite ready, there may be many tears and protests. For the mother, the change in hormones can make her more emotional as well. I know I feel that “love” hormone when I nurse; it definitely brings my mood up when I’m feeling blue. I expect that when I completely stop nursing I will feel blue for a while. This is even more reason to approach weaning very gradually and peacefully for both of us.
3 Things to Consider Before Weaning Your Baby
There are dozens of books and thousands of suggestions online on how to approach weaning. But weaning to me is as personal as parenting is. There is not a one size fits all approach to weaning but here are some of my important things to consider:
1. Are you really ready to wean? Try to imagine your life without nursing. Does this bring tears to your eyes? Then maybe you don’t need to fully wean, but just cut out or adjust some nursing sessions. For example, if you are going back to work and will have to cut back on daytime nursing, perhaps introducing a longer nighttime nursing session will help make up for the loss of daytime nursing. Or if daytime nursing has become trying, like a distracted toddler who is constantly jumping on and off the breast, cutting down to a few nursing sessions can help bring the joy back to the other nursing sessions.
2. So you’re ready to wean: daytime weaning, nighttime weaning or both? Since I’m ready to do some nighttime weaning, I have been trying to encourage some good long daytime nursing sessions to fill up my son for the night. I am happy to nurse several times in the day, and have tried to implement Jay Gordon’s method to nighttime weaning, but so far to no avail.
If you’re tackling the daytime nursing, first figure out which sessions are truly hunger-based and which are comfort-based. A lot of our daytime nursing ends up being comfort, or what I called “bored” nursing. I can easily distract my son from nursing by playing, hugging or finding some other comforting activity. Hunger-based sessions however need to be approached with great care, especially if your nursling isn’t a big solid-food-eater yet. Take the time to figure out which comfort sessions you can really cut out now and be gentler with the hunger ones. Some nurslings will hold out all day to nurse. Make sure your baby is still being adequately nourished.
3. Lastly, be patient and expect surprises. Weaning can take a looooong time, like months. Expect set backs where you might need to return to a previous nursing schedule to help either yourself or nursling to transition. On the flip side, don’t be surprised if your nursling suddenly just stops nursing. Babies are mysterious that way, and the timing may have been just right.
Have you successfully used any approaches to gently wean your baby?
Maya is a Canadian mama who recently moved with her hubby and baby boy to America. Although she spent most of her adult life as a student in University, for the past 15 months she has spent in the euphoric state of motherhood. She didn’t quite realize it, but when her son was born, Maya was re-born and has really surprised herself at what a breastfeeding, cosleeping, babywearing, cloth diapering, crunchy mama she really is.