Friday, August 5, 2016

Toddler Weaning

There are probably tons of blog posts and articles about weaning a toddler from breastfeeding but I haven't read any of them. I probably should have, but I just followed my gut and heart. I hope this helps some of you who are worried about weaning as I was.  I decided that I wanted to try to wean Rio as naturally and painlessly as possible, so the whole process took about 4-5 weeks total. I wasn't in a hurry, so I just took it slowly. When Rio was 22 months, I was nursing morning, nap and night. At this point, I was about 4 months pregnant and my boobs began to ache when I breastfed. This was when I decided it was time to start weaning. First I cut out the morning session. This was the easiest one to eliminate. My husband played a huge role in helping with this. He woke up with Rio and I didn't see him at all until after he had his smoothie. The first few days Rio cried for milk and mama, but only for a few minutes. Daddy gave him a smoothie right away (I made them the night before so they were ready to go). Then I would wake up and make breakfast while he was drinking his smoothie.  He did pretty well with this, and after a week I could wake up with him without him wanting milk. He did continue to ask for milk in the mornings occasionally, but he didn't get too upset about it after the first couple days. We explained that we don't have "milkies" in the mornings anymore,  just smoothies. Anytime he asked for milk during the day, I would laugh and say no milk during the day, silly." I would often give him some fruit or some nuts in case he was hungry. Sometimes he would laugh and put his face by my boob and say "no milk silly!" Then we would both giggle. It kind of turned into a little joke for him, but he understood there was no milk except for nap and bedtime.  Eventually he stopped asking for it. 
A couple weeks went by and we were only nursing at nap and bed time. Then we left for vacation, so we were sleeping in a new place. He did not want to sleep in his crib during nap time, so the first day we were there I told him he could sleep in the big bed with me. I kind of took this as an opportunity to stop nursing at nap time. I told him we could snuggle, but no milk at nap time because we were in the big boy bed. When he asked for milk, I told him he could have milk and sleep in his crib or sleep with me and no milk. He chose to sleep with me. After this discussion and a little whining, the first day went surprisingly well. I got him a new water bottle he could drink out of before nap time, so when he asked for milk, I told him he could have his water instead. After some water and about 10-15 minutes of discussions and songs, he laid his head on my shoulder and went to sleep. 
Day two came around and he wanted milk again at nap time. I told him the same thing as the day before. If he wanted me to lay with him, I reminded him that we didn't have milk at naptime, only at nighttime (he understands the difference between naptime and bedtime.) I felt badly because he cried for a few minutes for milk, but he quickly got over it, drank a few sips from his water bottle and after I sang him a few songs he snuggled up to me and went to sleep. After that day, before naps he would say, "no milk, only at night, when moon and stars out". He understood. So even though I was taking naps with him, I still felt accomplished because he was able to fall asleep without nursing. He stopped asking for it after a few days, but talked about "milk only at night time" a lot.  Sidenote: I've continued take naps with Rio since returning from our trip. I've been pretty tired this pregnancy and I love taking naps with him! It forces me to relax, and if I wasn't napping with him I would do other things (laundry, clean, etc.). Plus I know when the new baby comes I won't have much of downtime, so I'm taking advantage of every moment of rest and snuggle time with Rio. I feel so lucky to not have to work so that I can rest-I forgot how exhausting growing a human is! And now I have a toddler to chase after so that makes it even more tiring. Kudos to you working mamas!! Ok, back on topic...
 A couple more weeks passed and we were still nursing at bedtime, but only for a few minutes so I knew it was more for comfort versus actually drinking milk. At this point, I no longer offered milk, but he asked for it and I didn't want to tell him no since we had been discussing how we have milk at night time. We did start talking about how we need to start saving the milk for the baby (he's really into talking about the baby and my boobs were really starting to hurt at this point).  One night about 4 days after we got home from our trip (exactly one month before his 2nd birthday!), we did our regular bed time routine but instead of him asking for milk, he just said "snuggle mama, sing bird song" so I sang his song (he loves Three Little Birds by Bob Marley) and told him to close his eyes and go to sleep. Then he laid his head on my shoulder and fell asleep. I was shocked. That was it!! Now it's been 5 days and he's gone to bed every night no problem. No nursing at all for 5 days!  There have been a few times randomly during the day where he asks for milk but I just remind him that milk is all gone. He has seen a couple of my friends nursing their babes and he points to my boobs and says, "mama milk all gone". 
The whole process has been way easier than I thought. I was so nervous about it, but at this age, he really understands a lot and I truly think your body and your baby know when the time is right. Listen to that motherly instinct! I think the fact that I did it slowly really helped. I was also afraid that he wouldn't want to snuggle anymore when we stopped nursing but that's not the case at all! He's super cuddly, especially before bed and when he wakes. 
The day we came home from the hospital, when nursing is nonstop! 
I wanted to write about my experience because I was so worried about how I was going to end it, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be!! I hope this encourages any of you who are in the same position. I feel so grateful that I was able to nurse him for 23 months and that I will have a little break before baby 2 arrives. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Reach out if you have any other questions or comments. Here are some of my favorite photos of this awesome time in my life. If you are a first time pregger or a new mom, make sure to take some photos if you are nursing. You will cherish them!  

Sleeping by the pool at Rancho Valencia.
On vacation in Nevis when Rio was 11 months.
Milk break, Rio at 13 months.

That breastmilk chub! 3 months.