A Breastfeeding Update: My Experience with Weaning
It’s been a while since I shared a motherhood/baby post with you guys, and yesterday someone asked me if I’d share my experience with weaning since I mentioned in this post on Monday that I’m no longer nursing. I love reader requests and I realized I never talked about weaning, so here we are!
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my babies. It was important to me, especially after learning about my BRCA gene mutation—I decided that I wanted to have preventive surgery sometime in the not-so-distant future, but waiting until I had kids and was able to nurse them was important to me. I’m not saying that to make breastfeeding sound dramatic or heroic in any way, it was just something I wanted to do; an experience I wanted to have.
I wasn’t sure how long I would breastfeed. My goal was to do it for at least a year and to let Sophie kind of lead our weaning process. She had her first solid food around 5 months—we started with really soft avocado and banana, then moved on to some purées and other soft, mostly-steamed fruits and veggies. Around 9 months our pediatrician told us to go ahead and start serving her 3 solid meals a day, and at first it was a bit of a challenge. Nursing was pretty easy, especially when compared to the cooking, serving, and cleaning that feeding a baby solid meals involves. But we started getting used to it, and we hit a routine, and slowly but surely she started eating more and more food.
We still nursed first thing in the morning and after every nap, but once she hit 10-11 months, I stopped nursing her before bed. I was still pumping every night and freezing that milk for later, and that honestly was my least favorite part of the whole breastfeeding experience. I told myself that when she turned 1, I’d stop pumping. I brought my pump with me when we traveled to Virginia for Thanksgiving and Sophie’s birthday, but I ended up not needing to use it. By that point she was just nursing in the morning only and eating almost everything.
I guess, looking back, I didn’t realize we were weaning. It was over 3-4 months that she slowly stopped nursing as much. Even when she was 9 months (basically when we started giving her three meals a day), she would sometimes refuse to nurse before bed. I was always a little worried that she would wake up hungry in the middle of the night, but she almost always slept soundly until morning. I would always nurse her a good 30-45 minutes before feeding her solid food to make sure she was still getting primarily breastmilk until she was 1.
After her birthday in November, we returned home and I continued to offer morning nursing sessions, but eventually she would lose interest. I felt like my boobs weren’t producing milk anymore, so one morning a few weeks ago I decided to give her a sippy cup with thawed breastmilk in it when she woke up. She happily drank it and I got a little teary-eyed thinking that the day before had been my last time nursing her and I didn’t even know it. She had been drinking some cow’s milk here and there (I don’t give her cow’s milk every day because she eats lots of yogurt and cheese regularly), so I felt good about dipping into our frozen breastmilk stash and using that as well as cow’s milk. But a few days later she tugged at my shirt when I got her out of her crib, so I nursed her again.
The other day she tugged at my shirt again when we were all cuddling in bed so I offered her my boob but she refused to nurse—I guess I can say for sure now that we’re done! I was really happy to wean gradually (so gradually that I didn’t even realize it!), especially because I was never in pain or felt like I needed to pump to relieve any pressure or anything. There were a few days when she was 10ish months old that my boobs felt overly full at night, but I was still pumping once a day at that point so it worked out.
Things I miss about nursing:
Having a few times every day where we stopped what we were doing and just sat there together nursing. Sophie is so active and all over the place all day which is really fun, but sometimes I wish we could just sit on the couch or in our rocking chair together quietly and cuddle again.
How convenient it was—I realize this is a really privileged take on breastfeeding, but I’m home with Sophie most of the time, so when she was exclusively nourished by breastmilk, it was nice to know I didn’t have anything to cook or clean to make meals and snacks happen.
Having a go-to way to help her when she was upset or in pain, especially when teeth are coming in.
Things I love about not nursing:
I can diet again. I know, that sounds silly and slightly vain, but it’s true. So many people told me I’d lose all the baby weight just by breastfeeding, and I know they meant well, but it was not my experience at all and it made me feel like crap after a while. I was always starving, especially those first few months, and if I didn’t eat enough or even just cut carbs slightly for a couple of days, my supply would totally tank. I finally decided that I was going to just have to be okay with my body at this stage if breastfeeding was going to remain my first priority.
Being able to have an afternoon latte and know it’s not going to mess anyone up but myself.
Not having to pump before bed or risk waking up in pain/messing up my supply.
Feeling like my body belongs to me again. Pregnancy is a lot, but there’s an end date. Breastfeeding can be challenging—even painful—sometimes, and if you decide to do it exclusively, it lasts longer than 9 months. Looking back on the almost two-year journey from getting pregnant to nursing her for the last time is kind of crazy! That’s a long time to devote your body to another person.
Having said all of that, breastfeeding my daughter for almost 14 months was such a special experience, and I feel really lucky that I got to do it. Over the past year plus, I’ve felt really supported by Rob and my family and friends in this breastfeeding journey. From feeding me and keeping me hydrated in those first few weeks to giving Sophie bottles of pumped milk so I could sleep or have a glass of wine; to letting me nurse and pump in living rooms, kitchens, and dining room tables.
I never felt like I needed to hide out or cover up, and I’ll never forget the sweet Subway cashier who brought me a glass of ice water when I was driving from Roanoke to Charlotte on a hot September afternoon. I was starving and had never been on a road trip by myself with Sophie and I wore the wrong shirt and left the stroller in the trunk and I had to pee and I was balancing a hungry baby on my lap while I tried to eat a sandwich with my boob out and she noticed that I definitely didn’t have enough hands to get myself a drink. It meant so much to me. From now on, if I ever see a nursing mom by herself in public, I’m going to ask her if I can get her anything.
I hope this was helpful if you’re thinking about weaning or are feeling like you might be done breastfeeding soon! Let me know if you have any questions—I’m an open book. As always, this was just my story but I really love hearing other experiences too, so hit me up in the comments or send me an email if you want to chat. Thanks for the post request, and as always, thank you so much for reading!