When I first started thinking about weaning, I didn’t know how we were going to do it, I had just found out I was pregnant and was super hormonal and feeling crappy. I had always wanted to keep breastfeeding until Eve was two but since being pregnant i was finding it so painful, and although I joined a few tandem nursing groups on Facebook, I wasn’t sure that this was the route I wanted to take.
At two months pregnant I was already struggling, so the idea of feeding a newborn and a toddler didn’t really appeal to me, however I know some people do it and love it so hats off to them. At this point in time I was on an emotional rollercoaster, I felt super guilty for thinking about weaning Eve just because I was pregnant again, why should she have to stop when she’s obviously not ready to yet? Luckily we were already down to around 3 feeds a day, morning, before nap and before bed and if I didn’t put her down for a nap then she would go down without milk fine.
Bananas in bed - our saviour
I hadn’t breastfed in the night for a very long time so I do think this made it a lot easier for us. However, around the time I was thinking of stopping when I was around two months pregnant and the feeding was becoming increasingly painful for me, she all of a sudden became very clingy and seemed to want milk more than she had in a very long time. Did she know I was thinking of stopping? This alongside my raging hormones made me feel exhausted and very emotional.
Here I was thinking about stopping our feeds and she wanted to be on the boob more than ever, how was I ever going to do this?
I presumed that this was just a little phase that she was going through and decided to just go with it. I let her have milk when she wanted it and sure enough within a week or so we were back to 2 to 3 times a day. Even though feeding her was becoming increasingly painful for me I really wanted to take it slowly and this is my number one tip, Don't try to stop too quickly, know that it is going to take time.
The first step was to stop the bedtime feeds. She didn’t ever feed to sleep and most of the time had milk then story then bed, so I started to just not offer it before her story and her dad would take her up to bed every night. He would also go in and comfort her if she woke in the night. This lasted a good few weeks, if i took her to bed, she would still want milk, but when Ed took her she was fine. So tip number two is, if possible, let someone else do bedtimes. I know this isn't possible for everyone, but if you can have someone else do nap times and bed times then this is the best way to stop without a fight or tears and it stops the association with needing milk to fall back to sleep.
So we were finally down to one feed a day, without it being too stressful. We were just left with the mornings... My favourite feed and time of the day and i really couldn't imagine how we would stop this one. Each morning, Eve would wake up and come into our bed for milk and cuddles. Not only was this lovely and our special time, it also meant that we had an extra half hour in bed before we had to get up and do the morning breakfast routine. We actually continued with this morning feed for a while, i don't think either of us was ready to stop, but i did have an end date in sight. In August i was going away for two night to visit a friend and this was the date i would set to stop feeding her altogether. We already knew that if i wasn't there she didn't miss the milk and so i thought that going away would be the perfect cut off. I knew that when i came back, we'd have to think of a way to distract her from wanting her morning milk. So my third and final tip is distraction.
When Eve woke up in the morning, instead of bringing her into our bedroom, either myself or Ed would take her straight downstairs for breakfast. This meant that the association of morning milk and cuddles was removed as she didn't come into our bed. We did this for about a week. Straight downstairs for breakfast, sometimes this would be before 7am depending when she woke, but we knew it was just temporary and it worked, she didn't cry or miss the milk, or even ask for it, she was happy and excited to have her breakfast.
The next and final step was to be able to bring her into our bed in the mornings again without her getting upset if she couldn't have milk. Our trick was to have a banana ready to offer when she came in, so still having the distraction but not having to completely take her out of the room, so that mama and papa could have an extra 20 minutes in bed before getting up for breakfast :)
Two weeks in and she would still point and ask for boo boo sometimes, but would then happily take a banana instead. If the banana wasn't working we would just go downstairs for an early breakfast. We didn't ever really have any tears or distress from doing it this way. We took our time and allowed her to wean slowly. 3 months earlier i was very emotional about the whole process, i couldn't see how we would be able to gently wean her but knew i couldn't make her go cold turkey and just stop. When she was going through a clingy phase, i let her have milk and then we gradually stopped the feeds one by one until we were left with just one. This way of weaning really worked for us. None of us felt sad or distressed when we finally stopped, it all came in good time and it meant that i have a few months to myself before the next little baba comes along. I will forever be super grateful for the amount of time i was able to feed Eve for and i hope i can do the same next time around.
I know everyones journeys are super different but i hope that my story can encourage others to know that weaning can be daunting at the beginning, but if you give yourself time and patience then it really does all work out fine in the end.
I'd love to hear how your meaning journy went. Please do reach out if you have anymore tips or words or encouragement for mamas that may be going throuhg the same journey.
Love Lauranza x