Breaking the Habit
Published: February 7, 2007
The past couple of weeks have been really difficult in my household. There have been lots of tears and late nights for both my daughter and myself. The time had finally arrived to wean my daughter from breastfeeding, and it was no small task for either of us.
I’ve known for about two months that my body was no longer producing the milk that it once was when my daughter was first born. But I wasn't worried, as she has been on solids since six months, and getting plenty of nutrition from her other foods.
After seeing a pediatrician in Vancouver, I was advised that my breast feeding had become nothing more than a pacifier for my daughter. At one year of age it was time, he advised, to stop breast feeding completely. I had known the time was coming and I knew that she didn’t really need my milk anymore, but it still was hard to actually hear it.
Every woman’s body is different and so is their milk production. For me, I was never one to produce a ton of milk. I had stopped breast feeding my son at five months of age, as my milk was no longer enough for him (he was a big eater). So I transitioned him to formula fairly early.
But as I mentioned, it just depends on how much you are producing and how long you can continue to produce. Some women can breast feed for two years (or more) and still not have any issue with their production amount.
What I’ve found is that when it is time to wean, it is better to do it gradually rather than suddenly. My weaning has been a two month process with the night feedings being the very last ones that I held on to for her. She would wake up during the night and I thought it helped put her back to sleep. So although nights have been the hardest in our household these past couple of weeks, the entire process has been less overwhelming due to the number of feeds that she was receiving at the end.
The process has also been a very uncomfortable one for the past two weeks, due to the occasional engorgement. I expressed a bit of milk each day to help alleviate the pain. I also experienced some headaches, so I kept Tylenol on hand when I felt one coming on. I would also recommend for moms to check their breasts regularly, making sure they aren’t developing a blocked duct (which will feel like a firm tender area on the breast). If you do, it’s a good idea to see a physician.
I also had to change my pattern at night with my daughter. I had to hold her a different way when I picked her up, and I wore different attire (no nursing shirts) and I didn’t sit in the same chair that I usually sat in, to nurse her.
There are a lot of resources out there for moms when the time comes to wean. I found a great website at www.caringforkids.cps.ca/babies that is developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society. It answers a lot of questions for moms who are looking for answers on the weaning process. Also, I must stress the importance of talking with your physician before you embark on this very important transition for you and your baby.
I know I should take solace in the fact that I was able to nurse for as long as I did, and be thankful that it was such a positive experience. But it is time to let go of this stage and look forward to the next stage in her life. What I discovered through this process was that it wasn’t just my daughter that had to be weaned, but me as well.