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The Long, Slow Wean

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

So I've alluded to the fact that I'm weaning in a few posts, but I've been so absent for the last two months, you're all sort of in the dark about the process. Now that I've decided to stick around a bit (and have had a burst of blogging inspiration), I figured it was a good time to bring you up to speed.

Cause I know you all log in every day just wondering about the current state of my breasts. ;)

It's hard to believe, but I haven't written about my personal experience or thoughts on breastfeeding since May. If you've been reading here awhile, you probably remember my post called "The Dark Side of Breastfeeding." It certainly got a response from readers. ;)

There's a reason I haven't written about nursing since then.

It's because things didn't get better for me. Sure, I've survived and six months later, I'm still a nursing mother...but the warm fuzzies that were so strong for those first six or seven months have faded.

I am SO ready to be done nursing. I've BEEN so ready to be done nursing. Unfortunately, Emmitt isn't quite there yet.

When I originally started nursing Emmitt, I decided I was going to aim for 18 months. I just didn't think I could pull off two years (outside my comfort zone) but I felt like I didn't really need to stop at a year either. 18 months has always been sort of my mental point at which babies turn into toddlers and while I fully support toddler nursing, it's just not for me.

Unfortunately, around 10 and a half months, Emmitt developed this nasty habit of not quite biting me, but of latching with his teeth. It was horribly painful and I simply could not break him of it. Of course he also still wasn't sleeping through the night, often waking three or four times. Basically, I hit that wall where I started getting annoyed every time he wanted to nurse. I was absolutely, 100% ready to be done.

Of course there was no way I was going to wean him prior to 12 months because I simply was not going to buy formula. (I'm cheap. lol)

So I pushed on. Thankfully the "bite-latch" only lasted about two weeks.

At eleven months, I decided he was nursing enough overnight to justify cutting back during the day. At this point he was only nursing before his two naps, before bed and overnight. He was drinking some juice and water from a sippy cup, so I started offering him a sippy cup with meals. At eleven months, I started putting him down for his early nap without nursing him. Amazingly, he seemed to have no problem with it.

About three weeks later, he fell asleep in the car on the way home from Mango's Place. Since he always took his afternoon nap as soon as we got home, I carried him in and set him in the crib with my fingers crossed. Sure enough, he went straight to sleep with nary a peep.

The next day, I carried him in at nap time, changed his diaper, sang him a song (Puff the Magic Dragon) and picked him up. He arched his back like he does when he's ready to lay down, so I put him in his crib. He went right to sleep.

WOOT.

It was around that time I got a request to go to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for three days to do some in-house training. Of course no one was available to go with me except for mom. That meant I either had to take mom AND two kids, or leave both kids at home with mom. I couldn't see lugging two kids and mom to Tuscaloosa, so I decided to go without him. Of course mom told me she wouldn't keep Emmitt overnight unless he was weaned. (Can't say I blame her.)

The training was scheduled for the Mon-Wed after Thanksgiving.

That gave me two months to finish weaning him.

I hate deadlines.

Why? Because anytime you set a deadline, something happens to make you miss it.

Since we'd successfully managed three full weeks of nursing only before bed and during the night, I figured his first birthday was a good time to try getting him to bed at night without nursing. Emmitt had other plans.

It was right around that time nature decided he should sprout four molars and three incisors. We spent four full weeks with teeth bursting through left and right. There was simply no way I could cut out bedtime nursing when we were having to dose him up with Tylenol nearly every night for any chance at sleep.

So weaning was delayed. Now I was a month away from my Alabama trip. Unless I flat out denied him any chance of nursing, I couldn't see us making it, so I cancelled the trip.

About three weeks ago, I went to visit my parents for a long weekend. The plan was to have her try and get him to bed at night, so I wasn't trying to settle him down without letting him nurse. Emmitt had other plans.

The first night we were there, he started running a fever. Little did I know, that fever would last a full week and would then turn into a raging double ear infection that defied antibiotics and resulted in a ruptured ear drum a week later.

I couldn't bring myself to try and wean him from before-bed nursing when he was suffering from a raging fever and severe ear aches. On the plus side, he only once got bad enough during the day that I had to nurse him to settle him down. (On the bad side there were nights where we were up and nursing 8 or 9 times.)

So here I sit, with a baby who is soon be 14 months. We're two months past when I hoped to wean, but I've promised myself that no matter how badly I want to be done, I'll wean him gently.

Thankfully, I'm heading home to my parents again this Wednesday for the long Thanksgiving weekend. So long as Emmitt stays happy and healthy, we're back to our plan of having mom settle him into bed each night without me nursing him. I'll still nurse him if he wakes up in the night, but we're going to see if mom can get him to sleep.

Please, please cross your fingers and say a prayer for us. ;)

Of course I've managed to end up with a deadline again. I've got an overnight trip (just me) to Chicago on December 4th for a conference.

It's funny really...back when I posted about weaning from pumping, I mentioned wanting to have it all wrapped up before I headed to a conference in Chicago. Two years later, I find myself looking at my first overnight trip (to the same city for the same conference) without Emmitt and wondering if he'll be weaned before then.

That trip is two weeks away. He takes a sippy cup well enough for him to survive one night away from me, but I'm hoping he doesn't make Greg miserable by being a crazy, fussy baby.

I've got two weeks to find out. I'll certainly be encouraging it (with mom's help) but I'm not going to push it.

All that said, my "drop-dead" quitting date is February 21st. On that day, Greg and I will board a plane to London. I'm doing a conference there and we've decided to stay awhile and spend a bit of time in Europe. We haven't really had a vacation since our honeymoon and since our airfare is covered, we figured this was a good chance to take one. We'll be gone for 11 days. Mom is keeping the kids. Emmitt HAS to be weaned by then.

Surely I can pull this off in three more months, right?

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  1. Anonymous Ewokmama | 8:13 PM |  

    Good luck! I am in a similar spot with gently encouraging my son to wean. He sleeps through the night and nurses 3-5 times during the day (this is WAY better than earlier in his life). I am still pumping, but soon I hope to stop doing that by 18 months. It's all such a process.

  2. Blogger Plain(s)feminist | 8:05 AM |  

    Good luck - I bf until my son was three, and I weaned him when I felt it had become a chore for me and I was ready to be finished. He's almost 6 now, and I think would happily have kept bfing all these years if I'd let him.

  3. Blogger Aruni | 8:09 AM |  

    Nice to see you've decided to blog around for a little while longer!

    My son started biting at 6 months and he was weaned by 7 1/2 months. He didn't have the interest to continue and neither did I. He would rather look around and do everything else rather than nurse so I figured it was a sign to move on. I breastfed my daughter until she was 9 months.

    I am sure you can wean Emmitt in 3 months. Once you make the decision you'll be amazed at how fast it will happen...but you already know that from your first experience. :-)

    Have a great time in London. My husband and I have not had an overnight trip together since our son was born over 5 years ago. The only time we left him overnight with someone was when our daughter was born and my husband was with me in the hospital 2 nights. You are lukcy that you have grandparents nearby to take care of them. :-)

    I'm looking forward to your posts on potty training. I just did my last post on that today (hopefully).

  4. Anonymous Strawberry | 8:52 AM |  

    I found your post both enlighting and frightening. I will be facing weaning sometime in the next year (or more, depending) and I just don't know how to go about it this time. Last time, my baby would take a bottle, so it was just a matter of slow substitution. But this baby *won't* take a bottle, and I think we're going to have to go through a very painful trial-and-error before we get it right.

    You have my sympathies, and my prayers. I hope you and Emmitt find your way soon...

  5. Blogger Dawn | 9:43 AM |  

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. My son is 8 months old and still waking up during the night to nurse because he has been reverse cycling and refusing bottles at daycare for the past 4 months. It's encouraging to know that he is normal. I can't wait to sleep again, but I will miss that time we spend alone together in the middle of the night.

  6. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 9:44 AM |  

    "Once you make the decision you'll be amazed at how fast it will happen"

    LOL, Aruni! Maybe you missed it, but I said I decided to start weaning back in early September! So far, it's taken two months. That's hardly "fast." ;)

    See, I don't view weaning as waking up one day and saying "ok, no more nursing for you." I view it as gradually removing one nursing session at a time until you get them ALL gone. I'd hoped I could do the entire process in 3-4 weeks, but it looks like it's going to take 3-4 months.

  7. Blogger Hot Librarian | 10:58 AM |  

    I in the same boat, Jennifer. The husband and I are headed to Hawaii (sans baby!) in July... and even though that's a ways off, sometimes it seems like the E will never wean. Just when I think she's moving towards self-weaning and I breathe a sigh of relief... she's right back to wanting to nurse ALL THE TIME. Thanks a lot, teething. So keep us posted!

  8. Anonymous Abby | 12:08 PM |  

    It took us about 2 months, but we started with nighttime and ended with the morning session.
    Nour just did so well at night, but during the afternoons/evening, we were down to 2-3 times between getting home from work and going to bed. We did have a backwards motion when we all went on vacation and had to share a bed, but it only lasted about 4-5 days, and after that, it was smooth again.
    She was 19 months when we stopped, but once it was over, she never looked back.
    I know it gets more frustrating when there's illness, but you've already begun the process, so it's just a matter of finishing up.

  9. Blogger Darlene | 4:34 PM |  

    Don't be surprised if your mom can get that sweet little guy to sleep without nursing...as long as you are nowhere in sight. Those so-close-I-can-taste-'em breasts may be the stimulus for him, sort of like a trigger. If he can't see them, he may be close enough to weaning that he won't need more than a little cuddling, a lullabye, a gently-read book, and a warm blanket to get him to sleep.

    Hope is a great thing, isn't it? **giggle**

  10. Blogger evil cake lady | 6:38 PM |  

    good luck Jennifer (and Emmitt)!!

    Also, I am glad to see that you have decided to stick around and keep blogging :)

  11. Blogger Aruni | 6:47 PM |  

    Hi Jennifer - I must have missed your post on that back in early September. :-) Well I guess it isn't fast for everyone then. For me once he started biting and I decided we were ready to wean, I took out one feeding every 5 to 7 days and before I knew it I was down to one night feeding. Same happened with my daughter.

    But since they were under 12 months old I gave them formula in between until they were 12 months old so that might be a big part of it being easier.

    However, he (and she) still used the bottle for milk and water quite some time afterwards (let's just say well after the strongly recommended 1 year mark). Neither ever slept with a bottle of milk but I prefered he chew on that instead of on me. :-) But that's a whole other story.

    With our son we did anything we possibly could to get him to sleep. He's 5 now and he still wakes up. Our daughter has slept like a sleeping beauty pretty much since birth.

    So I guess all I can say is good luck!

  12. Anonymous elderberryjam | 9:23 PM |  

    Jennifer, sorry to burst your bubble, but I haven't ever really thought about your breasts. I signed on daily for a long while to listen to the ramblings of someone else going through nursing a baby close to the same age as mine; to read the latest thing going on in the lactation world in an interesting presentation, and to read the comments. And also to write a little myself.

    My daughter, Eilidh (EYE-lee) is 17 months old, and is on her last molar. I totally understand, but I missed you while you were gone. I'll miss you when you really are gone from "The Lactivist" - but it has been a great blog. Can you find someone just as witty to take it over when you retire?

    I had thought I'd wean her too before the teething started. There have been nights - Tylenol is my hero. As she comes out of the teething nightmare, nursing has become endearing. Pleasant at times. I just can't stop now.

    Today I nursed in front of my father in law and sisters in law in their kitchen. I usually leave the room. Then I nursed at Pittsburgh airport - a 17 month old girl who had been running around babbling for 2 hours prior. I was darned proud of myself.

    Gwen

  13. Blogger AzĂșcar | 11:05 PM |  

    I'm with Darlene :) You'd be surprised how well they do without nursing when you're not actually there. As you know, we self-wean, so I can't help you much, but I can say that I took a few overnights after my first was 18 months and he did just fine without me.

  14. Anonymous LoveMyTwo | 12:04 AM |  

    Wow! You started weaning before 12 months? :(

    I'm not meaning to be rude at all, I promise. But someone who weans that early and doesn't want to buy formula only because they are "cheap"... isn't someone I would call a lactivist. :(

    That being said, good for you for sticking with it for a year. That is a lot longer than a lot of women do. For that, you should be proud of yourself!

  15. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 2:15 AM |  

    LOL....the formula comment was a joke. Perhaps you're new here? Guess I should have added a winky.

    As for the rest, I guess everyone gets to define Lactivist for themselves. I define a Lactivist as someone who stands up for the rights of breastfeeding mothers.

    I know Lactivists who have never breastfed. You don't need to earn your "street cred" by logging X number of days as a nursing mom to join me in the battle. Perhaps you feel differently?

    Didn't know I'd lose my title for cutting out daytime nursing three weeks before my kid turned one. I suppose it doesn't matter that if you count night nursing, my 14 month old still nurses 4 times every 24 hours.

    Either way, everyone is allowed their opinion. Disqualify me as a Lactivist in your own eyes if you like. It won't change what I do, who I am, or what I try to add to the Lactivist movement.

  16. Anonymous Rebecca in Florida | 6:08 AM |  

    I totally understand the night feeding. My son is 15 months old now and we are trying to wean. Mostly we are weaning because I never get to sleep. During the day he has so much that he wants to do that he has pretty much weaned himself (too busy to stop and nurse except about 2 times a day). But he was getting up at night 3 to 5 times which left me dead during the day and made me feel like a bad parent to my 3 year old. We stopped all night nursing a week ago. Some nights he puts himself back to sleep when he wakes and other nights are really tough. He won't let me comfort him at night without nursing so my husband is the only one that can help him settle down. If I try he just gets more worked up. Last night he slept through the night! Yea! (But the night before he was up crying and screaming about every 2 hours leaving zombie parents the next day). If we can just get sleep at night he can keep his day nursing for a while.

  17. Anonymous Abby | 6:32 AM |  

    Have you ever heard of "reverse schedule"? It's when the baby eats all night but barely takes any milk/water/fluid throughout the day. Whenever you write about Emmitt's feeding schedule that's what I think of. I know some people purposely do that because of working, but sounds like Emmitt's pretty much decided that's how he's going to nurse. I think your day weaning (even if it was before a year) had absolutely no effect on his getting enough milk. He eats food, right?
    I'm also too cheap to buy formula ;-), but that's because we didn't really HAVE the money to do that.

  18. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:47 AM |  

    Emmitt HAS to be weaned by then.

    ...so what happens if he's not? :(

  19. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 7:52 AM |  

    It's not an option.

    We already have our plane tickets and this isn't a conference I can back out of. I've already canceled work gigs because I knew he wouldn't be weaned in time, but in those instances, it would have meant forcing weaning in a matter of a week or two.

    If I can't wean him over the course of five months, something is seriously wrong.

    I'm doing everything I can to make this go slowly and gently, but if he's not weaned in the next two or three months, he's going to have to wean by force because they'll be checking me into the mental institution.

    It's been 18 months since I've slept for more than 5 hours at a stretch. 90% of the time, I don't go more than 3 hours at a stretch.

    I made the sacrifice to get him to a year because that was so important to me, but there comes a point in time where you have to save your sanity, your relationships and your physical health, even if that means pushing a little bit on the weaning.

    I don't think any reasonable person could charge me with being "insensitive" to his needs considering I've already invested two long, slow months into the weaning process and am prepared to spend two more. Four months of slow withdrawal is hardly akin to "Sorry, no more boobie for you."

  20. Anonymous odentonmom | 9:31 AM |  

    I am currently nursing my youngest (baby#4) now 20 months old. I am not sure when he will wean, he still nurses 4 or 5x/day. I have had times when I felt like I might be done. When he bit once or twice, when he started latching in a weird way with all of those teeth, when he started popping off and on. But, each of those incidents passed and I was glad that I continued. He was hospitalized recently and I cannot imagine what I would have done if he had not still been nursing, it was the only thing that could calm and console him.

    I feel like this is such a short period over the spam of our lives when our little ones really are depending on us so much. Looking at my eldest (11 soon), I can't imagine where the time has gone.

    I have only had to leave DS one time for 4 days. I never considered weaning. He was a little under a year, so I had to pump, but he took the separation well. DH was able to comfort him, since my son realized I was not around.

    If I was separated from DS now, I would not wean, but put things into place to help him cope (like having daddy take some turns comforting him and laying him down now). Kids are very adaptable. When I returned, I would see if he still wanted to nurse and if so, I would resume. You may be surprised at how you feel about nursing after being separated from your little one for so long.

    To me weaning is such a permanent solution, to an often temporary issue.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

  21. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:40 AM |  

    Sorry momma but this entry made me sad. How is a lactivist wanting to wean before their poor child is ready? I thought Lacticists practiced child-led weaning, not force weaning.

  22. Blogger The Curries | 10:56 AM |  

    I just wanted to offer my support. My daughter stopped nursing rather suddenly at 14.5 months. She just started biting instead of nursing, and I could NOT get her to latch on, at all. So I pumped for a while (gaining even more respect for you in the process, I might add), and when my supply dwindled to next-to-nothing, I stopped. Anyway, all that to say I don't have any weaning advice for you (I fully expected Eileen to be nursing into Kindergarten), but you have my support.

    Plus, I love your blog, and will continue to read it regardless of the content you choose to focus on. I love the intelligence and level-headedness you bring to the subject of lactivism. I definitely think you still have a lot to contribute in that area.

    AND, you MOST definitely can still call yourself The Lactivist! Sheesh, talk about us mothers throwing each other under the bus.

  23. Blogger Ethel | 11:06 AM |  

    My MIL weaned DH at the age of two by leaving him with grandparents when she needed to take a trip. Absolutely no problems - he didn't even seem to notice the lack of nursing. And I am certain our girls could be gently weaned using this tactic. They've done well on the rare occasions when I wasn't home at bedtime. So don't panic if you don't have him weaned by your drop-dead date - it will probably still work fine.

    Also, 14 to 18 months was a period of decreasing nursing interest for our girls(sort of like 7 to 8 months was) - so I think it's a good range for weaning to happen. At 19 months, they've picked up again - I think it will be months before the next time their interest will go down again, and then I will probably put some light pressure to wean.

  24. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 11:20 AM |  

    Anonymous, did you even read my post, or did you stop at the subject line where I mentioned the word "wean?"

    If you find slowly eliminating feeds as you notice a child doesn't miss them to be "forcing" then yes, I suppose I'm being a big old meanie and ripping my child from the breast. ;)

    As for lactivists being people who practice child led weaning...I guess that gives me a new post for this week. :)

  25. Anonymous Abby | 1:58 PM |  

    I didn't know lactivism HAD a specific definition attached to it??!!

  26. Anonymous Mommy's Getaway (TamP) | 10:51 AM |  

    I totally know the feeling "so ready to be done nursing". There comes a time where you want your boobs to be yours again with no child attached to them. I hit that point at 13 months with my youngest. I loved breastfeeding and I love the bonding time, but I was ready to not have milk coming out of my puppies. It is a bit selfish, I suppose, BUT to be a good mom is to feel good about yourself. Sometimes, being a good mom, means you have to be a bit 'selfish'. There is nothing wrong with that.

    I wish you the very best of luck! I hope you continue blogging after Emmett is completely weaned - perhaps it will evolve into other topics as well? Even if it doesn't, even though I no longer breastfeed, I am still reading your blog.

  27. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:11 AM |  

    Months ago, I stumbled upon your blog, and found I could relate to alot of your experiences. I even sent some of your topics on to other nursing moms, and non- nursing ones, too, to say, "look, see? It can be done".

    I must confess, like some others, though, I was totally thrown off by this 'admission' of yours. I can't really explain it concretely, but, I felt as if many of the blogs before this one were somehow invalidated. To me, you managed to undo alot of good in this one post (esp. the comment about nursing a toddler).

    While I will miss seeing your blog, the feeling is tinged with thoughts of "was the other stuff she posted really what she felt?"

  28. Anonymous MomOnTheGo | 7:51 AM |  

    I'm not hearing any intention of you sending him to military boarding school, though I thought I may have missed that part, given some of the reactions. I also imagine that you will translate the principle of nursing on demand to cuddling on demand and that you little guy will continue to know his mother's love.

    I can't imagine anything worse than a child feeling that he or she was a burden to his or her parents and forced nursing would cause that, I think. I've promised my husband that we'll go away together in May. My daughter is 3 and I am just going to have to tell her that she won't be getting nursed that weekend. Already she *can* go a day without being nursed but she doesn't want to.

  29. Blogger ImpostorMom | 11:28 AM |  

    I'm behind on my reading with surgery and the holiday but I have to say that I have (am having) the same bite/latch problem with boog. OMG it hurts! I have vowed to wean him several times and I just can't bite the bullet, no pun intended.

    I have night weaned him from me however. He's still eating at night but formula from a bottle instead of breastmilk. I do have the luxury of him taking a bottle well. I really don't know why I can't seem to do it until he's officially 12 months.

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