The first time I tried to put my weaning baby to sleep, he wouldn’t go down. I rocked him and he popped up and put his hand down my shirt, searching for the infamous liquid gold. He screamed, he hollered. I had to lay him down in his crib and hope it wouldn’t last long.
My heart broke, and I questioned my decision. Should I just give him mommy milk (our name for breastmilk)? I thought about the IG moms I follow who nurse until their babies grow uninterested. I had recently gone back to work, and I didn’t have time to nurse in the morning. I was also battling mastitis. It was something that I had worked through when I first started breastfeeding, but this time, I just couldn’t.
My son was two months away from turning 2, and I wanted to start trying to have another baby. I wasn’t interested in tandem breastfeeding, and didn’t want two babies competing for mommy milk. I was ready for one chapter to be over so I could move on to the next.
I was on the verge of tears when I decided to think about the benefits of weaning for him and for me.
I felt guilty. I mean he needed me and nursing was our thing… right? What if he no longer wanted me without the liquid gold? What if he suddenly started taking to the women at daycare? I had already gone back to work—was this too much of a change for him? My mind was moving a mile a minute thinking about what I was doing to him.
I felt selfish, I feel selfish… I’ve never been a “breast is best” mom. I don’t like the ways it shames women who don’t/can’t breastfeed. But I think it’s true. Breast milk is formulated for him from me.
I had nursed him for so long against the advice of so many people because nursing is what bonded us. I wasn’t a mom who connected deeply with my child immediately, but after nursing—and finding out I was pretty good at it—it became our thing, just the two of us. I thought, Okay, buddy, it’s you and me… We got this!
Feeling like I had abandoned that philosophy and him is heartbreaking. But I need to be the best mom for him at all times, and suffering through feedings was not allowing me to be the best mom I could be. I was beginning to resent our once precious experience.
I was on the verge of tears when I decided to think about the benefits of weaning for him and for me. And I came up with this list of ways I—and other moms who have made the tough decision to stop breastfeeding—can move forward to a happier and hopefully more guilt-free place.
1. Create a new routine with baby.
We can create a new bonding experience with our children while they’re weaning. It can be cuddling before bed on the couch, reading a story, giving kisses or hugs (my son gives the best hugs with his 22-month-old arms)… Whatever allows you to reconnect.
As we know, kids like structure and routine. My son’s routine used to be bath, teeth brushing, book, prayer, boob, sleep.
Now I have to adjust that with warm milk instead or skipping milk altogether. Or I have my husband put him to sleep. I’m not sure what my plan is, but I know it will take time and that’s okay. So….
2. Give yourself grace.
This decision is hard on baby or toddler, but it’s also hard on you. You may need to create a new routine for yourself in order to move forward.
I had to learn early to give myself grace. My son lost a significant amount of weight in the hospital after his circumcision and my milk had not come in very well. He was cranky and hungry, and I was devastated that he needed formula.
Embrace who you are now, take care of yourself, and remember who you are as a woman and a mother. Embrace the woman you are now.
I had to take a moment to realize that I didn’t love him any less because he was taking formula. I had not failed as a mother because the plan I envisioned had not come to fruition. He was fed and he was happy.
I had to allow myself grace to move through that moment. My milk eventually did come in and I nursed far longer than I imagined. Be grateful for the opportunity to nurse and give yourself time to reflect, to grieve, to be frustrated—but don’t stay there.
3. Remember it is not the end of the world!
Your child will thrive and be successful, and you will have a huge role in their life because you’re their mama!
There will be many decisions you make for your child and your family because you have been blessed with this opportunity to mother.
I’d say that is cause to…
Although weaning is bittersweet, it is still sweet! Go have a drink or three because you can! Or you can eat the cheese or ice cream you’ve been avoiding for seven months, or whatever you haven’t allowed yourself to indulge in because you became a nursing mom.
I was a bit of a rebel: I drank or I had girls’ weekends or girls’ nights that allowed me to go out. However, my husband and I have only been away from him for one night as a parental group. I want to be able to go away with my husband and not worry about nursing, so that’s how I plan to celebrate. The final and most important suggestion is…
5. Embrace the new you!
You just got your body back! Although you grew a wonderful little person and fed them, your body is yours again. Embrace who you are now, take care of yourself, and remember who you are as a woman and a mother. Embrace the woman you are now.
I know my journey is only beginning. I may see nursing mothers and may feel consumed by sadness for a period of time. I know I have to get used to milk no longer filling my breasts and that part of motherhood for my firstborn is over.
But I choose to look at the positives: the fact that I decided to wean at a good place as I transitioned back to work, that he is surrounded by love from so many individuals right now, and that I finally have my body back after 30 months. I’m taking it one day at a time and I’m following the ideas above because I want to be the best woman for myself so I can be the best mom for my son.