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weaning

How and Why I Gradually Weaned My Daughter

breastfeeding

“Ah yes,” I thought to myself, “this is why we’re weaning.”

I nursed Penrose for the last time when she was 17 months old on October 7. It was early evening–between dinner and bedtime. She asked for “nonny” after I took her out of her high chair and cleaned her up, so we snuggled on the couch. After a few peaceful moments, she started thrashing and wiggling, eventually sliding off the couch, still latched.

While she took a bottle once a day after she was six weeks old so I could work in my bakery for a bit, the tap was otherwise available on demand. I night-weaned her when she was seven months old, but up until bedtime, I was there and ready. When I went back to work full time, she was nine months old; I pumped enough for two bottles during the day, and nursed as much as she wanted when we were together. I nursed her on the ferry boat, I nursed her in restaurants, I nursed her sitting on the floor, curled up on the couch, or lying in bed.

READ: Baby-Led Weaning is Pretty Much the Best Thing Ever

I thought perhaps I might start to wean her this past summer, since she was 13 months old, but we were together all the time. I sterilized and put away my pump, glad to never see it again, but continued to nurse her everywhere on demand. I thought I might be done nursing her in public–think again. The comfort and convenience of immediately soothing a melting down pre-verbal toddler was irresistible.

Come fall, though, I went back to work. We were on a schedule, and on something of a deadline, too. I knew I would be away from her overnight for the first time at the end of October, and didn’t want to worry about pumping or becoming uncomfortably engorged. That would be it, then–by the end of October, no more “nonny.”

It was easy to bring her down to three nursing sessions a day: once when she woke up, once right after work, and once before bed. We spent a few weeks on that schedule. I then pushed the after work feeding as late as I could to merge it with the before bed feeding, and we were down to two. A walk was a good distraction if she started to fuss, and she handled the transition gracefully.

READ: How to Wean Your Child

The wake-up feeding was a worry for me. She tended to wake up grouchy, and nursing helped ease into the morning. The problem was that once she started, she didn’t want to stop. We were sometimes spending an hour in bed when I should have been up and showering. I took advantage of her sleeping in one morning, so I could be showered and dressed before she woke up; instead of lounging around, I got her changed and downstairs for breakfast as soon as she was awake. She was happier, if anything, and has since slept til 6:30 at least every morning, waking up cheerfully and talking to herself instead of crying for me.

That afternoon session was the last to go. I could feel my body adjusting, and the accompanying hormonal shifts already beginning as we went to one session a day. Penrose took a stuffed animal with her to bed for the first time, and I marveled at her immediate adoption of a transitional object. While she slept for 10 or 11 hours straight, I had insomnia. I started to feel regretful and sad–was this too early? What if another few months would give her some sort of quantifiable benefit?

The truth was that although she occasionally asked for “nonny,” she was much less insistent than before we started weaning. She didn’t pull my shirt collar down, and she was much sunnier and more self-entertaining when we were out and about. So when I had to go out in the evening for a school presentation on October 8, I didn’t rush to nurse her before I left. Before I came home, she was asleep.

READ: It May Be Time To Wean My Three Year Old

And it’s been great. We spend more time together playing and reading. She wants to be active, running around the living room, chasing the dog, and not tied to the couch. And so do I. I’ve had some uncomfortable days, but I know my body is adjusting. And while I look back on our nursing journey with love and pride, I’m relieved that it’s ended.

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