I have been writing a lot recently about breastfeeding, mainly because Sophia and I are still going strong at 27 months. I have loved the relationship and bond it has bought to us and I have been thinking a lot about the weaning process and looking to others for guidance about gentle weaning.
All babies that have started solid food are basically weaning and that, I know, is true.... so we are weaning. And my hope is that Sophia will find more and more interest in the world around her and less in my breast!
I came across an article written by Mayim Bialik who speaks about the journey with her son surrounding feeding and how around 3 years of age she weaned the night feed and then she used something called 'no offer, no refuse'.
Sophia was notoriously terrible at sleeping, waking 3-4 times a night until 2. I genuinely don't know how I got through this period of time being the one to do every wake up through the night. I didn't have a night away because her waking was so bad and it really almost broke me. Around 21 months my husband did a week of putting down Sophia at night time so I could go to bed early and get some rest before she woke.
Sophia was upset for that first week but I really loved having a break and it taught us a little strength at being apart and someone else, her daddy, putting her down. It took a lot of trust from both Sophia and I for Chris to put her down. It was a ritual only we had held for almost two years but it was time.
After she got used to doing bed times without 'booby' I started putting her down at times with breastfeeding and Chris would obviously do without on his nights. This continued for 2 months but more often than not she asked for me and gradually I was doing every night again. Then miraculously around 2 years old she started sleeping through the night and it was a massive game changer.
I suddenly had so much more energy and we could do more activities in the day which meant that Sophia naturally didn't feed as much.
It felt like we were well on the way to weaning.
Something I reflect on here is that I don't know how I would have coped with the night feeding if I was working. As a stay at home mum the next day, after very little sleep, we could watch some cbeebies together and have a slow morning or a gentle walk. I don't think my brain would have coped much with workload.
Around this time I also introduced Sophia to child care 2 days a week. Short days from 9.30, so we could still breastfeed in the morning, until 4. Actually that is quite a long day but Sophia sleeps for 2 of those hours and I felt she could more than cope with it.
This again helped towards her gaining a sense in the world that she could cope without me and without breastmilk.
All of theses small ruptures slowly slowly and gently preparing her and me for life without 'boob'! If I had realised how loudly she would shout this at me as she grew I would definitely have called it something cuter like 'num nums' lol. She has been known in church to shout mummy BOOBY very loudly! I do find that embarrassing and come to her aid very quickly so to keep her quiet.
Anyway skip forward just 3 months since her second birthday and for the last 3 months she has slept through the night - MIRACLE! Chris and I have felt a bit replenished after two years of sleep dep (read torture) and we have felt there was a space for another baby in our home for a while now. So whilst I want Sophia to self wean we have encouraged it a little with Mayim's idea of 'no offer and no refuse'. I have been really surprised how little Sophia actually wants me when she falls over. I tended to use my breast like a first aid kit for falls. Putting it into her mouth to ease her pain but actually she just wants cuddles.
I have found that she mostly wants me when she is hungry and before bed. When she is hungry I have offered snacks instead. I haven't refused as such only offered something else, but if she is insistent I give her 'boob'.
A visit from my parents occurred where they stayed in our home with Sophia and Chris and I had our very first date night away in our wedding hotel, it was so wonderful and we stayed up late speaking in the restaurant like we were on a first date! It made me realise how starved my relationship has been as a result of breastfeeding. I thought we were good at dates but we were always worried about getting home to put Sophia to bed and rushing through dinner!
During the weekend away we discussed how very much we want to try for another child and we know breastfeeding is hindering this. So we decided to encourage Sophia a little more, in a very gentle way. I would still do 'no offer no refuse' but keep her well fed on solids so her cravings for me weren't food related. This has worked a treat and she hasn't' asked for milk for 3 days! I think she would like it in the evening but Chris has taken the responsibility of bed times again to help transition Sophia towards weaning fully.
So I would say we are definitely getting there.
As a long term breastfeeder I don't worry about my milk drying up, I think it will be available for a long time now. And we will just take it one day at a time. Now send me all your hopes for conceiving a baby.
Would love to hear your feeding and weaning stories.