The Story of Hannah’s Weaning

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! I’m glad you’re here. Be sure to check out the other contributors, whose links are at the end of this post.

A few months ago I shared my daughter Hannah’s breastfeeding story. You can read it yourself, but the summary is that she was premature and taken to the special care nursery, and I had health complications of my own. Suffice it to say that we had a rough start. The good news is we eventually overcame that rough start, and went on to have a long and successful nursing relationship.

There were many days during that nursing relationship that I couldn’t see any end in sight. Sometimes that made me happy, sometimes not. It was a question I wrestled with a lot. How would I know when I was ready to wean? And more importantly, how would I know when Hannah was ready?

The World Health Organization and the Canadian Pediatric Society both recommend that a healthy infant should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. They also both recommend that breastfeeding continue for 2 years and beyond, as long as it’s mutually beneficial for mother and child. So until Hannah’s second birthday I didn’t consider weaning. I placed some loose limits on nursing as she got older – if we were out of the house I tended to offer snacks and water, for example. But for the most part nursing continued unrestricted.

But then, I decided to have another baby. By the time Hannah was 2 1/2 we had been trying to conceive for some time and hadn’t been successful. Information I read, coupled with tracking my body temperature, suggested that my progesterone levels were low. This can be caused by breastfeeding, so I decided to count how many times I nursed Hannah during a typical day. On a workday (there were three of those each week), I nursed her 4-5 times a day. On a day when I was home with her it was more like 7-8 times. Cutting down on nursing seemed like an obvious first step.

I was very, very torn about the decision to take serious steps towards weaning. My biggest fear was that it would somehow damage my relationship with my daughter. I recognized that there were no guarantees I would be able to have another child even if I did wean Hannah, and so I was concerned that pursuing weaning might cause a lot of grief and not have the intended positive effect. At the same time I wasn’t really enjoying nursing as much as I had (can you say toddler acrobatics? ;) ). I was deeply conflicted.

I decided to limit nursing to three sessions during the day. I chose first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon at nap time or when I came home from work, and last thing at night. I spoke with Hannah and got her buy-in, or at least as much buy-in as a 2 1/2 year old can give. I thought that if it went really badly, I could always abandon the project after a few days. I would give it just long enough to make a fair evaluation.

Limiting nursing ended up being really great. There were a few hairy moments when Hannah hurt herself or was upset and I had to learn to comfort her in different ways. And there were also hairy moments when I had a bored or cranky child and I had to learn to entertain or otherwise occupy her in different ways. There were a lot more hugs and cuddles, a lot more games and crafts, many more hours spent outdoors.

A month or so into our limited schedule Hannah dropped the morning nurse on her own. Our relationship showed no signs of harm, and my daughter showed no signs of psychological damage. In fact, on the whole it was much easier than I expected. A month or so after that we dropped the afternoon nurse at my request, and again things assumed an equilibrium. By that point I was no longer nursing her to sleep at night, either, since she would generally nurse for only a few minutes and then decide to play some more. Finally, on December 22, 2007 I nursed my daughter for the last time. She was 34 months old.

There were some times when Hannah asked to nurse and I declined, and she was upset. I offered her alternatives, which varied with the situation. However, her upset at being denied nursing was always mild compared to her upset when I turned off the TV or denied a request for a cookie. Before weaning had even started it was common for Hannah, at that age, to have several daily meltdowns. Like many parents of toddlers we often couldn’t even uncover a reason for the outburst. During the weaning process I kept in mind that emotional upsets were normal behaviour, and that she almost always moved on quickly and bore no lasting damage. Had she been unusually upset or showed other signs of not being ready I would have backed off the weaning. It was important to me to meet Hannah’s needs, just as it was important to me to meet my own needs.

I eventually did conceive a second child. In fact I was nearly 6 weeks pregnant the last time I nursed Hannah. However, the weaning didn’t help my fertility. I saw a naturopath and used a progesterone supplement after I ovulated, and then throughout the first trimester. If I found myself in the same situation I would probably pursue the supplement as the first option before weaning, but I still don’t regret the weaning. For us, I think it was a good time to move on, since I wasn’t terribly keen to nurse throughout pregnancy. I enjoyed the short nursing break before my son Jacob was born in August 2008.

There are a lot of myths about weaning. Some people claim that weaning will help a child to become more independent, allow a child to be comforted by other adults, make a child a better eater, or help a child sleep better. There are others who claim that weaning can damage the mother-child bond, cause regression, or cause a loss of independence. Perhaps premature weaning can do those things, but in my experience the only major change with weaning was that my daughter didn’t nurse. Period. She still wanted me when she was upset, she still woke at night with the same regularity, and she still turned her nose up at most of the food offered to her. Our bond remained as strong as ever, our attachment as secure as it had always been.

The thing about parenting is that there are no easy answers. We are all just doing the best we can. So it was with Hannah’s nursing relationship. I look back on those days with some fondness, a few regrets, and a lot of pride. I prevailed through the early days, and I did it! And so did she. At the end we worked together and found a happy conclusion. I think it was mostly good, or at least as good as can be expected. It is my hope that I will one day be able to say the same thing for my son, as well as any other children I may have.

Now check out these other great breastfeeding stories. You will be very glad you did! :)

  • Laura’s Blog: Weaning a Toddler
  • Stepping Off the Spaceship: Life, Death and Nourishment
  • So Fawned: Sticking With It
  • Mommy News: How Breastfeeding Changed My Life
  • and all that Sazz: The Tale of the Flying Breast Milk
  • Grudge Mom: Breastfeeding Failures and Success
  • Baby Carriers Downunder: Kandy
  • Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Ben’s story
  • Breastfeeding 1-2-3: The “I Told You So”
  • Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Breastfeeding is not easy but is definitely best for baby
  • Breastfeeding Mums: Breastfeeding made me the mother I am
  • Motherwear: They said the latch was fine
  • Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Can Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices?
  • zen_mommy: Celebrating my…chest!
  • Blacktating: Nursing in Public
  • Crystal Gold: A Found Memory
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      Comments

      1. That’s a beautiful story. I love the way you explained the bonding feeling it gave you. I’m sure you’ll be able to provide your son with the same experience. You should be very proud of your efforts.

      2. “in my experience the only major change with weaning was that my daughter didn’t nurse.”

        It sounds to me that this is the case because you were perceptive, sensitive and weaned when she was actually ready.

        My own experience with weaning my son at 27 months (because I was pregnant and it was very uncomfortable) was similar to what you have described. I actually consider that I let my child self-wean even though I encouraged him through the process. My experience made me realise that sometimes a child is ready for a new stage but needs a bit of a helping hand from the parent to let go of the old. A parent who can watch the child for signs of readiness, be flexible and accepting of “setbacks” and be sensitive to the needs of the child is a perfect guide through the process of growing up whether it’s weaning, moving to a bed in their own room, toilet learning or hell, going to college.

        I really like your point that your daughter would get more upset about you turning off the tv than denying a request to nurse. It puts it into perspective doesn’t it?

      3. ok I totally teared up when you said the date you last nursed her! makes me think of the day I’ll need to stop nursing my daughter. :( so sad! but this was a great weaning story.

      4. What a beautiful story – thanks so much for sharing it. I am *still* nursing my 3.5 year old son – but we are “on our way” to weaning. You can read our breastfeeding story here: http://mommynewsblog.com/gentle-weaning-one-moms-journey-through-breastfeeding/ – I have taken a similar “gentle weaning” approach – but it is still a story in play. There have been times that he has gone 10 days without nursing and other times where he asks daily. I am ready to be done, but I know that I will be sad when the time comes.

      5. I’m glad it went so smoothly for you, especially after the difficulties at the beginning. It sounds like you have such a loving relationship.

      6. Thanks for sharing your lovely story. My daughter and I also had a difficult first few months breastfeeding – but after much perseverence she’s still going strong at 2 years. Over the last few months as I approached the ‘2 year mark’ I was starting to think about weaning and how I will do it. But it just saddens me every time i think about weaning. So for now i’ll just leave it up to my daughter. I’ve definately started to feel a little pressure from others re weaning – friendly suggestions re how to go about it – and for a while there I felt I almost had to apologise for still feeding! But now i’m just proud and thankful.

      7. This is a very beautiful and inspiring story. I’m not looking forward to the time when I will wean Gretchen — but I have a good chunk of time to enjoy it while it lasts!

      8. It sounds like you approached weaning in a way that met both your needs and respected yourself and Hannah. Good for you!

        This is such a timely post. Lately, I find myself wanting to explain to people how you can begin down the path of weaning without it being all or nothing. I think you explained it perfectly.

      9. Great story Amber. It is so important to hear healthy stories of weaning and you’ve got a great one here that I think will help out a lot of moms who read it.

      10. What a wonderful story. It’s good to have a reminder that weaning can be a positive thing for everyone.

      11. I saw your link in the email for the Carnival, and I’m glad I stopped by to read your story. I’m glad that the weaning process wasn’t too hard on either of you. Great job!

      12. Weaning is so bittersweet. I love nursing, but am ready for it to be over in some ways. I know I will miss it, though. Like you, I look back at our journey over the last 18 months and I am really proud of how we’ve parented. Breastfeeding is a big part of that.

      13. Wow, what a wonderfully articulate expression of the weaning process. This should be a blueprint of how to wean a child… from anything! With respect to the child and yourself, with lots of supplemental love and cuddles, with no hard-cut predetermined deadlines… it is perfect! I am so glad you had a wonderful experience!!! Thanks for sharing!!

      14. Thank you so much for your story! I have been fearing weaning. I work full-time outside of the home and I think we both rely heavily on our nursing relationship to reconnect and survive the many hours we have to be apart. I’ve been worried that weaning will be rife with guilt and stress and anger and disappointment but your story is so beautiful. I am not eager for nursing to end, but your story helps me think that the next chapter can be just as beautiful as the first!

      15. I want to talk about my weaning story at this point from breastfeeding. Today is my initial day I didn’t breastfeed her throughout the day time while I was with my baby Cindy. And I was anxious beacuse she is such a cuddly little girl and loves to breastfeed. But I made bottles half breast milk and half whole milk instead, and offered them to her around meal times and after. She never took to the bottle for nearly her first 8 months so I’m even excited she will take the bottle. She drank 11 oz of the milk, and I think that is pretty good for a first day.

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      Trackbacks

      1. [...] Strocel: The Story Of Hannah’s Weaning [...]

      2. [...] Amber @ Strocel.com: Hannah’s Weaning [...]

      3. Kandy | Baby Carriers Downunder says:

        [...] Hannah’s Weaning by Amber at Strocel.com [...]

      4. [...] sure to check out the posts from these other Carnival contributors: Strocel: The Story of Hannah’s Weaning Bangerlm: Weaning a Toddler Stepping Off the Spaceship: Life, Death, and Nourishment So Fawned: [...]

      5. [...] shared the story of my daughter Hannah’s weaning at 34 months a little over 6 months ago. The post touches on the incredibly mixed feelings I felt [...]

      6. [...] big sister, Hannah, until she was almost three years old. A whole lot of factors led to her weaning, including my desire to conceive again (I wasn’t having much luck), my increasing physical [...]

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      8. [...] The Story of Hannah’s Weaning — Strocel.comWeaning a Toddler — Laura’s BlogLife, Death & Nourishment — Stepping Off the SpaceshipHow Breastfeeding Changed My Life — Mommy News BlogThe Tale of the Flying Breastmilk — And All That SazzBreastfeeding Failures and Success — GrudgeMomKandy — Baby Carriers DownunderBen’s Story: The Best Breastfeeding Advice from the Least Likely Source — Massachusetts Friends of MidwivesThe “I Told You So” — Breastfeeding 1-2-3Breastfeeding is Not Easy But is Definitely Best for Baby — Chronicles of a Nursing MomBreastfeeding Made Me the Mother I Am — Breastfeeding Mums BlogThey Said the Latch Was Fine — The Motherwear Breastfeeding BlogCan Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices? — Breastfeeding Moms UniteCelebrating… My Chest! — Zen MommyFor Women in My Situation — The TowellsNursing in Public — BlacktatingA Found Memory — Crystal Gold [...]

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