I’ve recently been reading “Mothering Your Nursing Toddler” by Norma Jane Bumgarner, published by La Leche League. It’s a good book, but I was particularly interested in ways to wean my child off the boob. In a gentle way, of course. Nicky is now 21 months old and is steadily nearing his second birthday. From what I understand from the book, it is less traumatic to wean after two. So I am accumulating notes on weaning to start implementing, particularly in the second half of the year. According to this book, they say:
1) Wean by Abandonment
This is too risky, and can be traumatic for the child. If you have to be separated, pump to keep up your supply.
2)”Spicy Burrito” (putting horrible tasting things on your breasts)
This is too risky to shatter their trust just for a quick weaning. It also may not work.
Nature uses this method during pregnancy when the milk “tastes bad”.
3) Crying it out
This refers to the practice of letting them cry without comfort or distraction, not normal life frustrations.
The lesson a child learns when no one helps him when he cries is mistrust. It is even worse when it happens at night.
Weaning is hard work!
1) “Don’t offer, don’t refuse”
But this comes with no guarantee of how long weaning will take: this depends on the child. I have had Nicky on certain occasions very clearly indicate to me, he doesn’t want food or drink, he just wants boob.
-They suggest walking, carrying the child, talking and singing. This will involve pacing the floor at night and rocking.
-Stories, singing, new toys, outings (yes – going shopping works for me, or going to a park), visits and fun.
-Giving total attention with a snack and drink.
When Nicky is wanting boob for food, this works well. Normal meals work plus my easy to reach solution of biscuits (eat some more) and juice (those nice animal ones from Woolworths with the easy to drink opening).
Sucking needs can also be met with fingers or a pacifier. Make an effort to hold them while this sucking occurs so that they still associate the action with human connection.
This won’t work for falling asleep or waking, but it may work if you if you monitor their reactions closely.
5) Shortening the nursings
Nurse for a while and then use distraction or substitution. This sometimes works if I tell Nicky to look at a toy. Sometimes it doesn’t. Funnily enough if I mention biscuits he often detaches and is quite keen to have one! But it can backfire if he isn’t really hungry: he will land up giving it to the dog or spitting it out.
6) Weaning by contract
You can say that after Christmas or a birthday that there will be an end to the nursing. This is what I would hope for with Nicky’s second birthday. However the book cautions that they may go along with it only to back out when the time comes. They also suggest a new toy or pet plus lots of mother’s attention.
7) Father Help
The father can help at night with mom out of sight. Dad can be good at putting the child to sleep. Dad also provides good distraction during the day.
Most of all they can provide support to both during this difficult time.
8) Spot Weaning
I think this approach will work well for me. If I try and get rid of the day feeds first (excluding nap time) I will feel like we are making some progress.
I then read Pinky McKay’s “Weaning With Love”. Pinky is a lactation consultant in Australia.
Pinky has a brief chapter on breastfeeding and fertility, because, as we know, breastfeeding suppresses ovulation. She says she always asks “If you wean and don’t conceive, how might you feel about weaning this baby?” A few months may not make much difference to conception, but it may to your baby’s health and relationship. She suggests natural therapies along with cutting down on breastfeeding.
She also says you can breastfeed during pregnancy, although there will be a drop in supply.
She says for emergency weaning (such as mom undergoing chemotherapy) keep morning and evening feeds for a few days and have others help you with the child during the day. Bring dad in to cuddle at night. Drop the final two feeds one at a time with a few days inbetween.
Pinky suggests other bonding techniques during this time: smelling, touching, eye contact and speaking or singing to your baby.
Her tips for a mother during this time to avoid mastitis are to express, use cabbage leaves, ice packs, sage, peppermint, spearmint and parsley.
Sage tea: 1 tablespoon dried sage + 1 cup boiling water. Let it steep for 5-15 mins and drink 2-6 times per day.
Be prepared for emotional ups and downs (just like PMS). The effect of the withdrawal of prolactin and oxytocin will resolve within weeks as your hormones rebalance.
Pinky suggests dropping one feed a week and replacing it with an activity that releases that love hormone, oxytocin, such as cuddles and exercising.
I think this may be tough to figure out because apart from the night time, morning and nap time feeds which are pretty entrenched, the other feeds are haphazard. On Friday he had no feeds all morning (due to us going out to the shops) and at home I think he knows he can help himself whenever he gets a “boo-boo!” I might just have to keep going out!
Plan ahead with activities to keep your toddler busy before he even asks to nurse.
To drop morning feed; get up and dressed and have a snack ready.
To drop night feed: use a bedtime story. Use the same one to end with for comfort and familiarity.
I think when we transition Nicky onto his own bed this might work. I’m not sure about reading because at the moment he grabs the book from me.
She also advocates using music with the feed and then drop the feed and leave the music. She also says: try and figure out why they are waking at night. If it is teething make sure his head is elevated. You can also say you will have boobies “when the sun shines”. There is even a book for this:
For co-sleeping she suggests sleeping with your back to the toddler. Also: move him gently out of the bed for at least part of the night.
I think this whole thing will be harder on me than him because I have become so used to the “boob solution” for all ailments. Plus it is an excellent nap extender when I need to get more work done. He will often wake up after one hour and then I feed him to sleep for another hour. I think the sleep thing will be the toughest.
I’d like to know how other moms did it!