Thursday, February 07, 2013

Weaning a Baby, Not What I Expected

442: Number of days I nursed my baby
1 month: Approximate amount of time we took to gradually wean
2 weeks: Approximate amount of time for me to feel "normal" again after weaning
0: Number of bottles Jack took

In the many months leading up to having my first child, I read a decent amount about what to expect. I regularly checked in with BabyCenter to see how my child would be progressing each week and how I should be feeling. Mostly I discovered that I had a very easy pregnancy and very few of the symptoms I read about applied to me –– my worst symptoms being heart burn and back pain.

After Jack came along, I periodically read about how my baby should be developing and what milestones he should be hitting, but I relaxed about how much I needed to know. Instead of preemptively reading up on something, I did research if I was concerned or unsure about anything.

Before Jack turned one, Daniel and I agreed that once he turned 1, it would be a good time to wean him. I knew a lot of moms who had decided to wean at 12 months and frankly I was ready for a break. I never pumped and Jack never took a bottle and I was just tired of nursing. I am thankful that I had the opportunity and ability to provide sustenance for my sweet child for so long, but he was eating real food, growing well and meeting milestones and I felt like 12 months was a good time to stop. 

I knew I didn't want to quit cold turkey {for my sake and Jack's} and I knew it would be a process. We were already down to 3 sessions a day and we dropped down to 2 shortly after Jack turned one. Then the month of December hit us like a ton of bricks and I just felt like it was wrong to subject Jack to something as life changing as weaning when we weren't even home and our whole family was under a lot of stress. We even went back to 3 sessions a day.

On January 1, 2013, we decided that it was time to try again. We dropped back to two feedings and had no issues.

After 2 weeks, we dropped the late afternoon one. Again, no problems.

After another 2 weeks, we dropped the morning one. Every day of that last week, I told Jack that it would be the last Monday (Tues/Weds/etc.) that he would nurse and that after Sunday he would only get a big boy sippy cup. I have no idea if he understood me, but I'm sure he understood more than I think.

On the first Monday we didn't nurse, I gave Jack his sippy cup first thing. He took 2 sips, pushed it away and cried. So I gave him breakfast. He was a bit fussy, and was rewarded with an early morning nap. Repeat on Tuesday. By Wednesday he was fine.

I nursed Jack for a total of 442 days and I am pretty proud of that. Overall I would say that from Jack's perspective, weaning was a success {even though I didn't do a lot of research to prepare}.

However having done no research, I had no clue that weaning would have such an affect me. I wrote a little bit about this earlier, but I wanted to expand on this. I that hormones would play such a big part or that I would be super cranky or feel so miserable. Heartburn, cramps, and fatigue plagued me for two weeks. I don't know if research would have made it any easier, but I certainly wasn't prepared for how challenging this process would be from a physical standpoint. You hear all about how hard pregnancy and labor typically are, but I wasn't expecting weaning to be so difficult on my body.

Since life is not without humor {even during difficult times}, here is an excerpt from an email conversation Daniel and I had regarding weaning:
Me: Do you mind running into town and buying me a head of cabbage* before you come home?
Daniel: I can, but is that.... necessary? Anything else we can eat?
(As I admit bias against the idea since I don't even like cabbage...)
Me: It's not to eat. I need it to stick in my bra to help dry up milk that is left.
Daniel: Oh. OK. That I'll go into town for. Those pad things not work?
Me: The pads are to soak up leaking milk. Cabbage is to dry up the actual milk in the milk ducts.
*Cabbage was suggested during a nursing class I took and also by my sister. It helps to dry up your milk. Since I weaned gradually I only had one day where I actually implemented this technique. The leaves felt cool on my skin – similar to what it feels like to put cucumbers on your eyes. 

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