Why We Weaned

When Elizabeth was handed to me directly after being born, my first question was “can I try to breastfeed her?” Why that was a question, I have no idea, but with it began 18.5 months of breastfeeding. We had ups and downs, and one very emotional week where I cried to my fellow MSW Mamas when I thought E was self-weaning. But she didn’t self-wean, it turns out she was teething and gearing up to fight back-to-back bouts of the stomach flu (which is super fun when your baby is 14 months old and both mommy and daddy get it, too).

By March my best friend had let me know that her out-of-state bachelorette party would be in July. Spring came and went, and suddenly it was May. Elizabeth was nursing twice a day at that point, before breakfast and directly before bed. She would say “mil” and sign for milk the second she woke up, and once her jammies were on at night. Baby girl was hooked, and I was too; the quiet, sweet moments meant the world to me. At 18 months she was an efficient nurser too. Five minutes on the boob and she was ready to be off and running!

After lengthy talks with my husband (which always ended in “you do what you need to, baby”), I decided to stop cold-turkey, first with morning feedings, and then with nighttime. One morning when I went to get her out of her crib I excitedly exclaimed “are you ready for food!?” and ignored her sweet, chubby little hand signing for ‘milk’. After a couple days of being overly excited for 7 a.m. breakfast, she stopped signing for milk every morning, though it would happen on and off for a few weeks.

Nighttime weaning was much harder. Because I was literally the only person who had put her to sleep with the same routine for 18 months, I knew it was going to be a battle. That first night we read books and cuddled. When she signed for milk, I said, “no honey, it’s all done.” She then started crying and saying “mil! Mil!” Talk about heartbreaking. So I gave her kisses, tucked her in bed with her bunny and sippy of water, and left. And she was MAD. Oh, she was so angry with me. Daddy had to go in for a few nights in a row to calm her down and give snuggles because she was so mad. 

My mama heart was so broken. But I felt like just up and leaving town for three days and her still depending on me to be there to nurse her was far crueler than the gentle two weeks of weaning we had been through. My husband was also able to put her to bed with no tears, something that he obviously couldn’t have done before.

Had I not needed to go out of town would Elizabeth still be breastfed? I think so, but I can’t be certain. Knowing her routines now, at 20 months, I can really only imagine her wanting a nighttime feeding. Am I glad that chapter has been closed? Most days. Elizabeth has become much more of a cuddler now that we are done breastfeeding. She loves to snuggle up in my lap, give hugs, and be held more now that she did two months ago. It’s also really wonderful to know that daddy or a babysitter can put Elizabeth to bed with no tears, and she will still feel cozy and loved.

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