Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Milk Bar is Closing

I am one of those women for whom nursing was the easy part of being a new mom. As Ellen tells it, just after Ada was born the girl practically commando-crawled up my belly to reach my breast, latching on immediately and vigorously. I never had mastitis, plugged ducts or other routine but painful problems that commonly plague nursing mothers. (Ok, I did get thrush, but that was when I was pregnant, not breastfeeding.) Ada has always been an avid nurser. She took well to solids too, and at 15 months only nurses a few times a day. At this point it sound be easy to just cut her off. Who knows, maybe it will be easy for her. But it isn't easy for me.

I enjoy the quiet time with Ada, the chance to hold her warm body and hum or sing to her. Especially now that she's walking, the girl is all about movement, making those cuddle moments rare And though I don't have a problem with so-called "extended nursing." I am facing a deadline: Thanksgiving.

Every year since college, a group of my friends have gotten together for Thanksgiving. We rent a house and barely leave all weekend. If we are someplace scenic, we take walks, but mostly we sit around playing cards, cooking, eating, drinking and trash-talking. Usually the weather encourages this sloth. We've gathered in Wisconsin, on Cape Cod, the Oregon coast and upstate New York. One of my Thanksgiving friends has been living in Mexico for the past several years, and has been advocating for a warmer destination for long before that. This is the year that the group has agreed. So we are headed to Mexico for Thanksgiving. This is great, and Chris and I decided that it will be more fun without Ada than with her. As much as I love her, she's not yet a great traveling companion. So Ada will stay home with her grandparents while we flee the country.

This is where I run into a problem. I need to (at least mostly) wean her in the next two months. Ada is not looking very interested in weaning. I have heard that waiting too much past a year makes it a bit harder to wean, as the child gets more "attached" to the breast. Ada's only 15 months old, so I think we are still fine as far as that goes. And truthfully, I probably wouldn't have been in a hurry to make a change if we didn't have this trip coming up.

Right now Ada is only nursing when she wakes up in the morning, before nap(s) and before bed. When I am not home with her, she goes without (ok, she gets milk, but without the breast). She survives just fine, as she does when someone else puts her to bed. But when I'm there, nothing but the real thing is good enough. I want to wean her down to the before-bedtime before we leave. Being apart from both Chris and me for four days is going to be a big enough change for her without cold turkey weaning.

So, help a brother (ok, a mother) out? What have you done? What worked? How can I get on the plane without being racked with guilt, clutching my engorged breasts?


  1. I'm the last person for advice on this subject - both my babies turned away from the breast at nine months (at least, that's when I gave up on the task of forcing them to the breast while they scream and wriggle and try to get away). I hope you do get some good tips, though. Good luck!

  2. H didn't appear ready to give up at 18 months but it was really easy on him. We just dropped a feeding here and there (I think he was doing morning, nap and and bedtime and actually naptime was the last to go.) I took about a week and a half to go from 3 to 1 feedings but I’m sure that’s pretty individual. J put him to bed more often and he just almost didn’t notice. I know it was harder on me than it was on him by far. When we would talk about it a week or so later it was like he had completely forgotten and this kid doesn’t forget much. I know I have complained to you about the hormonal swings it all caused me and I hope you are spared that part!

  3. We *just* finished weaning Red (also 15 months) this week. I feel you lady, I think it was harder on me than on her. I started cutting out the day time feeding around her birthday, and got down to night time and morning pretty quickly. The way we cut out the night time weaning was that Daddy put her to bed every night for a week, after that she did not paw at the breast when I put her to bed anymore. The first thing in the morning weaning was the hardest to stop. I love the close snuggles first thing, but I started wearing PJ's that were not so easly accessable and getting up when she woke up to cut out the temptation. It is a hard transition, good luck to you and Ada. And congradulations for going 15 months, even with out mastitis or other problems, nursing for so long is still a great accomplishment for you and your family.

  4. I haven't the faintest, but these ladies might:

    They're a very savvy group of women.

  5. We had replaced morning feedings with DUH breakfast

    And then we had nighttime left, at 15 mos. she was ready, it went like this

  6. I found the "first thing in the morning" feeding the easiest one to phase out first. When he awoke, DH would scurry our son off to breakfast downstairs without me. Since I was not there he didn't even notice he was missing out on nursing. Within a few days, he'd forgotten. Then, we moved on to the other feedings and phased those out too. I honestly can't remember how exactly we did it, but I know it went much easier than I expected it would. It took us about six weeks total to wean; I took it slow. And yes, as ready as I was to be released from the physical toll of nursing, I pined for that emotional connection the first week or so.

  7. to curtail the wake-up feeding, I began fetching a warmed bottle of whole cow's milk a few months ago, just before fetching the kidlet, and then we'd snuggle in bed while he drank, so the morning pattern was unaltered aside from the place where the milk was coming from (well, and obviously, the kind of milk that was coming). the other feedings I slooooowly dropped, one by one, with several days or more separating each drop, and now we're down to once every few days (and then only once during that day). but. I did this in preparation for my four-day trip to San Francisco, expecting to have ceased producing by the time I returned. and -- surprise! I still had plenty of milk. I have no idea how/why. I just do. anyway. that's how it went down for us. but really, feel free to email me if you think there's anything I've said that, were I to expand on it, might make you feel more reassured. I'm really happy to help. I know I could've used the emotional buoy of someone else's (similar) experience before I left, b/c I was really kind of messed up about it, and that kind of screwed up my ability to relax and have fun during my absence. sigh.


  8. Have you read this http://sweetjuniper.blogspot.com/2006/10/thursday-morning-wood.html?

    So beautiful.

  9. I just read it this morning. I completely feel her desire to grab her girl and let her nurse one more time.

  10. I was really anxious about weaning but it went really well. I think we were at around 3 times a day, and first we dropped the daytime nursing and he didn't really notice. Then Brian did bedtime and again, he didn't really seem to mind not nursing. I avoided laying with him on our bed after his bath, because that was when we would always nurse. The last one to go was morning nursing, and there we substituted a bottle of water and still cuddled. I was so surprised at how well it all went. I think we spaced things a couple of weeks in between.

    Now if I could just get him to stop reaching down my shirt all the time . . .

  11. finally catching up on some overdue blog reading (this starting a new business is very much getting in the way of my blogging life. sheesh.) and, of course, have input on the weaning thing. although i'm sure you've already charted your course through these treacherous waters, since you posted a few weeks ago.

    anyhoo. here's what i have to say.

    when zoe and lucy turned 1, they were nursing 4 times a day -- morning, after each nap, before bed. the day they turned 1, i dropped the two post-nap nursings (with help from my mom and my husband -- we were at the beach, so i just made myself scarce and all went swimmingly). so for 2 months, they nursed in the morning and before bed.

    then, we got a cue from them. their before-bed nursing took place in my bed (since i needed to use pillow props so i could nurse them simultaneously), and usually my husband would lie across the foot of the bed while they nursed and he and i would talk. one fateful night, the girls kept stopping nursing to turn over and "talk" to papa, which was more interesting to them than nursing. my first inclination was to have bob leave the room, but then i realized this was our chance to drop one more feeding. so the next night i just didn't take them into my bedroom. instead, bob warmed some milk and put it in sippy cups and they drank that while he read to them before bed. worked flawlessly -- they didn't even seem to notice the difference since they were so happy to have bob all to themselves.

    finally, the time came to drop the morning nursing. our routine had been that they would wake up early (like 5am), nurse, then go back to sleep for a few hours (til, like, 8am). i was loathe to give this one up because it threatened to mean we'd all be getting up, and staying up, at 5am and that would be very very bad. but, they were almost 15 months old and i was ready to wean (15 months of nursing twins was enough for me), so one morning, bob got up with them, made them cups of milk and went off into the living room to play. the next morning, they woke up at 7am. the next morning, 7:30. the next 8am. and the next 7:30. which is where we stayed for years.

    about a week after this, i held one of the girls in my lap in a nursing position, just to see what she would do.

    nothing. nada. no head-turn whatsoever. they were done.

    i'm certainly not claiming that my method will work for everyone, but i was very pleased with the outcome in my house.

    good good luck to you. looking forward to hearing about your travails, and hoping it's a smooth success story you get to tell. it's great that you've got such a fun reward waiting for you on the other side. thanksgiving in mexico sounds fabulous! (we did thanksgiving with college friends in sedona once and it was amazing.)