Long story short, Flynn and I had many, many hurdles to jump throughout our nursing journey. I had high hopes for a beautiful, seamless, two year long bond, but that wasn’t in the cards for us. Unfortunately, one of these hurdles has been my coming down with a mystery chronic illness. I got sick about 4 months postpartum but I insisted on pushing through and nursing Flynn every 2 hours around the clock like he wanted, and continued to do this for the first year of his life all day and all night. Although his daytime feeds did start to space out eventually he was still up every two hours in the night, and in the meantime my health was deteriorating rapidly.
My care team, made up of several care providers and loved ones, and I had very strongly started to consider that maybe the lack of sleep and the constant production of the hormone relaxin were contributing to my chronic and worsening pain. So, after many months of thinking hard on it, talking it over with loved ones and several doctors, and doing a lot of research, I made the decision to start the weaning process at about 20 months, even though it felt like neither of us were really ready. This felt like such an impossible decision for me to make. How can a mother make a choice that is in HER best interest, but not necessarily her child’s? But, as I was reminded time and time again, and tried so so hard to tell myself daily, my health WAS in Flynn’s best interest and I had given him 20 beautiful months of nutrition and an unbreakable bond was established.
So, I started with the “distraction method” for daytime feeds. Every time Flynn asked for “baba” I would say something like okay buddy, in a minute. And I started doing that for one or two feeds a day, until eventually he stopped asking. Keep in mind, he was housing solids by this point and eating about as much as I do every day, so he definitely didn’t need the milk for calories. We also started doing some comfort measures like replacing a nursing session with just quiet cuddles and I did let him hold my “baba’s” for comfort as well, something he still actually does to this day at 27 months. I was so relieved that in a very short time, we were able to drop all day time feeds without a single upset moment on Flynn’s part. (but a lot of tears on mama’s part)
The nighttime weaning process took place over several months. A couple months before I started with daytime feeds I did start the process of lengthening out our every two hour nighttime feeds. I actually tried doing this a few times starting when Flynn was about 10 months old, but every time it would lead to crying and every time I gave up because I couldn’t stand it. If you know me, you know how much I hate letting babies cry. I am the absolute weakest person when it comes to this, and unfortunately this process did include some protesting on Flynn’s part but he was always wrapped up very tightly in me or his dads arms and soothed in every other way possible, and luckily it never got too bad. Eventually, when he started to understand more language, he stayed a little calmer and I was able to snuggle him back to sleep sometimes without too much of a fight. Branlin was also a huge help throughout this process because we realized that he didn’t even ask for me much if I wasn’t in the room. So, eventually over time we were able to lengthen out the feeds and as the months went on and we could have conversations he was usually totally fine with it and eventually settled for just holding the “baba.”
The other thing that had to be addressed throughout this process was that Flynn had always either nursed to sleep or nursed right until he was about to fall asleep. So, again, very gradually my method with this was to move up the nursing session further into the bedtime routine, so before the bath and books. And when we felt he was ready, we replaced it with a bottle. I got so lucky that Flynn instantly fell in love with a bottle and after a couple nights of that he never even asked to nurse during his bedtime routine again. All in all, the process was much easier on him than I anticipated and it seemed to be considerably harder on me emotionally. I think he was possibly more ready than I thought and the only tough part for him was breaking nighttime habits that were bad habits that needed to be addressed anyway.
My biggest fear was losing those moments we had each day of stopping the world and sharing the most beautiful silence together. But I am so happy to report that we still have those moments several times a day, just without the nursing part.