Our Weaning Journey

We returned from our vacation in the wee hours of the morning on November 26th. From the 18th-25th my boobs had been hard at work. Because of how overwhelming the trip was for her, the constant heat and being on the go, and the lack of interest in solids during the trip, some days I felt as though I was breastfeeding around the clock.

As soon as we were back home, I turned to my husband and told him I was done. I couldn’t do this anymore. 14 months of breastfeeding is a long time. I think when we initially sign up for breastfeeding, we don’t really realize how much of ourselves we are giving up. We give up sleep, we give up personal space, we give up comfort, we give up privacy, we give up the whole of our bodies. Read that last one again, for people that don’t fully understand how taxing breastfeeding can be: we give up our whole bodies.

Breastfeeding isn’t solely about your breasts and the milk they provide. It can affect your hormones, and in turn your mental health. It can affect your weight, your energy levels, it can affect your appetite. There are so many other things, and I think for those people on the outside looking in chanting “Breast Is Best!” at women, they don’t fully comprehend just how much of a journey it is. There were so many days where I breastfed so much that my whole body just ached (surprisingly enough, my nipples were the only thing that didn’t). There were a lot of days I would be completely fine and then I would just suddenly start crying and be unable to stop for hours.

Breastfeeding is a lot, and it really opens your eyes to the true strength of a woman.

Long story short, after a week of being a constant buffet to my very picky and emotional child, I told myself that this was it, this was the end of our Breastfeeding journey. For my sanity, it had to be.

When I reached out to other moms about my weaning journey, I was bombarded with an endless stream of questions, rightfully so. When I started weaning I had so many questions and so little answers. I thought this needs to be a blog post. This is information that can be so helpful to other moms out there who have attempted weaning time and time again and failed because they didn’t know where to find the right answers.

How I Weaned My Daughter Off Breastfeeding In 10 Days!

Okay, first things first, buckle up and prepare for the worst. My daughter has always been a little diva. She is sassy, she is stubborn, she is a force to be reckoned with, so of course, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. That being said, never in my wildest dream would I ever imagine it would be so hard!

The first thing you really need to do to be successful at weaning is Come Up With A Set Schedule And Stick To It Come Hell Or High Water!

My daughter was an emotional feeder. What that meant was she would breastfeed when she got scared, when she was overwhelmed, when she hurt herself, any minor inconvenience in her life and she would come over and practically rip off my shirt. This meant a lot of days she was comfort feeding almost every hour or so.

My schedule was pretty simple. In the beginning stages of weaning, I would breastfeed her once when we first woke up, once in the afternoons before her nap, and once before bedtime. Outside of these set times, the shop was closed!

One thing I will suggest before you decide to wean is pump and stock up. If your child is like mine and acts as though you are trying to murder her as you wean her from breastfeeding, in the beginning, she/he will only accept breastmilk out of the bottle. Don’t even try anything else, it will just be way too difficult.

I think it’s also important to note, for other parents who have been introducing whole milk or other beverages to your child before weaning, that I found her being familiar with milk already made absolutely no difference. I had been giving her whole milk in places I couldn’t breastfeed, like in the car, since she was about 7 months and she still refused to take milk (even though she had taken a full whole milk bottle before) while weaning. She was too emotional and it was just a no-go.

What I did was keep a bottle handy with a small amount of breastmilk in it. Typically speaking, breastmilk before refrigerated can last about 4 hours out of the fridge. This is why I would only leave about an ounce out in a bottle because in the beginning, it was such a battle and I didn’t want to be throwing out so much unused milk. If you’ve been breastfeeding steadily, you will need to relieve some of that pressure by pumping outside of those times anyway, so I typically kept freshly pumped milk out in a bottle for her.

On standby, I would have a full 5oz bottle of breastmilk in the fridge. (Keep in mind you can’t microwave breastmilk.)

My days would start with a small breastfeed before she would have her breakfast, and while she was eating or playing I would pump out the excess milk, divide it into the two bottles, put the full one in the fridge and the 1oz bottle I would keep on hand because I knew when she got bored or upset, she would come looking for a feed.

Typically getting her to take the bottle was a battle every single time for the first three days. If your weaning while your child is fully mobile and can reach for you or pull your shirt down, I would suggest wearing a high neck, a fitted t-shirt during the first three days and even go so far as also wearing a sports bra underneath to make sure they are completely inaccessible. If my daughter even caught glimpse of my nipple she would completely lose her mind.

Most of the first three days will, unfortunately, be letting your child emotionally tire themselves out before they take the bottle because they have no more fight left in them (at least that’s how my wonderful weaning journey began).

This is going to take a lot of your strength, I know it did for me. My daughter became a completely amped-up version of herself and got quite violent with her tantrums. Typically a tantrum for her is lying down somewhere on the floor in view of me. She would press her forehead to the ground and cry before rolling onto her back (fake crying, mind you) and she would randomly lift her legs and slowly bring them down. It honestly looks a little bit like hilarious, emotional yoga. When we started weaning, she became obviously frustrated with the whole thing and started lashing out.

She would try and pull at my shirt and when I kept pulling her hands away and offering the bottle her frustration would peak and she would transform into this adorable little monster. Don’t let her cuteness fool you, she would pinch, slap, try and bite me. Honestly, my living room was the octagon and there were no rules in this match.

I personally think (although a lot of moms I have spoken to about this have disagreed) that it’s best to provide comfort during this time to help them with the transition. Comfort was important to my daughter because that was why she breastfed so often. It was a comfort thing to her, much like a soother would be to another child. So to take away breastfeeding and also take away the comfort she needed in that time and let her cry-it-out by herself was something I knew just wouldn’t work emotionally for my daughter.

I needed to get her used to the routine but also let her know the comfort she needed from me was still there. So, I would pick her up with her back against my chest so she couldn’t hit, pinch, or bite me, and I would walk laps around our living room while counting softly, or singing. Usually after about five minutes or so she would calm down and it was time to repeat the process all over again.

Moms, let me tell you, this was a lot on me emotionally. I cried a lot, I lost my patience, I was frustrated and angry. Emotionally and physically, I was completely spent.

The most difficult part of the whole weaning process is feeling like you’re losing that bond with your child that you’ve build breastfeeding. It’s hard to go from being their favourite person to someone they may try and lash out because they don’t understand what is going on and why things are changing.

Emotionally I was a wreck, and my days were a tornado of tears, milk, and exhaustion.

The guilt was weighing really heavy on me during this whole thing and I found myself doubting my capabilities as a mom and whether or not I was fully up for the task.

After the third day, I eliminated the morning feed and kept her busy in the morning. If your child likes something else (mine loves water), I would fill their favourite cup with this and let them have that while they eat breakfast and play and you can pump. Typically I kept my daughter busy with Super Simple Learn videos because she loves to count along or watch the ABCs. (This company is super great and I absolutely love their videos. You can watch them for free on YouTube and they teach everything from animals, numbers, to days of the year, even sign language!) While she was busy, I would go into the kitchen where I could still see her but she couldn’t see me and I would pump.

The fourth day was still difficult, but substantially easier than the first three days. For any parent going through this, I would say once you get over the third-day hump, it’s pretty much downhill from there.

My biggest challenge was naptime and bedtime because my daughter was so used to nursing to sleep. Usually, when she started to get tired and her naptime was getting close I would put her in the stroller and take the bottle along knowing she wouldn’t give me any trouble taking the bottle in the stroller if she was busy looking around on the walk. Normally she would get just about through the bottle and would pass out.

On the fourth day, I also started to do 1/2 and 1/2 bottles. 

It’s important to start switching to whole milk, or whatever milk you decide is best for your baby gradually. The walks made that transition a lot easier, so will car rides and any other place your child will take a bottle from you without much fuss.

My daughter is also very curious, so I found if I took her into the kitchen with me to make a bottle and she could watch, she would take it from me right away just to see what was what.

When I started adding whole milk to her bottle she did give me a tiny bit of resistance. At that point, I also started adding a scoop of Ovaltine to her bottle which was something I would do when she started to get sick before we started the weaning process. It is chocolate flavour so of course, that made the world of difference to her.

By the sixth day, I eliminated any daytime feedings and we were strictly down to bedtime feedings. Having the few test days where I would give her a bottle for walks really helped with the transition and honestly, it was the easiest feed to completely cut out if I kept her busy.

Things to note, my daughter’s appetite completely changed while weaning but I expected that because when she is overly emotional she refused to eat any solid meals and will only snack. I had to get a little creative with snacks to make sure she was getting enough to eat. Anything your kids can pick up and eat themselves is always great because while they’re mad at you, getting them to sit and eat will be really difficult.

My daughter also got diarrhea while we were transitioning her from breastmilk. Now, a few people told me this wasn’t normal and that she may be lactose intolerant, however, she had been on milk since 7 months and had never had an incident. That being said, it is also possible to develop an intolerance. So when she started getting diarrhea, I switched to infant formula to see if that was what it was. The switch was awful, she hated the formula, it made her gassy and even made her spit up a bit, and she still had diarrhea.

I think you just have to know your child. My daughter is, as I’ve stated before, very dramatic. When she tends to be overemotional or resisting a big change in her life she often gets diarrhea. I decided to wait it out and see if it went away when she got used to this new routine.

Day eight was when I switched to 1/2 breastmilk and 3/4 whole milk. 

This was a fairly easy switch but I was also adding a scoop of Ovaltine to her first bottle and her bottle before her nap. Outside of those two 5oz bottles, she usually had a third around the time she woke up which was plain.

By the tenth day, we were exclusively bottle feeding. 

If you have a child who likes to feed to sleep as mine does, I find it helpful if you offer them the bottle before they actually get to bed. By the time we had gotten to the point where she was drinking from a bottle at bedtime, she was on 100% milk. I found it was better if I offered her the bottle while we were still reading stories because she didn’t associate that with bedtime and feeding to sleep. She would typically finish about 3/4 of her 10oz bottle before we were done reading. Most nights she would not want to finish it and she would roll around the bed a little bit until she felt settled enough to pass out.

So that’s it. That is how I weaned my daughter from breastfeeding in 10 days.

Now again, this is just my journey. My child is not your child. Maybe your child will be an angel while your transition and you will look back at this post wondering what in the hell was going on in my home during all of this, but maybe your child won’t be and maybe the things that worked for me may not help with your child. But honestly, sometimes just reading about someone else’s journey and realizing you’re not alone in your struggle is enough.

I am not an expert on anything, especially not parenting. All I can do is tell you what it was like for me and hope that somewhere in this blog entry there is something that will make your day even the tiniest bit easier.

As always, it’s been a pleasure pretending to know what I’m talking about!

Until next time.

Day 4 Of Weaning

The decision to start on the weaning process was not a difficult one to make for me. My daughter has gotten into the habit of feeding for every little thing and having my shirt constantly pulled down, whether at home or in public, was getting old really fast. I knew it would be difficult, my daughter has a big personality topped off with a whopping dose of drama, but I really didn’t think it would be this hard.

I did my research and came up with a game plan. I knew I wouldn’t go cold turkey because that seemed to have bad side effects for both mom and tot. The clogged breasts were enough for me to say I wasn’t going to try it, but knowing my daughter using feeding as a source of comfort, I didn’t want to completely rob her of that and leave her feeling as though she did something wrong.

My plan was to cut all feeding down to three times a day, which is substantially less than the dozen or so we were at before we started this process. There would be days where she would be in a mood and literally, all she would do is feed. Cutting it down to three was something I wasn’t sure if we could do the first day, but we made it through with a lot of screaming and tears (on both sides).

One feeding in the morning, one feeding before her midday nap, and then one at bedtime. Any other drinking outside of those three were going to be with cups and bottles and of course the solids.

At day 4, I have eliminated the morning feed. It’s easiest to keep her busy in the mornings and distract her from her need to feed with her solids and toys. Without them afternoon feed at this point, she won’t nap. I know a lot of moms reading this who have read somewhere that you shouldn’t nurse to sleep are probably thinking this is why. Sure, she needs to nurse to sleep at some points, but I also feel like as mother’s it’s our job to provide that level of comfort if our little ones need it, despite what some literature may tell us. I’m definitely not sorry I’ve been nursing her to sleep thus far, but it is a difficult habit to step back from.

However, with cutting back, it only takes a few short minutes of feeding for her to completely knock out, which is wonderful compared to the 30 or so minutes it took before that.

Her hate of bottles has really set us back a bit. Ever since she was a baby she just hated the nipples of a bottle and refused to take them. It’s definitely made my job a lot harder. Looking back, I probably should have pumped more and given my husband more of a role in the feeding process and it definitely would have made this weaning process that much easier. With co-sleeping and my lack of sleep, I was just doing was easiest and best for both of us at the time, and I regret not taking more of a bumpy road.

Live and learn, no going back now.

Of all the bottles we’ve bought, and we have bought quite a bit, I find she likes the Avent bottle the best.

I’ve heard great things about the Nuk ones as well, but we have a few of these and she just prefers the Avent ones. You can buy them from Amazon, Walmart, BabiesRus for our Canadian mamas. They’re sold pretty much everywhere as they are a popular brand, and this nipple is closest to my own, which is why she prefers it.

What I’ve learned when buying bottles is just stick with one. Buy a bottle, and just keep at it. Eventually, they will be okay with it. Switching out bottles constantly for preference (unless your baby has colic) only makes things more difficult and your baby fussier.

If you have a tot with as strong of a personality of mine, you are going to have to tough out some majorly bad behaviour. At this age, it’s hard to correct behaviour as their understanding is not really at a point where you can nip things in the bud. All you can do is stop them from doing what you don’t like and try and get them to do something else. My daughter is really bad for biting, although it seems to be something she just does with my husband and me when she loses her temper. I cover her mouth with my hand when she is going to bite me, gently push her face away while saying “No” and try and get her to do something else, like look at her book or play with her toys. It usually takes more than one attempt but takes fewer attempts than it did in the beginning.

When I first introduce the bottle, she likes to drop dramatically to the floor and “fake cry” (did I mention she was dramatic) eventually this fake cry will grow into a full-blown wail that eventually turns into an actual cry. In short, she works herself up. (YAY ME!)

In the beginning, I would pick her up and calm her and try again. I would do this over and over. It left me feeling like I had gone about ten rounds in the ring when I was done. Now, I let her finished her dramatics first and when she’s all but calmed herself, I step in to provide a little comfort. It’s extremely hard! I’ve never been the kind of parent that lets her cry it out for any reason, but stepping in too soon showed her tantrums got her what she wanted and lengthened the process.

It’s been rough both physically, mentally, and emotionally. All I can really do is pretend it’s a little easier than it is and tell myself the break of the storm is coming sooner rather than later.