September 19, 2017
I am one of those mothers who absolutely loves to nurse my baby. Happiness courses through my entire body when I am breastfeeding my son. When he was a newborn and would wake for a feeding in the middle of the night, as soon as he latched on, my grogginess was replaced by elation. During my first year of motherhood, breastfeeding my son has been one of my greatest joys.
As my sweet baby boy has grown over the past year from a cooing infant to a crawling boy there have been many changes and transitions both for him and me. One of our constants has been the sweet moments when I am nursing him.
In addition to the knowledge that I am providing him with food to help him flourish, there are so many things I love about breastfeeding my son: his little body curled up on mine, his hands touching my face, our shared contentment. I cherish these moments. And I am sad that this special time is coming to an end.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for 6 months followed by supplemental nursing with the introduction of foods until the age of 1. The nation’s leading organization for pediatricians says, “Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice.”
Breast milk can lower a baby’s risk of a number of illnesses, is easily digestible for your little one’s system, and automatically changes to meet his needs. It is, in essence, the perfect food for a newborn.
For all of the good reasons to give your baby breast milk, there are also many women who cannot nurse their babies or need to stop sooner than 6 months. As mothers and parents, we get to make the responsible decisions that benefit the well-being of our children and ourselves.
I was raised on formula, and I think I turned out just fine. But I always hoped that I would be able to successfully nurse my baby boy. I attended classes and read books when I was expecting and talked with two lactation consultants when Killian was born. It came easy and naturally for us, and I am grateful for that.
My goal was to nurse Killian until he was 1 year old. He was exclusively breastfed until 4 months old when I started giving him a little rice cereal (mixed with breast milk) in the morning.
At the guidance of our pediatrician, when Killian was 6 months old I switched from nursing him on demand to breastfeeding to supplement his baby food meals.
With his first birthday around the corner I have started the weaning process to fully stop nursing my son. During the past month, I have cut back his four to six daily breast feedings to two. He is currently nursing first thing in the morning and after dinner. When he wants to nurse during the day I am giving him a small bottle of formula. That will change to whole milk once we get the OK at his one-year check up with the pediatrician.
My body is one of the reasons that I am weaning my son as he turns one. There are some vanity perks like I can finally (FINALLY!) wear normal bras again. My nursing bras have been supportive, comfy friends but I have missed my pretty, lacy bras. As much as I absolutely love sharing my body with my baby there is also something amazing about feeling like myself again. Maybe it’s the bras, maybe it’s that my breasts have going back to their pre-baby size, maybe it’s that I am back to my pre-baby weight but my body feels like mine again and that is awesome.
There is a much more important and practical reason that I am weaning my son.
I want to get pregnant again. Like many women, since giving birth my period has not yet returned, which means I am most likely not ovulating.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, when a woman’s body makes breast milk her brain is also producing higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which typically means she won’t ovulate and likely will not get her period. It is possible to conceive while still breastfeeding even if your period has not returned, but so far I have not.
I am going to be 36 years old soon, and we are ready to have another child. I never thought there would be a time when I would miss my period, but I am actually praying it returns soon.
By weaning my son my period (and ovulation) should return in the next few months. Hopefully a little brother or sister for Killian will follow.
Even if my heart wants to keep nursing my son, my head knows it is time to stop. If you are planning or attempting to wean your baby, here are some tips that I am using that may benefit you as well.
I always recommend going to the experts for any and all issues and questions regarding your little one and your health. When you decide it is time to wean, talk to your child’s pediatrician and your obstetrician for guidance. They can tailor their advice to the specific needs of you and your baby.
Babies and parents go through many transitions within the first year. Sometimes these are seamless and sometimes stressful.
Weaning can be difficult for mamas and their little ones. Make a plan for when you want your baby to be off the boob so you can prepare for the transition. Set a date for when you want to stop nursing, decide what kind of formula you will use to supplement during this time and choose whether baby will use a bottle or go right to a sippy cup.
Weaning does not happen overnight, it is a gradual process.
Knowing that I want to stop nursing Killian around his first birthday meant I set a schedule to decrease breastfeeding for more than a month before. Each week, eliminate one of your nursings. This will make the transition easier for baby and also help lessen the chances of engorgement.
Make sure to share your schedule with your partner and support system; you may need them to help give your little one a bottle.
Mothers need TLC, too! Some of us may feel overjoyed to stop breastfeeding and some of us may feel bummed. There are going to be some emotions going on with your hormone changes (what else is new?!) as you stop breastfeeding so make sure to be extra sweet to yourself. If you become engorged, pump just enough to relieve the pressure. And then take a bubble bath.
I have considered breastfeeding Killian longer than a year because we both love it so much, but ultimately it is time to stop.
With his first birthday only a couple of weeks away, I have a lot of mixed emotions and unanswered questions. I am so proud of the little boy my son is growing into. Watching him reach new milestones is so exciting. But I also find myself near tears wondering how this past year went by so fast. How did my teeny little baby get to be such a big boy? Will he still want to cuddle with his mama once breastfeeding stops? Will my period ever return?
Like all things I have experienced during my adventures in motherhood, I will continue to share my journey with you here. I hope you will continue to share with me, too.
When did you wean your little one? Were you excited to close the chapter on breastfeeding or was it bittersweet? Share your thoughts with me and other parents in the comments section below or Tweet me at @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.