Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How I Weaned My Breastfed 1 Year Old

That post title makes me laugh, because I am no expert. I am also not a breastfeeding activist (I am pro-breastfeeding, yes, but I am also pro-bottle-and-formula feeding. I am just pro-feeding your baby, I guess.)

Many people do not run into problems weaning their babies from breastfeeding. For one, they might wean the baby while they're still bottle-fed, so in my opinion, that makes it a little easier to give them the old milk switcheroo.

But if you're like me and stopped giving a bottle, but exclusively breastfed until they were well past 1 year, then you've come to the right place.


First of all, let's talk about why I decided to wean C-buddy.

I had told myself forever that once we hit a year, I was done breastfeeding. I was very limited in the things I could do, and was especially paranoid about the things I ate and drank. Even when it came to my Dr Pepper addiction. I felt like I had to time my caffeine consumption so it wouldn't interfere with my milk production and mess up his sleep. (After reading a lot, it seems that caffeine doesn't necessarily get absorbed so easily into breast milk, but I was still super cautious about it.)

When a year hit, I actually was thinking, I'll just go until he doesn't want it anymore. At this point, he was still nursing 5 times a day. Here is what his schedule looked like at 1 yr:

5 or 6am - nurse and go back to sleep
8:30-9am - nurse and wake up for the day (Um, yeah, who wouldn't want to get up for the day at 9?)
9:30-10am - eat solid foods (breakfast)
11am - 1pm - nap #1
1pm - nurse
1:30pm - solid foods (lunch)
3-5pm - nap #2
5pm - nurse
5:30 or 6 pm - solid foods (dinner)
7:30-8 - nurse and down for the night

Do you see how I was pretty much just feeding this child all day long? He nursed 5 times a day! Nursing him would take about 10 minutes, so it wasn't too bad, but then I just had to turn around and prepare a full meal of solid foods as well. It was exhausting/baffling/all-consuming.

On top of that, at his 1 year check up, we realized he actually had lost a few ounces from his 9 month check up. The Dr. said it was time to start him on cow's milk, and he would probably wean himself off in a month or less.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Finally, in lieu of an upcoming vacation that Kennedy and I would be taking mid-May, in which Campbell would be left behind with my parents, I decided I had better start weaning him.

I feel like I tried a bunch of different things, and he just wasn't wanting to give it [breastfeeding] up. And maybe part of it was that I wasn't really ready to give it up either, so I definitely didn't give it 100%.

Here are some steps we took that worked to wean the boy. Maybe you've already mastered some of these steps. Hang in there; there might be a tip in here that you haven't tried yet.

1. Introduce a sippy cup

Introducing a sippy cup was super frustrating, mainly because he had never used one before so he was confused by the whole thing.

No Campbell, shaking and throwing the sippy cup are not its main functions.

We tried about 3 or 4 different cups, then I found out they made sippy cups with straws. Why not? Let's give it a shot. And that was it for him! I think the sucking motion was more familiar to him (TMI?) and he also didn't want to tilt his head back while drinking. He wanted to be able to see everything.

Now, I say it like he just went to town using the sippy cup all of a sudden but that's actually not the case. It was more like, he didn't scream and cry when we took the straw sippy cup out. And he would hold it for a minute without looking completely offended.

2. Cheer for the new cup and the child using the sippy cup

Toddlers are such narcissists. But this worked to our advantage.

First, anytime Campbell would hold the sippy cup, unsolicited, we made a big deal about it.

" cup!"
"You're such a big boy with your sippy cup!"

And if he wouldn't touch the cup, Kennedy and I would hold it and cuddle it and cheer for each other. I swear. I'm not making this part up.

How do you know it's working? The proud toddler grin, of course. And the fact that he keeps going back for it. So at this point, he wasn't necessarily drinking out of it. He might have put it up to his mouth a couple of times, but we praised him just for being near the cup. 

(P.S. This is the kind of thing I used to think parents were nuts for. "People need to stop making such a big deal about little things around their are already spoiled enough." That was before I had a kid. Now I know, parenting is just one big psychological game.)

Then, we stopped praising him for holding the cup, and started only praising him if he took sips from the cup.


I'm sure if there were hidden cameras in our house, you'd be like: 1) These people are psychotic, and 2) Do they literally wear the same clothes every single day?

(Yes, btw.)

Ok, now let's move on.

3. Offer the cup or solid food before the breast. Every single time.

This one ripped my heart out.

4. Change your surroundings.

I used to get C up from his nap, then sit with him in the rocker and nurse him, then we would go downstairs.

So he associated that rocking chair with nursing. That meant, if I offered him the cup while sitting in the rocking chair, he would get PISSED.

"WTF do you mean, drink from the cup? Where are we? Who am I? What does it all mean?" -C, after being offered a drink from a sippy cup while sitting in the rocking chair.

So what I started doing instead, once I wised up, was getting him from his crib, distract distract distract while I changed his diaper, then made a beeline for downstairs to his high chair. Then I would offer him solid foods before anything else. He would eat because he was used to eating when he got in his high chair. Then his little tummy would be full or semi-full and he wouldn't necessarily need to nurse.

I definitely caved a few times if he was whiny or fussy and just went ahead and nursed him after he ate. But I would try to offer the sippy cup with milk in it before that.

*Note: Campbell was repulsed by cow's milk at first. So I actually had to start with coconut milk and slowly added cow's milk over time...changing the ratio every few days until he had only whole milk in his cup.

5. Drop a specific feeding. Lather/Rinse/Repeat

Here's where I started actually weaning, I think. I finally decided to flat out not breastfeed him for one of his feedings (the same feeding every day.) After a day or two, he didn't even expect it. Then I dropped another. And another.

Finally, I was down to 2 feedings a day... the 5 am feeding and the one right before bed.

Then, I got Kennedy to put him to bed for a couple of nights, and he had his sippy cup with milk on hand IF he acted hungry. And surprisingly, he dropped that feeding pretty easily.

He stuck around with the 5 am feeding for a week or so, maybe 2. I can't even remember how long I was just feeding him once a day. If he woke up at 5 or 6, then I nursed him and put him back down. The main reason was because I didn't want to get up for the day at 5 or 6, which is what I would have to do if I didn't nurse him.

But then, one morning he slept until 8 am. So I got up with him and just took him downstairs for breakfast.

Then the next day, 8:30 am. Then the next, 5 am. So I nursed him again.

Then we went like 1 day on, 1 day off. And finally, he just started sleeping til 8 or 8:30 without waking up. I honestly don't even remember when our last nursing session happened. I thought it would be more dramatic than that, but it wasn't.

And so far, he has been sleeping from about 8pm-8am since we stopped breastfeeding. Amazing. I literally thought that would never happen because he has never been the best night time sleeper.

I'm not saying that he is sleeping through the night now because we stopped breastfeeding, but I AM saying that there were some nice trade-offs when we finally stopped.

Now I have a full-blown whole milk-a-holic child. Anytime he sees his sippy cup, he whines for his milk. I actually have to hide the sippy cup out of sight sometimes so I can get him to eat a meal.

Now here are some tips, summed up in one spot after my long-winded post about weaning!

  • Try dropping one feeding at a time and replacing it with food or a meal that the child is already familiar with/enjoys. (For example, if you normally nurse right before bedtime, give them a snack 20-30 minutes before bedtime so they won't be as hungry. Also, make sure they're really tired when they go down for the night so it outweighs the want/need to nurse.)
  • Change up your routine slightly. If the child is used to nursing in a specific place or at a specific time, go to a different place and feed them a snack. Or have the other parent handle them at the time that you would normally breastfeed.
  • Give yourself permission to be done. This was hard for me because it was our special bond. But I also knew in our specific instance that he was needing more than I could offer him anymore, and that I couldn't keep going on like that and then abruptly stopping when we went out of town. We have enjoyed many new special bonds since I stopped nursing, and he has actually become much more affectionate with not only me, but Kennedy as well since I stopped.
  • Enlist help from your partner. Or if there is not another parent to help, have a family member or friend around (that the child trusts) to do the normal routine sans breastfeeding. Remember, out of sight out of mind. Sometimes when Kennedy was putting C down for the night and I was in the room, Campbell would cry and want to come to me to nurse. So I had to high tail it outta there or all my hard work went down the drain.
  • Stick to your guns! If you are serious about weaning, then just stick with it. I think I waffled back and forth for a while and that's why it took 2.5 months to fully wean him. It might not be the smoothest transition, but if you stick with it and are consistent for a few days, the child will stop expecting it. Slap in the face, I know. How easily they forget our maternal sacrifices!
Do you have any weaning tips for toddlers that weren't covered here? I found almost no resources on how to wean an older baby when googling it.


Lisa said...

Question: How did your boobies handle things? Did you have to pump off? Or just deal with it until it wasn't an issue?

Sara D said...

Lisa, because I was only dropping one feeding every few days, it wasn't bad at all. But once I dropped that nighttime feeding and I was going about 24 hours between feedings, it felt a bit like I had bricks in my bra for a day or two. I just expressed enough to relieve the pressure and nothing more.

Stephanie Dean said...

This will be so handy in the future. Thanks for sharing.

Liz Dammel said...

hi Sara! I randomly found your blog the other day. I went to Baylor w/kennedy&brantley (actually dated Brantley for awhile back in the day). anyways, I now have three young boys 3, 2, and 8 mos. yeah, we're crazy. :). just wanted to say hi! and that crazy and insane parental excitement helps with everything....most recently potty training!

Sara D said...

Hey Liz! Thanks for reading and saying hi! You must be having the time of your life with 3 boys so close in age!

Anonymous said...

Could you give me an example of what your 1 year old was eating?want to make sure i do this right

Angela Smith said...

I feel so guilty about the decision to stop Nursing my son. He has never had formula. I pumped while at work so he has only had breast milk. It has been more emotional than I had ever imagined. He has bitten me several times and I am just exhausted so I am ready. He is 13 months and is too boob obessed. He goes and pulls my nipple out.It is crazy though because he eats table food so good and I am wondering how is there still room to nurse, but he always wants too. I use to wear tank tops around the house not anymore. If he sees if he wants it, no matter where we are! I started ending night feedings 2 nights ago and he was not happy. I felt so sad for him, but I stuck with it. He took the cows milk 2 nights in a row, but he had bad fits for about 30 minutes. My breast are so engorged I definitely am carrying bricks around. My husband gets him at night now and we have had given him cows milk these last 2 days. Thanks for the advice

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