Childrearing

I Had To Cut My Daughter Off Breastfeeding But It Didn’t Come Easily — For Either Of Us

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how to stop breastfeedingEveryone warns a new mom that breastfeeding isn’t easy. Advice abounds: take your time, give it your all, and consult the experts. Those first few weeks are technical and stressful.

What everyone forgets to tell that same mom is weaning isn’t easy either, whether it happens six, 12 or 24 months down the road.

If you are both willing and able to breastfeed, it’s likely you have put a lot of effort into the nursing relationship. Ending that special dynamic, no matter if both mom and baby are ready, is difficult. Those last few weeks are complicated and emotional. Those feelings intensify to the hundredth power when baby is so not on board, which I’ve experienced.

My daughter took to nursing like a champ. I had all the kinks worked out from my first hellish experience with breastfeeding her older brother. We were in sync from the start. During her first few weeks she wanted to nurse all the time, but that didn’t set her apart from other newborns. When I went back to work after a generous amount of maternity leave, she reluctantly accepted only one bottle of expressed milk a day. Otherwise, I nursed her right before I left for work and the minute I came home.

Even when she started eating a diet of mostly solid food, she went insane at the sight of me walking in the door. I couldn’t even change my clothes and say goodbye to the babysitter before she worked herself into a tizzy. There was no distracting her. Nursing was the only thing that would calm her down.

Since we had such an easy time, I had no problem nursing often. In fact it didn’t even occur to me that her behavior wasn’t typical until the babysitter reminded me that she went three to four hours in between meals while I was gone. A three-hour stretch! On the weekends she was feeding every hour, 90 minutes tops. Even at night she had a single four-hour stretch and then woke every two hours to nurse. Until someone pointed it out, it didn’t faze me. She woke up, did her thing, and went back to sleep before I ever really knew what was happening.

The more people I told, the more this seemed unusual. Her doctor suggested keeping a log of when and what she ate with the babysitter. After looking at the detailed list of her eating habits, the doctor assured me that the night nursing was not necessary. At 15 months old, she was used to waking and looking for comfort. And I was looking to put an end to it.

Night weaning is generally the most acceptable version parent-mandated (vs. child-led) weaning, so that’s where I started. Since no one’s sleep was suffering either way, I wasn’t in a rush. Every time she woke I let her latch on for a minute or two, but then she was done. I steeled myself for weeks of set-backs and hours of protesting. I encountered neither. It’s true she wanted the comfort. When I was skimping on my efforts, she got tired of looking to me for soothing. Even though she didn’t initiate the change, she quickly figured it out for herself with time and little struggle.

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