Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler

Updated February 22nd 2022

Part 1

If you’re just finding me now, welcome! My name is Alex and I help breastfeeding moms have a calm and confident fourth trimester and breastfeed with ease. I am a lactation expert. My passion is helping parents breastfeed. I love working with families to support their infant feeding goals. I do this because I had a hard time myself.

My journey was filled with challenges, dismissal from care providers and a lot of hard work.

I always knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby. I understood it might not come naturally at first but I did not expect to have the challenging experience I did. I had just about every nursing struggle you can think of. While I didn’t have them all we struggled with: 

  • Incorrect latch due to Tongue tie and Lip tie 
  • Low Supply issues 
  • Cracked nipples 
  • Blisters 
  • Plugged ducts 
  • Mastitis 
  • Immense pain

It was incredibly challenging. I tried to work it out on my own for the first week or two but I knew I needed help. I saw a few lactation consultants and they were able to help us get the tongue and lip tie released but I did a lot on my own.

So much so that the more I discovered, the more I realized I was passionate about breastfeeding and lactation and helping others so they didn’t have to feel like I did.

It took 10 weeks to resolve our issues for me to reach my goal of exclusive breastfeeding. It was fairly smooth sailing from then on. Sure we went through the distracted feeding stage, starting solids, a baby learning to crawl and what that meant for breastfeeding but not anything that was truly making it difficult.

So when my period returned at 10 months postpartum, I started to experience a new chapter of my breastfeeding journey…aversion.

Every month, 3-4 days before my cycle would start I would begin to experience these feelings I could only describe as irritation. My son would latch and immediately I felt uncomfortable in my skin. It was like an itching sensation and at the same time incredibly irritating. After those days passed, things were back to normal.

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation

This is a common phenomenon called breastfeeding aversion. It can happen at any time. Before your monthly menstrual cycle is a common occurrence. This happened monthly for me but only lasted 3-4 days.

Around 14-15 months, I had been experiencing breastfeeding aversion every month for 6-7 months. I used distraction techniques to manage the aversion. I would watch or read something on my phone, sing a song in my head, rub my knee, scratch my leg etc. I did this because I knew it wouldn’t last. My son was feeding 3-4x per day which was upon waking, before nap and then before bed so it was easily manageable for me.

When 15 months starting approaching 16 months, the aversion didn’t go away once my period came. I thought it was a bit odd but figured maybe an extra day or two and it would go away. That didn’t happen. Every day at every feeding I was feeling my skin crawl. I was irritated, my mood would shift and I had the urge to remove my son from the breast. I continued to try and distract myself because I so desperately wanted to breastfeed my son until he wanted to end on his own terms.

As each day passed, I had a decision to make. My son was nursing less often but he still wanted to breastfeed. I wanted to breastfeed him but my body was physically telling me otherwise.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

There was one night where I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time I began the weaning process. My heart was breaking for the change in our relationship that was about to happen but I knew it was the right thing to do for my mental health.

Alex Wachelka, Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

I began with night feedings. He was waking once or twice (at 15 months) and I would nurse him back to sleep. The night I decided to wean him, when he woke, I offered him a sip of water from a straw cup (I introduced a straw cup early on). I picked him up, rocked him and then sat down in the nursing chair and just let him lay in my arms. The motion of rocking in the nursing chair put him back to sleep. Weaning does not guarantee your baby will not wake in the night as they wake for so many other reasons!

After a few days of this, changing his settling techniques to something other than nursing, I moved to the first feed of the day. My son was eating solids 3x daily with snacks at this point (now 16 months) so when he would wake in the morning, I got him ready for breakfast right away.

No offer of breastfeeding. This was the method that was going to work for me. At night time, I actively set the boundary he would not nurse. This would give me a longer stretch without him at my breast. For the daytime, my choice was don’t offer, don’t refuse. This meant if he signed for milk, tugged at my shirt or actively tried to breastfeed, I would allow it but I wasn’t going to offer.

This method doesn’t work for everyone. Some people DO want to offer at certain times and set boundaries at others. Every parent has their own unique situation and feelings around weaning their baby. Some toddlers nurse as often as newborns so the method of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” wouldn’t accomplish anything because your child would feed all day!

©2022 Motherhood Blooms Lactation™

He dropped the morning feeding almost immediately. The naptime and before bed feedings took a few weeks. I layered in new things to our routine and used different ways of soothing him to slowly remove breastfeeding.

It took a little over 2 months from the time I began weaning my son to when he actually weaned around 17 months. I chose mother-led weaning when I wanted it to be baby-led. I wanted my son to be able to choose. I did not want to make that decision for him but my body was telling me otherwise.

My supply was low at that point because he wasn’t feeding often (it was meeting his needs) so I just allowed my body the extra hours and would check in with my breasts for areas of firmness or engorgement. Because I chose a gentle weaning process, I didn’t experience any issues with engorgement or plugged ducts or pain.

Gently weaning, when it’s possible to do, is the most beneficial for the both of you. There are big emotions when weaning (more on that coming) and taking your time through the process is supportive for the both of you.

Are you thinking about weaning and not sure how to begin?

Wondering how to wean from night feeds only? Or maybe how to wean from the pump? Or how to stop completely?

Then my on-demand class Weaning With Love is for you!

References:

Hetzel Campbell, S., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Melissa A. Morns, Amie E. Steel, Erica McIntyre, Elaine Burns, “It Makes My Skin Crawl”: Women’s experience of breastfeeding aversion response (BAR), Women and Birth, 2022, ,ISSN 1871-5192,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2022.01.001.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1871519222000014)

One thought on “Weaning: my personal experience weaning a toddler

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: