When Weaning is Everything

There was a point in time when I thought I wanted to write a book about breastfeeding and I would entitle it as “OMG, I’m BFG” (BFG being a shortcut for breastfeeding). As they say breastfeeding is difficult to establish at the start, but its rewards are amazing that one would want to do everything and anything to make breastfeeding work. I experienced exactly that. Hence, the idea of the book, as I miraculously breastfed my firstborn son then. The book is still an idea and life happened.

Fast forward to having my talkative two year old son with his molars growing, being pregnant with a second baby on second trimester, AND still breastfeeding. I was clueless as how to wean exactly so I researched online and also asked around how to wean from breastfeeding.  My father, who was a pro-breastfeeding physician, was telling me that weaning was not just about my son, but also about how I, as a mother, would be adjusting to something new. It was cutting off a special bonding moment more than cutting off a nutritional need at the age my son was in.  True to form, he asked me to research on it.

Before I go into my story, here’s a summary of my research. There were two schools of thought for weaning successfully. One was the sudden, cold turkey type of weaning, with the mother completely separating from the child for several days, which seemed to have worked for many mothers I knew and was also mentioned by one of my trusted doctors. Another was the gradual process with a few steps forward and backward, just like how making baby sleep usually goes if it’s not the “cry it out” process.

Mine was a bit of a countdown. Actually it was literally a countdown as I told Elijah we had three weeks left, then two weeks, then one, until it was March 28, a Saturday.  I did not intend for this to happen but it was Earth Hour that night, shutting off lights and electrical power for Mother Earth.  We slept in an indoor tent that night, and Elijah miraculously slept straight without waking up to breastfeed. I’m not sure if it was due to the novelty of sleeping in a tent, or perhaps due to an extra restful sleep in a dark, dark night, but I used it as a springboard.

I slept beside him that night.  He moved about and grunted every so often, but he did not breastfeed. The following morning, he woke up in a very good mood too. Hallelujah! That was Day 1 or Night 1, rather, of complete weaning.

The following night, we talked about it and I decided to spend extra time reading him books or singing songs with him to lull him to sleep.  The real challenge was the week following that springboard.  It’s like jumping off a cliff and in the middle of the free fall, you ask yourself, “what do I do next?”

Of course he still asked for breastfeeding two nights later but we talked about why we were weaning.  And he traded breastfeeding for singing invented animal songs with me.  There were meltdowns, but after a while, he did not ask for breastmilk anymore.

Another possible aid for me was his sudden liking for raisins around that time.  Yes, dried grapes.  It was new to him, and he liked it very much. In a way, it was another novel item introduced to him that seemed to give him enjoyment, which I think was better than chocolate or crackers.

* * *

 I did not imagine my Weaning Story to be like this.  I had my own share of breastfeeding woes and striving to overcome all those and would not even start to think about weaning before.  I just feel very grateful that it turned out well, and hoping this story could help other mothers wean too. When weaning is needed, how do we do it?

Generally, I think mine was a combination of a very slow process (the talks and countdowns) followed by a sudden novel event not related to breastfeeding (Earth Hour and sleeping in a tent) and lastly capped off by a gradual, patient process of substitution (reading more books, singing newly invented lullabies, playing more music, having good solid delicious food such as raisins, etc).

Just like with almost anything in life, what specifically works for me can be altered and tweaked for what works for another mother-infant or mother-toddler relationship.

Breastfeeding nourishes our child physically.  More than the physical nourishment, it brings us a lot of bonding time too.  Weaning is about having our child who is ready to rely on other nutritional food sources and to confidently enjoy other emotionally bonding activities.

Bonding can be done through conversations, reading books, walking at the park, singing songs, going on vacations, and spending quality time in any alternative activity that suits the parent and child.  To parents who would not want to leave their child to other people at night for weaning, the good news is that it can be done in this  process:

1) slow process of debriefing (as preparation to complete weaning)

2) sudden novel event

3) follow through bonding process (to ease complete weaning)

This may sound like a tongue twister, but I believe this process I stumbled upon is a win-win worry-free weaning for worried mothers when weaning is everything.