Free at last. That’s how I feel after weaning Connor, my 13 month old son. I last nursed him 12 days ago and I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that the emotions are starting to creep in.
I nursed my eldest son for 18 months. He never took a bottle. He never liked drinking any variety of milk. He only drank water and actually only nursed about once in the morning for 3 months. I thought he would just wean himself but he didn’t.
We fell into a pattern. Tommy would wake up at 5 am, I would nurse him and then we’d sleep for another couple of hours. I loved morning snuggles. By 18 months, I wanted to start trying for another baby and my fertility was still missing. I’m one of the the few people who really doesn’t get their period until they completely stop nursing. I found weaning to almost be harder than nursing which was VERY difficult in the beginning.
I finally just had to cut it off cold turkey. It was hard and I hated it. I knew I didn’t want to have to do that again.
Below is a picture of the last time he nursed. I knew it was the last time or at least I had hoped. I never take nursing selfies so I made an exception this one time.
Why did I want to wean Connor in the first place?
My goal was a year and we accomplished that. I just wanted my freedom back, I wanted my body back. Connor never wanted any sort of milk in a sippy or a bottle, breast, nut, ripple or oat. I was the only source and I began to realize it was a comfort thing. I wouldn’t mind but it made me a milk lady. I couldn’t wake up in the morning and go to the gym before Connor got up because my breasts would be too full. If I pumped, the milk would go to waste because Connor hated bottles/cups. If I went away, I had to bring a pump with me. If I wanted to go out or away, I had guilt that Connor would go to bed hungry because he wasn’t going to get him milk before bed. I was the only person who could really get him in the morning or put him down at night. It’s exhausting.
So when I was invited by Stonyfield to go up to Vermont for a tour of their organic farms, I knew this was my opportunity! I nursed Connor one last time before bed and then drove up to Burlington, VT in the pouring rain.
Connor did great while I was gone. He ate good food and never wanted any of the milk offered to him in a cup.
I began pumping about 1-2 ounces in the morning and at night. I honestly wasn’t producing a ton of milk anyway at this point. I was in VT for 3 nights. By Saturday morning, I barely pumped 3 ounces combined.
I knew seeing Connor was going to be hard for the first time since Wednesday night. He reached for my shirt when I got home Saturday afternoon but I told him it was all gone and he was OK with that. A little pissed but no hysterics.
Sunday morning, I had Nick get Connor out of bed. I made sure I had on a sports bra or something else he couldn’t pull at. He pulled a little when I finally got up and I just said it was all gone. Again, he seemed to understand.
The first week was hard.
Nick at first would be the one to get him in the morning but I of course hear him first so when I did finally get up first, he was so sad. He wasn’t pulling at my shirt but up until now I had a pacifier when he’d wake up upset and now I didn’t! I didn’t have a magic trick to get him to stop crying anymore. The boob worked 99% of the time in the past and it was no longer a tool I could use. It was so tough. I couldn’t figure out why he was so upset and just had to distract him with things.
He has 12 teeth and the next set of 4 look like they are coming in. He is a tough kid but his teeth are always a bitch when they come in and he shows his discomfort loudly. He also has started wanting to use the potty which I read could be a reason for unexplained crying. If he walks over to a potty, we take off his diaper and he pees in the potty. I’m not kidding. It’s happened at least 8 times in the past 2 days. This morning he even pooped. Anyway…. we are not actively potty training but trying to keep the screaming away.
Aside from the morning, he usually does not request to nurse but about once a day he will grab on to my shirt and try to pull it down. I still say the same thing, “All gone,” and he usually stops and turns away from me looking for a toy or cup of water. It’s only been 12 days but it’s getting less and less.
So here is what I did to reduce my milk supply;
The first 3 days, I pumped morning and night, just 1-2 ounces. Then I switched to just once a day in the morning until I got 1-2 ounces from each side. Then I one morning didn’t feel like I needed to pump so I didn’t. I did use a hand pump that night but just to alleviate discomfort which was about 1/2 an ounce from just one side. I stopped pumping 5 days ago and now just use a hand pump when I need it. I might finally get some cabbage leaves as I think I’m still producing a little bit. I can feel it in my left side as lumps that are tender to the touch and I don’t want mastitis!
Since we weaned, Connor has been sleeping through the night 7 to 6:30 most nights only occasionally waking up at 5 am before falling back asleep until 6:30 or 7.
Only once did I have a relapse moment. Connor woke up at 4 am last week and was crying for longer than 10 minutes. I went in to check on him and he was just inconsolable again. Tommy was sleeping in the room still shockingly so I brought C into our bed to try to calm him down. Nothing I did was working, I was half asleep and then he tried to latch on to me. It took me by surprise but I was half asleep and quickly changed positions that I was holding him in. He got even more upset. We brought Tommy into our room and had to let Connor just fall back asleep. I felt terrible but I just didn’t know what to do. He was tired. Judge if you want but he fell back asleep quickly and woke up with a smile at 7 am.
As I lie in bed last night thinking of our journey, I began to get a little sad. I miss my power of being able to soothe my child wherever I am at any time. Post-weaning hormones are real and I’m ready to acknowledge them should they appear.
There is very little research on the subject, but it’s hypothesized that hormonal changes are a primary cause of mood changes during and after weaning. One of the changes that occurs with weaning is a drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels. Prolactin, a hormone that is required for milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. Oxytocin, the hormone that is required for milk ejection (let-down), is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone.” It makes sense that a sudden decrease in these hormones could have an effect on a weaning mother’s emotions.https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/depression-and-weaning/
I told Nick to look out as I may be a little bitchy in the coming week or weeks. He responds by telling me he’ll let me know which is not helpful.
Weaning Tommy was so hard. I wanted to get pregnant quickly after and I just don’t remember having a post-weaning hormone crash. This time around, I feel a little sad because I know I wanted to stop for mainly selfish reasons. I just was done after 13 months. If he took a cup or bottle, I’d probably still happily be pumping I just no longer wanted to be the only person responsible for his nutritional needs.
So if you are reading this with hope, I recommend the easiest way is to go away for a couple of nights. Coincide it with a work trip or a girls or couples getaway because we all know you likely need it! When you come home, be strong and don’t cave in. I was only nursing Connor morning and night and sometimes during the day if I needed it as a tool for calming him down or forgot a snack at the beach and he was hungry. I tried to wean naturally for a month and when dropping a feed wasn’t happening, away mommy went.
Best of luck!