I've been thinking about weaning for some time now, but I admit to not being fully on board until very recently. I just wasn't ready. I don't think my son will be ready for a long time.
I do really believe he would wean himself in another year or so, most kids do. Really though, the point is that I am done with it. I'm done with the constant drain on my nutritional resources, the sudden feeling that I might pass out if I don't eat something that very instant. I cannot seem to stuff enough food into my gullet on a regular basis to make up for all that extra energy expenditure. Others seem to do fine, but my constitution has never been that great. There are all sorts of theories as to why by different practitioners, poor liver function, leaky gut, sub clinical hashimoto's. I've never been able to handle the exercise-load that I should, and I don't build muscle for crap, exercise seems to just break me down rather than build me up, especially the past few years. Which sucks, because I actually enjoy moving my body quite a lot. It seems to me, my body isn't really functioning well on it's own when I'm not breastfeeding, and putting the extra load on it just makes it that much weaker.
I would have weaned a long time ago if not for the extreme instinctual urge to continue. It's actually weird to me now that I want to quit, I was starting to wonder if it would ever happen. Then it did, like switching off a light...which leads me to assume my hormones are really at work here (and why wouldn't they be?)!
I remember spending just a couple of nights away from my baby after a year or so, and I would get this intense urge to be around him, a type of anxiety tied to his hunger and well-being that happened about the same time he would normally breast-feed and my breasts were starting to get full. Hormones are weird things...
So I've read up on the subject of weaning. Weaning a toddler is different than weaning a baby though. The baby can't vocalize the way a toddler can, the intensity of his emotion regarding this very tender subject.
I'm not particularly happy with the things I've read, so I'm just doing things the way I personally think is best, and am hoping for it to work out.
I decided to cut out 1 feeding at a time, seperated by several weeks, with the length of time between depending on his reaction. He has had three for a long time now: just before bed, just before nap and just apon waking in the morning. Just cutting out one feeding was really tough on my Little Guy.
The first night I told him he was too old to nurse for his bed-time nursing he cried like never before. It wasn't a fake cry to get what he wanted, it was a real emotional loss, like losing a loved-one. Then he wet the bed that night.
This is clearly very stressful stuff and needs to be handled carefully.
I've thought before about doing it cold-turkey. But I don't think that's going to be good for him or me quite frankly. After cutting out the bed-time nurse I had mild, but sharp pains in my breasts (a few times a day) for about three days, as my body adjusted to suddenly making less milk.
A few weeks later he's come to terms with no bed-time nursing, and has adjusted by cuddling the breast like a stuffed animal, or prides himself on covering it with his blankie to "keep it warm" ("keeping it warm" came about as I tried to think of a good reason why women have to cover their breasts in our culture--he's ask me about it, and I say their boobs get cold....more advanced explanations to follow...). Cuddling the breast or taking care of it by covering it has been a huge coping mechanism for him. Each night he asks if I can "take the nipple out" so he can "cuddle it", I find this to be satisfactory and moving in the right direction. Eventually, when all nursing has ceased, the "cuddling" will go too, but that can wait longer. In the mean time, there are two more feedings to cut out, and I am contemplating which one to cut next, I believe it will have to be the morning. By next week I will decree nursing only after breakfast/ in the afternoon before nap. If I do that, my milk will slowly dry up, as he doesn't always even take a nap or get the idea to nurse in the afternoon.
In our culture, breastfeeding is a lost art. My mother's generation and the one before, they were told by their (undoubtedly male) physicians that their babies woke in the night because "their milk wasn't satisfying" and were given formula. Breastfeeding began to fall out of favor, and so did all the "tricks of the trade".
I've been successful because I did my research, had a state job early on which allowed me time and a place to pump my milk, and plenty of support from my immediate family and friends. I know many moms already who wanted to continue, but gave up before they even started, usually citing latch-on difficulties, followed by pumping and bottle feeding only. I'm not really sure why or how this happens, I've tried referring them to La Leche League ( http://www.llli.org/ ), with no luck. The help is free, and the organization will send out a volunteer to help you if you are having trouble breastfeeding.
So many girls are assuming if they just pump and never put the baby to breast, they will keep making milk. They do, for a couple months. I'm sure there are some that will keep making milk regardless, but I haven't met one yet. I can only imagine that they don't want to keep their milk. They may not have the luxury of a job with a lactation room, or breaks to pump on, or their parents may be entirely against it (because it's "dirty" or whatever). For those that have dried up while they were on strong antibiotics or other meds, I have suggested trying re-lactation, but usually the moms aren't interested. It remains, however, a viable option. I've never done it, but I know it's possible. As far as I know, you just keep putting your baby back on the breast and letting them try to nurse each day until the milk just comes back. It may not for some people, but if you want to continue it's worth a shot. Again, La Leche Legue would probably be a good contact for info. about this. For those interested, here is an article in Kellymom ( http://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/relactation/ ).
It is difficult for me to understand how anyone could think that breastfeeding is dirty. That's what boobs are quite arguably for! The sad part, is women often need the help of their mothers or others after birth, and that generation was often taught that breasts were shameful, dirty and are not to be touched by an infant because it is "sexual". This can make it difficult, and even impossible for a woman to breastfeed in that crucial time after birth.
Even in the pagan community, I've had comments of surprise and shock about breastfeeding during a circle.
There's a post in the works about body image in our culture and how we need to get over our problems with our bodies. The shame we associate with the nude body is a hold-over from our Christian ancestors, and has nothing to do with the modern Pagan, or the ancient ones. Do I sound preachy yet? I am, and I feel very strongly about this.
I need to get caffeine and get my kid out of the house on this beautiful day. My apologies for writing before coffee, things may be a bit dis-jointed, but hopefully the rambling makes some sense.
love and light,