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A Weaning Story

I always had a vague nursing goal of making it to 2 years with Callum; as it turns out, that was pretty much right on the money.  This was never a firm deadline of I “absolutely must make it to 2” or “I’ll definitely stop once we hit 2” but rather a general sense that 2ish seemed like a good mark to hit.  I’ve written previously about nursing as a relationship and partnership, and the way in which the terms “child-led weaning” and “mother-led weaning” can be troublesome.  I don’t think Callum stopped weaning completely on his own, nor do I feel that I “forced” him to quit before he was ready.  Rather, we reached that place over some months by mutual agreement.

Callum Turns 2!!

As I wrote in my previous post, I don’t think there is one “right” time or way to wean a nursing child, but I do want to share how things happened with us over the last few months as one example of what weaning can look like.  I know it was helpful to me to hear stories of those who had gone before; since nursing changes so much between birth and 2, it’s hard to know what to expect.

I definitely think my pregnancy had much to do with both my readiness to “be done” and Callum’s loss of interest (due to my decreasing supply and changing milk).  I was fortunate that I never experienced the nipple pain and breast tenderness that is common among mamas who nurse during pregnancy so in the beginning, nursing really wasn’t much different than it had been.  At that point, Callum had been night weaned for about 2 months but still nursed 4-5 times a day (guessing as I never really kept track and he varied quite a bit).  Many of these sessions were quite short – only a few minutes – although some, like right after waking in the morning, were a bit longer (although for the most part, he’s always been a quick nurser).   Occasionally, he would still fall asleep at nap time nursing but that was something that he’d been dropping on his own well before we night weaned.

For the first few months of pregnancy, things continued much in that same way.  I always offered nursing at bedtime and in the morning and generally didn’t refuse otherwise (although sometimes I would direct him to a snack or water if I thought he was probably more hungry or thirsty than anything).  Around 22 months or so, Callum started to really lose interest in nursing before bed – I think in part because it meant he had to go to bed ;-).   I also think the fact that Jesse typically puts Callum to bed at night on nights he isn’t working played a role in that; bedtime was more about daddy time which, of course, didn’t involve nursing.  In any case, he would only nurse very briefly before story time – sometimes less than a minute.  And then he started skipping nights altogether.

At that point, I stopped offering bed time nursing although did nurse if he asked.  He was also asking far less frequently during the day – some days not at all, and others several times.  But most sessions were pretty quick.  Our morning routine stayed about the same though; he’d come bopping into my room, climb into bed and snuggle down with me for a bit before we headed down for breakfast.  Then, in the last month of our nursing relationship, he started skipping morning nursing.  I’d still offer but sometimes he just wanted to go down for breakfast.  So I stopped offering, but nursed if he asked.

Even 2 year olds like a good snuggle 🙂

I’m pretty sure at this point (about halfway through my pregnancy) my milk supply had either dropped substantially or had switched over to colostrum.   It’s hard to say for sure since Callum definitely wasn’t nursing long enough at any one session to really stimulate my supply – so it just sort of went away.  That in turn led to some discomfort while nursing.  It wasn’t that it was painful so much as just a bit annoying – not sure if that was just because there was little milk or because of pregnancy hormones (many pregnant mamas report a “skin crawling” sort of sensation while nursing).  Sometimes I felt a need to limit Callum’s nursing time.  I’d tell him something like “ok, just a little milk” and then tell him “all done” – he was generally fine stopping at that point.  I also started being more deliberate in offering alternatives for daytime nursing requests – a snack, a sippy, a snuggle, a book – and that generally filled the need he was expressing in requesting to nurse.

The last time Callum nursed was about a week before his 2nd birthday.  I’m actually not sure of the date, which in a way is kind of nice – nursing just sort of faded away and we were both ok with that.  He has signed for milk a few times since, but has happily accepted alternative comforts in place of nursing.  In the mornings he still climbs into bed to snuggle with me – but just not to nurse.

Weaning was a relatively painless process for both of us – although certainly not without emotional impact (even writing this I got a wee teary).  I know that it’s not always that way for all mamas and babies, but I did want to show that it can be (since I know that I was pretty nervous about weaning being a very challenging process).  I think one reason it was smooth in our case was that we both took some responsibility for pushing towards weaning – I started offering alternatives and he stopped asking as much or nursing as long- we both seemed ready.  And certainly my pregnancy accelerated the process.  I should also add that we never really added cow’s milk or another milk alternative.  We did start offering it occasionally a few months ago, but it’s not something he’s really taken too.  Yogurt and cheese have always been a well loved part of his diet though!

I’m very proud to say that I nursed Callum for two years, and I’m excited to begin the journey all over again in a few months when little sister arrives.  I’m also very interested to see how Callum reacts to seeing me nurse his new sibling.  I’m not sure, yet, how I’ll handle things if he requests to nurse too – but I’ll let you know if it happens!  I’m also wondering how he will react to sharing nursing with the new baby – will he remember nursing as “his” thing?  Or will he be ok with it?  He does like to bring me his stuffed animals to nurse, so maybe he’ll be ok with it all 🙂

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Published in Breastfeeding Parenting pregnancy