Our Weaning Story – Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

Weaning didn’t go quite how I expected.

In my perfect world I imagined tandem nursing Jemma along side her younger sibling, reading Nursies When the Sunshines together, and hearing her say that mama milk tasted like flowers.

I always intended to allow child-led weaning, our nursing relationship had been like that from the beginning. She set the time and length of our nursing sessions. I just delivered the goods. Giving Jemma control in deciding when and where she wanted to nurse built a lovely bond between the two of us. She relied on me, and in a way, I on her. Because let’s face it, engorgement is never a pretty thing.

Shortly after Jemma’s first birthday, October 20th to be exact, Jemma went an entire day without nursing. Between 10-12 months she had truly discovered table food and was in love with everything she tried. I assumed she was just having an off day and would be back to her nursing routine in no time. Then again, I partly blamed myself for her nursing strike day because that morning she had bit me. I had yelped which resulted in her crying :( Part of me feared that she was scared to nurse again because of me. The evening of the 20th, as she was falling asleep, she nursed. And I let out a sigh of relief. My baby was still my baby.

But that night was the last. It still makes me cry to think about it. At 12 1/2 months Jemma’s nursing strike turned into fully weaning. It was MUCH earlier than I expected, but more sudden, and it broke my heart to so quickly say goodbye to this dimension of our relationship.

For a month we tried many things to reconcile our nursing relationship. I blogged about it here, here, and here. Jemma was quite indifferent to the transition. It was almost like she woke up one day and said, “Mama, I’m a big girl and I’m ready for 100% big girl food.” I wasn’t quite as ready as she was! I mourned the loss her sudden weaning. I received amazing support from my La Leche League leader and slowly, but surely, came to grips with a new season of our mother daughter relationship.

 

It is an emotional roller coaster when our little ones have different plans than we do! Your loving response to her ever-changing needs is just proof of your healthy attachment and love.
-An email from my wonderful LLL leader

Although Jemma had weaned, I felt she was too young to be completely without the benefits of breastmilk. So, I unearthed my trusty pump, the same one I had packed away 6 weeks earlier when I became a SAHM and thought my pumping days were over. It pained me to have Jemma accept my pumped milk in a sippy cup, but it was the lesser of two evils. First I pumped four times each day, then three, then two. This allowed her to have breastmilk each day (with some surplus for the freezer) while we started to integrate alternative milk like coconut, almond, and hemp.

By late December pumping became oddly painful. Two pink lines on a pregnancy test proved the reason why :) At that point I chose to wean myself from my pump. Not the weaning experience I had imagined, but it felt right to stop pumping and allow my body to fully commit to nurturing the new life inside of me. My freezer was brimming with bags of milk so Jemma has continued to have mama milk every night before bed. Coincidentally, she just finished her final bag of mama milk on Mother’s Day at 19 months old.

Our relationship hasn’t suffered as I feared. If anything Jemma and I have grown closer as we’ve found new ways to connect throughout the day. I’ve been blessed by this new season and can’t wait for the many seasons we’ll weather together in the years to come.

And yet, I can’t wait to begin breastfeeding my new baby in August. Perhaps he’ll be the one who tandem nurses with a sibling, reads Nursies, and describes mama milk as flowers … or whatever he deems to be his most favorite thing :)

P.S. I also shared a short video clip in Code Name: Mama’s weaning post … check it out!

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

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504 thoughts on “Our Weaning Story – Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season

  1. Dionna_CodeNameMama

    Your LLL leader is such a wise woman :) And I love that you pumped for her. What a token of love! Thank you for reminding us of that option for those babes who wean earlier than anticipated.

    Reply
  2. Alicia @ Lactation N

    I think it is really common for babies around that age to be less interested in nursing. My daughter went through a phase around 14 months were she wasn't very interested in nursing anymore. But she still nursed at night, in her sleep just fine! It took about 6 weeks for her to come through that phase to the other side, but since I had pumped during the day and she had nursed during the night, there was still milk and she still remembered how to nurse! So we were able to go right back into nursing as before, which is what I wanted. Most people are not that happy to night-nurse, but I was very glad we did! Sorry that your weaning didn't happen the way you wanted.

    Reply
  3. Never Mind The Rain

    So sorry to hear about your sudden weaning. I ended up tandem nursing my daughter and thought we would have a natural and gentle child-led weaning but as it turns out I ended up weaning her due to her biting rather forcefully at the end of each session. It was so sad. I really hoped she would continue on and stop the biting so we could keep on nursing. Hugs and you did a great thing… especially pumping for so long to provide her that extra nutrition and immunities. Way to go!

    Reply
  4. DrLauraMarkham

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have tears in my eyes. As the mother of two teenagers, I can attest to the fact that each child has his or her own plan for blossoming, and they do best when we parent in response to their cues. But that doesn't mean we don't have our own reactions, including grief. I love hearing that "If anything Jemma and I have grown closer as we've found new ways to connect throughout the day." You're an inspiration!

    Reply
  5. Rebekah

    I love to read your story! I recently found out that we are expecting our baby #2 and am still breast-feeding our 14 month old. I was curious to know what you would have done had Jemma continued on nursing….and you found out that you were pregnant? I have been doing lots of research on this but would love to hear your personal imput!

    Reply
  6. Rebekah

    I am 10 weeks prego and my 14 month old has just started biting sometimes at the end of a feeding as well. How old was your daughter when you weaned her/was it difficult for her?

    Reply
  7. ThatMamaGretchen

    I was all for nursing through my pregnancy and tandem nursing Jemma and the new baby. I definitely think it is one of those things you take one day at a time though. Gauge how your little one is doing and how you are feeling about continuing nursing. It's a mutual relationship so be sure that you are both feeling positive as you transition whether that be continuing until new baby arrives, tandem nursing, cutting back now or later, etc. You'll find a good rhythm :)

    Reply
  8. Our Muddy Boots

    Hugs to you for things going differently that you had envisioned. You really made me feel how sad that was for you.And for whatever it is worth, I was brimming with joy at the thought of your daughter still being able to receive your milk for so long. I do not think I would have thought of pumping and continuing to provide it in a cup. Kudos to you, Mama! I'm so glad to be getting to know you a little better :)

    Reply
  9. Rebekah

    Thanks Gretchen! This is encouraging….she is down to 3 times a day now rather than what used to be 5. I appreciate your response and I'm looking forward to seeing what the future holds for our nursing journey. I'm also loving reading your journey into mothering two. It's neat to see others go ahead of me (even if it's only by a few months) and be able to learn from what they experience!

    Reply
  10. Lindsey Cazac

    Selah weaned EXACTLY the same way. Almost exactly on her one year birthday, she stopped nursing overnight and would have nothing to do with it. She was always a speed-nurser, and never really nursed for comfort, but the suddenness of it all still took me by surprise. I had always dreamed of co-sleeping with my bebe, but Selah had other plans.. she co-closlept until about 4 months, and then she absolutely demanded to be put down. She wouldn't sleep at all if anyone was touching her. I was so sad. She's still the same way, at almost 17 months. She lays down in her crib, never cries, and just goes right to sleep. I've learned that she's independent and really needs her space. BUT I JUST WANT TO CUDDLE HER!!Oh these children ;)

    Reply
  11. Livingpeacefullywith

    I love that you pumped for your daughter because you wanted the best for her. I've put in my time pumping, trying to increase supply and due to one child having a hard time latching and a weak suck. Pumping isn't fun, but it's something we do to provide for our children when we have to.

    Reply
  12. ThatMamaGretchen

    Pumping isn't fun at all! But, totally something I was willing to do, and honestly, we are totally blessed that it is an option. 50 years ago (or even 20) the super pumps available now weren't even an idea!

    Reply
  13. ThatMamaGretchen

    Seriously … those girls! Throwing their mamas for a loop! Jemma was a speed nurser too. Even when she was tiny … "give me the food and let's get on with the day" could have been her motto :)

    Reply
  14. Bianca

    I read most of the blogs I follow while nursing Penny, and seeing you appear on Code Name Mama, being brave enough to show your emotions and the loss during weaning brought tears to my eyes. Reading about the weaning process and seeing the video may not have affected me in the same way if ihadnt been nursing Penny while hearing these stories. What a way to remind me how precious my time is with her. Gretchen you are such a strong mama with the best intentions for your children…seeing how much that meant to you will make a big impact on Jemma one day when she starts her family.

    Reply
  15. ThatMamaGretchen

    Oh, Bianca … you are so sweet! Thank you so much :) Not easy to put those ugly tears out there, but those are the real and raw feelings and I definitely don't want mamas who feel the same way to feel alone. Penny is so blessed to have you as a mama too. So glad we have one another's support as we journey through motherhood!

    Reply
  16. Momma_in_Progress

    Reading this I started thinking how sad would I be if my 18-month-old son (my last baby, sniff) suddenly stopped nursing, but really . . . isn't that what child-led weaning IS? I guess most of the stories I hear from other mothers who plan to wean when the child is ready tend to be stories of mothers nursing to 2, 3, 4, or beyond. But sometimes our children have other ideas! Younger children self-wean, too. So wonderful that you continued to give her pumped milk. I'm not sure I would have considered that. Not because I wouldn't want to, or couldn't, but because I'm not even sure that would have been on my radar!

    Reply
  17. ThatMamaGretchen

    It's very true that younger babes choose to self-wean sometimes too; just not as common which is why I'm happy to share my experience. Just another lesson in staying in tune with our little ones and the needs/desires they are sharing with us.

    Reply
  18. ThatMamaGretchen

    Yep – just have to take it one day at a time. Who knows, she could be happy with 3 times/day for a long time! I love reading about other mama's with two already, it's fun to get ideas of they cope/thrive as their family dynamics change. I'm sure we'll be exchanging lots of ideas in the coming months :)

    Reply
  19. ThatMamaGretchen

    I keep hearing how every little one is different as they blossom and grow throughout the years. Definitely one of the joys (and stresses) of motherhood :) Excited to experience those differences first hand when baby boy is born this summer!

    Reply
  20. ThatMamaGretchen

    Biting is no fun at all! Sorry you had to go through that :( If I've learned anything it is that we as mamas can't foresee a whole lot with our children. We just have to take it one day at a time and make the best decisions we can as we go!

    Reply
  21. ThatMamaGretchen

    So glad she kept of her night nursing!Jem started sleeping so well, straight through the night, when she weaned. I totally thought I'd be able to sneak the nip in when she was snoozing, but no such luck for us!

    Reply
  22. ThatMamaGretchen

    LLL is such a wonderful support! My leader was the inspiration/boost I needed to begin the leadership process myself. I'm excited to encourage mamas in their breastfeeding journeys in the months and years to come!

    Reply
  23. Lactating Girl

    I think it's just wonderful that you continued to pump for her so she can still get that wonderful nutrition.Sometimes what our children want with weaning conflicts with what we want (in my case, it's the opposite direction with my 3 year old wanting to nurse all the time and I would rather stop), but it's just the beginning. We get many, many years to come of conflicting with our children, but loving them nonetheless.

    Reply
  24. ThatMamaGretchen

    Weaning is definitely on of those first conflicts … hopefully they won't all be this emotional for me :) It was one of my first tests in gently, lovingly allowing her to guide a step in her own independence.

    Reply
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