Life After Breastfeeding :: Weaning Experiences and What to Look Forward To

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I have three children, and all three have been breastfed. Each breastfeeding journey was a little different, and each of those journeys is now complete. My third baby, my last born, the final addition to the family, weaned in the last week.

Three different babies … three different weaning experiences.

So if you’re currently breastfeeding and wondering how your journey will end, take a look at my experiences and hopefully one of them will help you when it’s time for your little one to wean.

Weaning Baby #1

With my first baby, born in 2009, I did not have much outside breastfeeding support. Most of my friends did breastfeed, but it seemed to me like they were in a hurry to stop.

When my first baby turned 1, we wanted to try for baby number two, so I started focusing on nursing less and offering solids more. I was trying to advance the weaning process, in hopes I could try to help regulate my cycle. It worked – I found out I was pregnant the day he turned 14 months old.

I continued to breastfeed my firstborn, but it quickly became a painful and relentless exercise due to my milk drying up completely and my toddler’s constant overnight demands for milk. By the end of my first trimester, I cut him off completely — much to my relief and not without many tears on his part. The pain I experienced as a nursing, pregnant mom is one of the most common reasons women wean during pregnancy.

wean gabe
My oldest and Bump #2 – He had been weaned for several months in this picture

Weaning Baby #2

With my daughter, born in 2011, I had a much better breastfeeding support system in my network of friends. She was a happy, frequent nursling who rightfully earned the nickname “Miss Piggy.”  She and I were very content in our nursing relationship, and I planned to breastfeed her for the full two years that is now recommended by the World Health Organization.

But a positive pregnancy test 4 months before she turned even one year old threw a wrench in my plans, and despite my best efforts, she weaned a week before her first birthday, when I was 18 weeks pregnant with our third and last baby.

That’s right — she weaned. Her choice.

She chose the pacifier for comfort over mama’s milk. I was devastated when she did — I had hoped to continue nursing her, and the newborn when he arrived. But I had to abide by her choice. Interestingly enough, nursing her during my third pregnancy was never painful, and I obviously had no trouble conceiving despite a very attached nursling.

Nursing baby number 2 - moment captured by Reshma of @bluesilkphotography
Nursing baby number 2 – moment captured by Reshma of @bluesilkphotography

Weaning Baby #3

My last baby, and easiest breastfeeding journey, was born in 2013. Sometime in his second year, our nursing sessions scaled back to naptime, bedtime, and the occasional comfort nurse.

Near his second birthday, I could sense that our breastfeeding journey was nearing its end. He often chose to go to sleep without nursing, or without falling asleep at the breast.

This last week, I’ve put him to bed without offering mama milk, and he didn’t ask.

How do know he’s truly weaned? I offered it in the middle of the night, in a last-ditch attempt to console his night-waking self … and he had already forgotten how to latch. He tried. But it was a half-hearted attempt at best. So our journey has come to its logical if bittersweet, endpoint.

Now What? Things to Look Forward to After Breastfeeding

Now what? Since becoming a mother in the fall of 2009, I’ve never stopped being either pregnant or breastfeeding, and sometimes both. I have my body back. I no longer get to count any extra calories into my plan for the nourishment of another human. I no longer have to worry about purchasing or wearing clothes I can comfortably breastfeed in. I won’t be taking any more breastfeeding selfies. The question remains, now what?

wean selfie
Our last breastfeeding selfie, – taken June 2015.

I can plan a weekend away with my husband, without wondering about how another caregiver will put my nursling asleep.

I can focus on getting healthier, without having to worry about how diet and exercise and other lifestyle changes might affect my milk supply.

I can spend more time doing big kid things with our children, who are only getting older. Reading stories, hiking, swimming, and a host of other things that I can now try to do just one-on-one with them, without being tied to the demands of a nursing baby or toddler.

I can look forward to the many other milestones that await us — kindergarten, sleepovers, amusement parks, road trips, graduations … and many, many, others.

I can hope that by starting their lives with such happy breastfeeding memories when each of our children becomes a parent, it will be something she looks forward to (our daughter) and will support his partner in doing (our sons). I do hope that in seeing me breastfeed their siblings, and surrounding them with friends that also breastfeed their babies, they will grow into adults that see the act of breastfeeding as not only natural but as normal as we perceive bottle feeding to be today.

Three different children. Three different weaning experiences. One was my choice. One was hers. The last was by mutual accord.

What was your weaning journey like? What plans do you have for when that journey ends?

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Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.

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