Well into my pretty enjoyable breastfeeding experience with my son, I decided that unless my feelings drastically changed, I'd let him self-wean. It seemed like the simplest way to do things, and I was in no hurry to give up one of my most useful mothering tools. Then, right before his second birthday, my feelings drastically changed. I started having breastfeeding aversions, and feeling really strongly that I needed to be done with nursing ASAP, especially at night. One of the things I'm glad I didn't know about weaning is that it can take a while to actually accomplish.
A couple of months into our weaning journey, we're still not totally there. I started with night-weaning, because those were the nursing sessions that bothered me the most, and have gradually tried to shed the sessions he misses the least. We currently nurse between one and three times a day; nearly always first thing after he wakes up and possibly another time or two if he's having an especially rough day (or if I'm having an especially rough day, and giving into a breastfeeding request feels like less of a hassle than having to do something else, parenting-wise).
It feels weird, and even sad at times, yet I'm also really relieved that we're nearing the end of our breastfeeding journey, even if I'm not exactly sure when that will be. I'm also really relieved I didn't know the following things about weaning, or I might not have had the stomach to get started.
How Long It Can Take
I'm not sure if I ever had a specific timeframe for weaning in mind, but I definitely didn't expect it to take months. Then again, technically a baby is starting a long, gradual period of weaning once they start having some solids in their diet. But even if you decide that you have to accelerate the process a bit instead of letting them self-wean, it can still take quite a bit of time to get them totally off the breast.
How Difficult It Can Be To Say No
Sad, adorable, pleading faces can be so convincing and so unnerving. It often takes nerves of steel to refrain from giving in once you start setting breastfeeding limits, especially in the beginning.
How Many Steps Back You Might Take With Every Step Forward
Because weaning often takes a while, there can be lots of times where you go back on one of the limits you set (like offering a breast to end a tantrum, when you previously decided to stick to "don't offer, don't refuse"), or times when you feel like it's not really in both of your best interests to be as hardcore as you want (like if your little one gets sick).
How Emotional It Can Be
It's emotional for mom and child when breastfeeding comes to an end. So many feelings — grief, guilt, relief, and so much more — can come up, both because breastfeeding is more than just feeding, and because changing how often you nurse messes with your hormones.
How Hard It Is To Break Old Habits
In addition to having to change a lot of your daily routines that involve nursing, when you're used to “mothering through breastfeeding,” it can be hard to make the switch to other ways of helping a child get through their hard feelings. Nothing is as simple or quick as popping a boob in their mouth. (It's also really hard to keep whatever boundaries you have around nursing when you’re holding an upset child who wants to latch.)
How Weird It Can Be To Stop Doing Something That Has Been So Central In Your Relationship With Your Child
Breastfeeding has been a part of our relationship from birth onward, so it’s odd sometimes to contemplate not doing it anymore. Even though I always knew it wouldn't be part of our relationship forever, it's still weird to contemplate going completely without it.
How Guilty You Might Feel
Sometimes, when he asks to nurse and I say no, he cries and fusses like the worst thing in the world is happening to him. It just rips my heart out to see him feeling such grief, and knowing that I'm the reason why. Growing up is so hard, for both of us.
How Much You Might Miss The Closeness Of Breastfeeding
Even though I'm so ready for us to be done with nursing, I'm also wistful for the good old days of breastfeeding, when my son and I would giggle and play little games with each other while he fed. I miss being able to hold him in my arms and make all of his troubles disappear in such a simple way. I miss being everything he needs. It was a really beautiful time in our lives, and a part of me will always be a little bit sad that it's over.