How to NOT Nurse Your Baby
Posted January 29, 2014 by Prairie Wife - 4 comments
(I could go on for about 50,000 more words about my experiences as a new nursing mother, but you’ll have to just keep on coming by to read those posts. I’m trying to stay focused on my main topic.)
I struggled a lot (understatement of the century) at first to nurse Cowboy J but eventually we got the hang of things. He had his first tooth at 4 months, and I decided that I wasn’t ready to wean him, so I kept on going. Then he hit 9 months and I decided that as much as I loved our nursing relationship, I needed to start weaning him. We were planning on trying for another baby soon, and I wanted a few months of my body to myself, before I had another human living off me again (I say this with love). So I went to my next LLL meeting with the intention of asking for their ideas. Their aid had been invaluable to me those overwhelming first months, and I had continued to attend meetings pretty regularly. I asked them for help, and met with a whole lot of information on baby led weaning (basically let the baby nurse until he decided to stop) but no support or advice for how I could actively wean my baby. I left the meeting feeling guilty for being so selfish, how could I want to end my nursing relationship with my baby?! I found myself questioning my ability to be a good mother. It was hard enough on me to be a working mother, and now I wanted to put myself first again, how dare I?!
But, then I thought about it some more (and cried) and decided I was being a good mother. I was keeping my relationship with my baby a positive one that benefited both of us. The Cowboy wanted to go away on a long weekend together, and Ireally wanted to! I didn’t want to be the mom that resented her children and lost herself. I ignored the negativity, trusted my instincts, and made the choice that I felt was right for my family.
At that time I couldn’t find any useful information on how to not nurse your baby, so I just followed my instincts. I slowly cut out one feeding after another (more details will follow) until Cowboy J’s first birthday, which was the last time I nursed him. With all of the other Cowkids I have done the same thing, and Cowbaby is down to two feedings a day. I had a reader contact me last week, asking me if I had any advice about weaning. And frankly, I have had more friends (and their friends pointed my direction) ask for advice about weaning, than I have had ask me for help on how to nurse! Before I map it out I have to add one more thing. I struggle with mastitis (another post for another day), because of this I couldn’t just quit nursing cold turkey. I need to mention that I know of lots of mothers that just simply stop one day and give their children a sippy cup or bottle instead. This would literally kill me. So, don’t forget that stopping nursing cold turkey is an option for you too!
I go on a two week schedule where I cut out a feeding every two weeks. This means I only have two days of being uncomfortably full (it takes about two days for your milk supply to regulate) and I don’t have to worry about mastitis.
Before I start to actively wean my kids I nurse them whenever and wherever they want. When they show an interest in food and can sit up (this has been different each kid) I feed them homemade baby food. I start out by night weaning my babies; this is the hardest one for me, so I do it when I’m the most determined. You need to decide what you idea of night is. Around here it means that I won’t nurse the baby between 9:30pm and 4:30 am. I personally don’t let my babies cry it out at night, so when they fuss I still go into their room and rock and sing to them, but no nursing! I choose not to offer them a bottle or sippy either, I don’t want to have another habit to break. For me the first two days are the hardest, the baby cries, I cry, it’s rough. By then end of the first week we all have the routine down and it’s not traumatic anymore. I recommend starting on a Friday night so your husband can help and you know for sure you can get a nap in.
By this time my kids are eating a few meals or snacks of solid food. I start giving them a sippy at their meals; I prefer the Nubby brand because all they have to do it chew on it to get liquid out. I use mostly water with a splash of juice or organic whole milk. I don’t give my kids formula.
2 weeks later
Now you need to look at your day and see where you can start cutting out feedings or doubling up. My kids mostly nurse on one side each feeding. So after the night feeding is cut out, they are still nursing about 8-9 times a day. I look at my feeding schedule and start feeding them on both sides and using distraction to keep them longer between feedings. Here is an example of the morning feedings at our house…
So I would nurse on both sides at 7:00 and cut out the 9:00 feeding. Maybe you need to nurse at 10:30 instead of 11:00 but you can then feed them a bigger lunch and offer the sippy more, to keep them from nursing until 1.
2 weeks later
Cut out another feeding. Here is an example from our afternoon feedings.
For this I would nurse both sides at 4:00 and cut out the 6:00 feeding offering food and the sippy instead. Then I would move the 8:00 feeding to 7:30 and the 9:30 to 9:00. See, now not only am I nursing one less time, but bedtime got moved a half hour earlier!
2 weeks later
Keep up the same pattern and cut out one more feeding. Just keep on combining feedings and/or replacing nursing with meals or snacks and the sippy. I really try to mostly give my kids Organic Whole Milk rather than water but, I keep a water sippy in my purse.
Naptime and bedtime I usually keep the naptime and bedtime feedings for my last ones. It gives me lots of time to get the baby ready for this transition. When you start weaning is the perfect time to really get your bedtime routine set. You are already tweaking their schedule, so why not make bedtime and naptime easier for you?! Once you night wean your child you have the hardest step done, you have taught them (and you) that you can get them to sleep without nursing. Now you need to simply create a sleeping routine (if you don’t already have one)
At the Prairie Homestead we start out by saying “It’s time for night night!” We change the baby’s diaper (get on jammies for bed) and grab their favorite blanket or stuffed animal and sit for a story. We rock and read and then sing them a lullaby, followed by nursing. Then we put them in their crib, turn on the mobile, and head for the hills. By the time my kids are 9 months old, I do the 10 minute rule. I let the baby cry for 10 minutes and then go in and rock them, and repeat as much as needed. Honestly I can count on one hand the number of times with each kid I ever even needed to go in.
When it’s time to cut out a naptime of bedtime nursing simply follow your regular routine minus the nursing at the end. When I do this with my kids, the first few times they look at me as if to say “wait am I missing something?” but, they never really get upset.
Sick baby This can be a struggle when you are weaning, and it’s up to you how you handle the situation. When babies are sick they want to nurse more and you need to make the call. If it is just a cold I often don’t’ give in and just simply snuggle and rock them when they are fussy. With a tummy bug I get concerned about dehydration and go back to nursing whenever they want. I have found that within a day or so of them feeling better we naturally (with just a little tweaking from me) go right back to where we were before the baby got sick.
Hope this helps those of you that are looking for some guidance. I would love to hear any other tips or tricks that have helped you to wean your babies! Feel free to post any questions too! And remember, you need to do what works for your family. If you start to wean your baby and decided it isn’t the right choice for you, listen to your instincts. No one knows better than you what is right for your family! If you should choose not to nurse I hope my tips for How to NOT Nurse Your Baby were helpful.