28 February 2011

Weaning from breastfeeding

I’m not for or against weaning a baby from breastfeeding. It’s such a personal thing to each mother and each child. With my two children my experiences were polar opposites. Weaning my son was not an issue as he stopped way before I was ready at 9 months old. He made his opinion pretty clear by biting me every time I came near him with a boob (I’m sorry did I say that biting has not been an issue in our family in that earlier post?).

My daughter who is the oldest was a completely different story. Born with a birth defect which necessitated major surgery at 48 hours old and a month-long stay in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), we didn’t get an early start to breastfeeding. I faithfully pumped for her and the nurses gave her breast milk through a tube that went directly through her tummy to her stomach. It helped to be able to do this small thing for her when I was otherwise completely unable to ease her pain or help her grow and heal. When I was finally able to nurse her it was rough for a couple of weeks as she was used to a bottle but with the help of some very sweet and kind experts we finally got there. Nursing became her absolute favorite thing to do and who was I to deny my baby that close comfort she hadn’t been able to have for her first month. There were many days in the NICU  we had not even been able to touch her and we would just sit for hours watching her sleep.

Fast forward eighteen months, we have moved to Los Angeles from New York City and my daughter is still incredibly attached to nursing. I would have carried on longer but for a couple of other circumstances. The month before I had miscarried an early pregnancy and I had just found out I was expecting again. My doctor my mother and my darling husband were all very concerned about the potential for another miscarriage. Although I didn’t 100% buy the notion I could cause another miscarriage by breastfeeding, with all that concern I felt that weaning my 19 month old was the right decision.

I was very concerned about causing my young daughter emotional upset as she took so much comfort from nursing and I was determined to find a gentle way to do it. I started by tackling daytime feeding as that seemed to do be the most sensible place to start. I came up with a time, say 5 minutes, and I would let her nurse whilst watching the clock. Then I would take her off. If she cried I would let her nurse again but for only 2 seconds and then take her off again. At first it would take a good few 2-second feeds before she would finally give up but it happened. It was annoying to her so she would stop without complaint. She quickly learnt it wasn’t worth arguing about the 2 second feeds as I would just keep repeating the same pattern. Within days I was able to cut the 5-minute nursing periods gradually down to 10 seconds. Before I knew it I was only nursing at nap time and bedtime. Nursing before she fell asleep took a little longer but I repeated the same pattern, slowly slowly reducing the time. I had just gone through a very tough couple of months teaching her to fall asleep without nursing so that she would be able to sleep better during the night so I had already laid the foundation.
I miss those quiet times with my little angel who now barely sits still long enough to hug but I’m pleased we came through it none the worse for wear and now she has that little brother to play with.

As far as teaching her to fall asleep without nursing is concerned, there was no easy or quick way to do this. Every night I would cuddle her when she got up and lie her back down in her crib…over and over and over again, until weeks later it finally stuck.

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