It’s been one whole week since Amel last had her breast milk. At 2 years and 2 months, it’s about time. There were some moments, though, where I thought I’d still be breastfeeding her until kindergarten.
I first tried to gradually wean her around two months before her second birthday. I cut off her morning feeding, told her she’s a big girl now, and distracted her with toys. It was a failure; she didn’t understand why she could keep nursing at some times but not at other times, and I gave in too easily. After all, nursing was an easy escape. I could play with my phone while she latched on my breast, watching fish documentary.
Shortly before her second birthday, I tried to wean cold turkey. Some say weaning cold turkey is unfair for the child, but after two years, I was so ready to have my sleep and my body back. So I put a band-aid on my nipples and told myself to just tell her no. As it turned out, I didn’t even have to bother refusing her. The moment she saw the band-aid, she pulled down my shirt and did not even ask to nurse.
I was worried the whole time, though; does she drink enough? Does she produce enough wet diapers? The problem, however, was with sleep. She just wouldn’t fall asleep without nursing. We read books, sang songs, watched videos, and she screamed non-stop. I ended up rocking her to sleep like when she was a baby. Night time was an absolute hell. She woke up frequently, and refused to be comforted in any way. She went from having a total of 14 hours sleep a day to just 8.
After two days, she started coughing. The next day, I too started coughing. Due to exhaustion and lack of sleep, we both fell sick. What’s a mother to do? Not long after, we were back to breastfeeding.
I kind of put away the idea of weaning for a while, knowing bruised nipples are better than sleep deprivation. I never refused nursing her, but just kept telling her breastfeeding is for babies and she’s not a baby anymore.
Then, last week when she was about to nurse, she pulled my shirt back down and said, “Big girl.”
It was all the encouragement I needed.
My daughter loves water. She loves beaches and ocean and swimming pools. Heck, she even loves watching me wash the dishes because of the water coming from the tap.
She’s been driving us nuts lately with her persistent request to go swimming. She even put on her swim vest when she went playing outside. We did take her to the swimming pool in the end. Was she satisfied? Of course not. She wanted to go back in the water even before we left the parking lot.
So, knowing the power of a bribe, I said we can go swimming again on Friday, but that means no more breast milk. The next time she asked to nurse, I reminded her, “Sure, we can nurse now, but then we won’t go swimming on Friday. Is that okay with you?” She went silent, then, “I want to go swimming,” and stopped asking for boobs.
I don’t know if bribery is the right approach to weaning, and honestly I don’t really care. Because it works.
Being a strong-headed little girl that she is, she did make it to Friday without any more drop of breast milk. That morning I put her in the car seat and drove to the swimming pool.
It was just the two of us, but we had so much fun!
I packed snack for us in my new Lunchbots Trio container: chocolate banana muffins, hard-boiled eggs, and some oranges, and we finished them all. She fell asleep on our way home.
Dealing with Engorgement
Since I abruptly stopped breastfeeding, my breasts became engorged. It was very much like the early days of breastfeeding, when your breasts are rock-hard and painful.
I decided not to pump for a reason called laziness. I just hand-expressed a little during shower and did cold compress at other times to relieve the pain.
The internet told me cabbage leaves work wonders to treat engorgement, so I froze some and put them between my skin and bra. Yeah, all the gross things parents to do survive. But it works! It still feels uncomfortable but nothing extremely painful.
A Big Girl
I almost can’t believe how well she is taking this whole weaning process. We did stop cold turkey, but not once in these last 7 days did she scream for breasts. She eats well and drinks plenty and sleeps better. That’s the most amazing thing, I think: we both sleep better.
I can’t even begin to describe the joy of going to bed at 10 and found that it’s already 4 when I wake up. It’s been ages since I last have six hours uninterrupted sleep. There are still times when she wakes up early morning and I have to rock her. If I’m lucky, she’ll go back to sleep. If not, well it’s an early day for us.
But by and large she seems to be doing well. I hope we can keep this up!