Philomena turned 3 this past week, and just a few days before that, she weaned.
It’s been sad knowing she is done, and like I figured would happen when I was musing about nursing my toddler in a wean by one world here, I can’t remember our last nursing session, because I didn’t know it was our last.
I always thought I would absolutely nurse on demand no matter what but that didn’t quite happen for us either.
I want to walk through our nursing journey and share what weaning looked like for our family and first child.
Birth – 18 Months
I ecologically breastfed Philomena, meaning we nursed on demand night and day, without the use of pumps, pacifiers, feeding schedules, solids foods before six months, or separate beds.
At 9 months old eczema started to show up on her arms, and over time we learned she had food allergies. She showed very little interest in solids until well after 15 months (very common for allergy babies), and so nursing was just our everything for so long. She nursed often and thrived, and I was fine with arrangement until I became pregnant with Zelie when Philomena was 16 months old.
See, nursing was painful my *whole* pregnancy; it usually felt like needles were pricking me when she sucked. Often women who have painful nipples while pregnant find the pain subsides by the second trimester, but this wasn’t the case for me. It hurt until the moment I gave birth!
Philomena nursing in the night was never a problem until I simply could not sleep through that awful prickling feeling anymore. I was an exhausted mess, so around 18 months we night weaned with Daddy taking over for a few nights to comfort her during this hard change. (Read more about this process in my post on co-sleeping and transitioning her out of our bed here).
18 Months – 2 Years
Philomena was now night weaned at 18 months and really picking up on eating her solids. Around 20 months she had some days she barely nursed at all, and I thought she actually might self wean right then. I was shocked because she had been so upset just weeks before about no more night nursing, and now she was suddenly going to bed without asking to nurse!
As my third trimester progressed, however, her nursing ramped up again. Zelie arrived when Philomena was 25 months old, and she increased her nursing even more. I am sure this was all about comfort and reassurance as her little world was changing with a new sibling!
One session she came to live and die on was a first thing in the morning nurse, which was becoming increasingly difficult with a newborn who was often nursing at wake up time. She would melt down if she couldn’t nurse, and mornings were starting to become a nightmare.
We cut this session out by giving her a little bottle of kombucha that she drank down while cuddling with us in our bed as I nursed baby sister. She was free to nurse as much as she wanted all day outside of this, and was always happy for me to feed Zelie instead of her when “tiny baby is hungy.”
2.25 – 3 Years
For these last months we started to taper nursing down to just two sessions a day, before naptime and before bedtime. See, right at about 2.25 years old, Philomena started to throw these awful tantrums if she couldn’t nurse, or if I had to end a session to move on with our day or care for the baby. She would be so angry and she just couldn’t handle not always having a nurse when she wanted.
We settled on pre-sleep sessions and this wean really helped her to have some consistency in her day. I made sure baby was asleep or with daddy when Philomena would have these pre-sleep nurses. She knew that she would have a good, long, uninterrupted nurse, and it brought her a lot of comfort, security, and calm.
At about 2.75 years, these pre-sleep nurses were becoming much shorter, with her sometimes forgetting to ask for them, especially before nap.
The Final Wean
Ethan has always said he wanted Philomena weaned at 3. It isn’t something I agreed with, but he had his reasons, and our sessions were literally about 30 seconds long before sleep at this point.
We cut the bedtime nurse out a few weeks ago and replaced it with cuddles and rocking during our evening family Rosary.
She was down to just the pre-nap nurse.
Then it happened. She weaned. And it wasn’t me who weaned her… she just simply forgot.
It was so busy and chaotic during our trip to Montana last week. Instead of going down for naps in a bed and nursing before being tucked in, she was just falling asleep in the car on drives to various wedding events or family activities.
Out of the habit of going down for nap in a bed with a nurse, she forgot… She stopped asking. She weaned.
My little love is still nursing her baby dolly and animals, and always telling me upset Zelie needs “a nursie,” but she doesn’t nurse anymore.
I can’t remember that last session, I think it was the day before we flew out, about a week before her 3rd birthday.
I want to cry sometimes when I think of it being over, that special time of connection that helped us weather so many changes in our family, sicknesses, ouchies, and chaotic busy days.
But I am beyond grateful for our three years of nursing. It came with frustrations and challenges, it required communication and patience, but it was worth every moment, and I know we are both better off for it.