Weaning My Toddler

+J.M.J.+

Zelie is 28 months old and she is now weaned.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, because just a few weeks ago on social media I shared a photo of her saying how we were on the downhill slope, but that I was “sure we have at least a few months of breastfeeding left.”

And here we are less than a month later and fully weaned.

How did it work with Zelie? Differently than her big sister, that’s for sure! (You can read Philomena’s timeline of nursing and self-weaning right before she turned 3 here.)

A Slow Wean

I thought we had fully night weaned last fall when I wrote this post which I need to update, but then travel, various illnesses, and our big move to Nebraska etc. would have us back to night nursing and re-weaning. She has been completely night weaned since February this year.

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As time has gone on we’d gradually fallen into a rhythm of nursing upon waking, before and after naptime, and before bed.

We dropped the morning nurse this summer when she was waking up earlier and earlier for it and I was just exhausted.

While she overall was okay with this routine of nursing pre and post nap and then before bed, she never settled into it with the same comfort and confidence that Philomena did. She frequently fussed about nursing more and for the last few weeks stopped napping without waking up and nursing the whole time.

Then something switched in the last few weeks and nursing became the centerpiece of an all day long drama.

All Or Nothing

Zelie wanted to nurse *all* of the time. I was sure there were developmental leaps going on and kept trying to push through but it was getting worse each day. She was miserable. We were miserable.

Ethan said he thought that with Zelie it was either all or nothing. She just couldn’t seem to handle anything less than unrestricted nursing.

With Philomena the boundaries of when we’d nurse as an older toddler brought structure to her day. She loved the routine and it gave her security and comfort. Not so with Zelie – she hated any restriction and it was a constant issue.

(Note: I’m only talking about toddlers here. I would never recommend any sort of restricting schedule on breastfeeding with babies. It’s very important to nurse babies on demand – that’s a primary factor in establishing your supply and having long-term nursing success.)

Last month a bad cold had lead to a lot of nursing and when we tried to go back to our old routine she was completely unconsolable.

Saturday of last week was just torturous. Nursing was all she would talk about, crying and whining about it incessantly for the whole day outside of the three short times she was actually sucking.

I kept thinking things would get better tomorrow, or we just need to find just the right groove again. But Ethan said he felt firmly she just couldn’t handle a little nursing and that he wanted us to be done.

We told her tomorrow, Sunday, would be our last day nursing.

Our Last Nurse

We decided after we got home from Mass that her pre-nap nurse would be our last. I told her so.

With Philomena I don’t remember our last time nursing because I didn’t know it was our last. One day she just forgot to ask and a few more days went by and we were done without realizing it.

But this was different. I know it was the last time. I told her this was our last nurse – that it was causing her to be so frustrated and that we were going to be all done.

Tears streamed down my face – I didn’t want to cry in front of her but I couldn’t help it. She rubbed my cheeks and smiled, as if to tell me it was okay, and she was going to be just fine.

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I’d breastfed every single day since Philomena was born almost 4.5 years ago. It’s such a special time with my little ones and with us still waiting to be blessed with another baby, it was so odd to be “finished” for now.

Zelie was the sweetest little thing when she nursed and I knew this would be the last time we would have that closeness. Of course I go through times when I feel tapped out, but overall I have cherished and loved this part of mothering. It was hard to have that chapter with Zelie end almost 9 months sooner than it did with Philomena.

Was The Wean Right?

So was this the right choice? Well, so far it seems overwhelmingly… yes. Almost immediately on Sunday afternoon when we were done there was a change. Zelie’s constant irritability of the last few weeks went away.

She was sad for literally a minute when we were getting ready for the Rosary and her request to nurse brought up the reminder that we were all done. But then she just said, “You’ll cuddle me, mama?” and we cuddled for prayer time and she was happy as could be.

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Yesterday, the first full day without any nursing went amazingly. She was sad a couple times when she knew we wouldn’t be having our regular nurse, but the constant whining and fussing over it was gone. She seemed like her old self before the last few weeks of nursing frustration began.

This experience reinforced to me that every child and their needs are different. What worked for Philomena definitely didn’t work for Zelie. I’m glad I listened to Ethan because his intuition was right.

I miss breastfeeding Zelie, but I’m thrilled to see my little girl happy again. For whatever reason, she just couldn’t handle a little nursing anymore. Her needs for milk and comfort were met for 28 months on the dot, and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.

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