Since before Bowie was born I had decided I wanted to give her the time and space to self-wean, in other words, “Natural Term Weaning”. I had a goal to nurse to 2 + years of age but I was anxious that she would self-wean before this. Seems I had nothing to worry about. 2 years rocked around and Bowie needed her milk fix day and night just as she had as a newborn.
Then 2.5 years happened, and I was definitely feeling ready to stop nursing. Still, it wasn’t going to be an easy or a short process. Bowie nursed around the clock, and trying to discuss the ins and outs of weaning with her, felt like teaching simultaneous equations to a cat. But, all of a sudden at 2 years 7 months old she had a major leap in comprehension, and I knew it was the right time to start the process so it could be as gentle as possible.
I had just booked a solo overnight trip away, my first time apart from my Bow-baby, and I was freaking out about how she would go without nursing. I had 7 weeks to prepare so that Anu didn’t have to deal with a crazed-milk-starved 2-year-old for a night.
So we made a plan.
The ultimate goal — to be weaned the day after her 3rd Birthday in June this year. It has to be the day after as weaning on your ACTUAL Birthday has to be the worst Birthday gift ever!
First, we needed to drop out the day feeds. Bowie had been feeding about 4-6 times a day including first thing in the morning and feeding to sleep at night. We decided to just do the first and last feed and we were surprised at how well this went. When I say we, I mean Anu and me, as we are the parental team and he is very much with me with all our decision making!
After 2 weeks of no nursing throughout the day, we aimed to tackle the night feeds. We bought the book “Nursies when the sunshines” by Katherine C Havener and started reading it daily.
Here's how it went.
The final night of nursing: I explained to her before bed that tonight would be the last night we nursed during the night. Not sure exactly how she was feeling, but I felt a bit sad and elated at the same time.
Night One: We made a point of talking about it with her during the day and before bed, then when bedtime rolled around we read the book and nursed to sleep. She woke about 7 times through the night and 3 of those she cried pretty hard and my heart ached. I offered water and cuddles but she wanted nothing.
I spoke gently and said “I know it is so hard right now sweetheart. You really want boo. Boo has gone to sleep for the night and you can have boo again when you wake and the sunshines”.
The longest she cried was 4 minutes and then she settled beside me and went to sleep stroking my hair with her arm around my neck. Not overly comfortable for me but hey, I was NOT about to rock the boat!
In the morning she woke at 5:45am ready for the day. The sun was not exactly shining but what are you going to do! It was her morning. Interestingly she did not want to feed in bed but instead dragged me to the living room to feed instead. We had lovely cuddles and jokes while she nursed because she pointed at the window to show me it was still dark!
Night Two: She went to sleep pretty easily after her bedtime feed. However, she woke 45 minutes later and was a little upset she couldn’t have more milk, grizzling for about 10 seconds before plonking herself back down and falling asleep. An hour later she woke but again went down quickly and this time no fuss!
The killer was about 2 hours after bedtime. We were just about to go to bed ourselves when she woke and she cried and was clearly angry with me. Again she refused water and cuddles and pushed me to the side so she could go to sleep stretched out over our entire bed. I repeated the gentle phrase that I had been using and tried to rub her back but she batted my hand aside and said “No!” All in all, it was 5 minutes from waking to sleep again.
The rest of the night went well. With no space in the bed, I slept in the spare bed and could hear Anu settling her back to sleep when she woke. But she didn’t get upset at all. At 5:30am she woke upset again and as it was her morning time I let her nurse. This time she happily fed in bed giving me an extra 30 minutes to doze, yes!
Night Three: After going to sleep easily Bowie slept for an hour before waking and fussed for about a minute and didn’t want water or cuddles. And then went back to sleep. Then for the rest of the night, she just went back to sleep as soon as she woke. Moving around the bed quite a bit and sleeping on a blanket on the floor for a while! At 5amish she woke to feed and I kindly said it wasn’t morning yet. She had gone to bed at 9:15pm last night so no way was I getting up at 5am. She cried for about a minute had a sip of water and then snuggled back into me and went to sleep till 7am. That's right 7am! We nursed then got up for the day.
Night Four: The night was off to a great start with Bowie sleeping for 2 1/4 hours and then going back to sleep easily after some water. Then an hour later she woke and it was the worst part of this whole process so far. It didn’t help that she had mosquito bites on her foot and on her hand and she couldn’t stop scratching them. It took at least 20 minutes before I was allowed to put a soothing balm on them. Before this, we cuddled in the kitchen with me swaying while she sniffled and had a snack. She had chosen banana chips and clutched them as we went back to bed and crunched them down while I put a balm on her feet, before falling back to sleep cuddled up to me. After this, she didn’t wake again until 5am and cuddled me back to sleep. She then woke at 5:40am for the day, and we nursed before she got up.
Each night, after these first four, have been great! Bowie hasn’t really got upset at all, and one night she even slept from 8:30pm until 5am before waking, miracles DO happen folks.
Now that the night weaning has been tackled, we will give it a couple of weeks before letting go of the end of the day feed. Then hopefully we get through on just the morning feed till her 3rd birthday, feeling positive!
Have you had to wean your child? What gentle processes did you use?