15 months of breastfeeding. We’re about 7 days away and it feels surreal. From where we started (worried about even being able to breastfeed) to now. If you’ve read through the other parts, you’ll know it hasn’t always been a breeze. We spent many glorious months with no issues at all, with breastfeeding feeling as easy as breathing air – but we also had our bumps in the road to overcome. Overall, it’s been an amazing journey for Maggie and I… but I’m going be honest: I don’t enjoy breastfeeding a toddler that much.
Toddlerhood & Breastfeeding
Maggie started daycare at 10.5 months – so I was pumping (I spoke about my pumping and return to work experience in this post) so that I could send bottles with her to daycare. I had some supply stashed away, but because I had been home with her (extra home with her because of the pandemic) I didn’t have much, so we moved through that pretty quickly. By just over a year we were able to wean her off of daytime milk. She was just having a very small bottle a day until mid-February and then I stopped pumping entirely. We replaced her daytime breastmilk with a non-dairy alternative (not for any reason, but I don’t drink dairy milk so that’s why Maggie doesn’t). The transition was honestly pretty smooth – she was a bit cranky only one day and then she didn’t care.
I continued to breast-feed at home during this time – we were still doing a lot of daytime feeds in January/February on the weekends, and always morning and bedtime.
Around the time, that I weaned off pumping I noticed that my hormones had another shift. I had resumed by period back at 5 months postpartum, but I wasn’t totally back to “normal” in regards to my hormones until honestly about the time I stopped pumping. My cycle – even with only 1 or 2 breastfeeding sessions a day – is still usually 1-2 days variance between months. So even now it’s not as regulated as before – and I was previously a very regular person when it came to my period. Always exactly on the day it was due except two incidence – both where I had an illness that interrupted my ovulation and cycle. Breastfeeding is basically doing a similar thing, but I still feel a lot closer to baseline than I did in the early months of postpartum.
With this shift that occurred, I started to feel touched out again. But it was worse. I just started to feel straight up uncomfortable. I know many moms report just not being able to breastfeed because they tried it and felt weird and uncomfortable – that is exactly what I started to feel. I don’t know if it’s because of my hormones for sure, but it felt related. It just came in waves – like the touched out feeling had before – during the month. By this past month (March), it is basically at half the breastfeeding sessions we do and we are only doing 1-2 x day now (usually 1 except on the weekends).
Because these moments started to overshadow all of our breastfeeding experiences lately, I’ve decided (with great difficulty) that I want to try and wean Maggie slowly. This was not easy – I had always wanted her to decide to fully wean. I don’t need anyone’s judgment. And – it’s not that we don’t ever have nice moments – I still enjoy our bedtime session because we get to cuddle and I get to be the person to lay her down (she never falls asleep anymore but is much more calm).
It’s just some days when this feeling happens, I just feel overwhelmed by it. It makes me squirm at some moments. I think that part of it is that she’s not eating “for food” anymore necessarily – I’m only feeding her 1-2 x a day max so my supply is much lower now, and at bedtime she has just eaten dinner and seems to just suck for comfort purposes. This means that she’s doing a flutter suck and that seems to be what really bothers me. It never bothered me in the months before – my feeling “touched out” seemed to be more related to me being tired at those points. Now, she sleeps through the night but just a few seconds of that type of suck and I just want to unlatch her immediately.
This struggle doesn’t happen to everyone and I wish it wasn’t happening to me, truly. I loved breastfeeding so much even during our later month bumps in the road and I still do appreciate it. It was still so convenient, simple, and sweet for me, despite the occasional discomfort. But now she is older and with this new feeling of discomfort and the “touched out” sensation that I’m experiencing – I think it’s just the next logical step in our journey (logical for both of us) to start the weaning process.
Starting to wean…
So – I started by dropping the morning session which we’ve done over the past week or so. I got a little bit of grief from her but not as much as I expected. A few days of tears in the morning when we didn’t sit down in the rocker… but then three mornings ago she got up and had no issue with not breastfeeding. She was happy to start her day and get dressed. Phew, that made it a bit easier mentally for me.
The hardest feed to drop for us will definitely be the bedtime session. I do feed her at naps still on the weekends however she is able to go down for naps at daycare without breastfeeding and has gone down for her dad recently without it, so I know she can do this on her own. She even puts herself to bed at night now, but I know that the nighttime session helps to sort of calm her down for sleep. She has a lot of energy, even as we get ready for bed – so I’m worried about how to tackle that one, but I’m honestly not in a rush to drop it. Even though I’ve decided to start this breastfeeding weaning journey, I’m not asking for it to be immediate. I just want to start. For me and my mental health, and therefore, for her benefit as well.
Mentally – this is very difficult for me. I wish she had just weaned on her own, or that I wasn’t experiencing the touched out sensation so we could continue until she’s ready. I know she’ll be fine – but it’s that unnecessary mom guilt bothering me, the same one that bothered me in the early days of breastfeeding. I feel like a failure because I want to stop. I feel like a liar because I say I love breastfeeding – but I don’t love it all the time anymore.
I don’t want to feel guilty – I’m doing what is best for me, mentally, and that is what is best for my child too. Always remember that if something like this, related to feeding your child, is causing you mental anguish – it’s probably not worth it. It’s better to do something that works for both of you – so that you’re not pouring from an empty, worn down cup.
So… I am not a liar. My breastfeeding journey has been just that – a journey. Even though there were moments where I cried or felt like I couldn’t do it, I did love it. I still do – there are still many positives to doing it, it’s just that now they are being overshadowed by the struggle. I feel like I’ve tried everything to overcome this bump that I can – and the next step is weaning, so that is what I’m doing. Slowly, but surely. And I’ll be okay with that because I know that it’s the best thing for both of us at this time. It’s part of our journey!
So we’re going to work on dropping the weekend nap session next… then eventually, when we’re both ready, the bedtime. But like I said – it’s not a rush for me. I’m going to listen to my body and see what happens. At this point, we still have many “normal”, non-touched out moments with the bedtime session. If that changes, I’ll do what I have to do to make it work for both of us. We’ll find new bedtime rituals – we’re already working on some as she gets bigger anyways. We will still cuddle and have our moments together.
And although our journey of breastfeeding might come to an end in the near future, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will honestly never forget it. It is a big part of my relationship with my daughter and with my first journey into motherhood. Apparently writing this made me incredibly emotional because I’m crying as I type these last few words. I have truly loved this journey, and I’ll be sad to see it end, but also excited to start our next one together…