newborn milkies

When Aodhan was born almost three years ago, I was dedicated to breastfeeding. Not for political reasons, not for any feminist reasons, and not because it is one of the tenets of the Attachment Parenting/Gentle Parenting philosophy. Sure, I do see breastfeeding as a political act (the personal IS political) and I do see it as a feminist issue (this is my body and I will do with it what I wish), and yes it is a part of the larger attachment parenting parcel (but who wants to connect with a parenting philosophy that you have to follow with any kind of regiment or risk being ‘tossed out’ of? not me).

nursing in public - my body, my right

I wanted to breastfeed because in my heart and soul it was what I wanted to do. And, when that baby boy arrived fresh and new on my chest, it was what he wanted to do: I mean it. The guy was ready. And so, it began.

But, like a Tolstoy novel, it is still going. And going.

nursing is such a great time to connect with our babes

I never placed a time stamp on our breastfeeding relationship. Like my pregnancy, it was a shockingly simple thing for me. I was almost embarrassed to admit that I never struggled with some of the horrific and truly painful realities that so many women and their babies endure during those precious and scary first few weeks. Aodhan had reflux, so an even greater reason to breastfeed. At 5 months we began our journey of BabyLed Weaning, and although I was doomed to the ugliest nursing bras EVER, Kevin was the one washing hummus and avocado off the floor for at least four months until Aodhan figured out that the food went in his mouth and not on the floor.

holiday boobies

Despite the solid food, Aodhan nursed longer and more often. The guy was on a boob more often than not – and I was mostly ok with that. I wasn’t working; given that I was an ex-pat living without family or many friends – it wasn’t as though I had loads to do.

Plus, we knew that this little lump was our only little lump. We knew right away that our intense parenting style meant that one was all we were going to share with the world. So Aodhan and I – we lingered in our baby-moon. We hung out in nursing heaven. We nursed through teeth, through arduous plane journeys, through trips across the world, through pulled elbows, the few vaccines he has had. Most importantly, we got through a huge move without a hiccup. I credit my boobies with a whole lot of goodness. Thanks ladies.

But, the time has come when I am thinking that I don’t want to wake up 3-6 times in the night any more. I don’t want to always be secretly worrying that I might get another blocked duct or mastitis, because holy hell they are both terrible. I don’t want to whip them out in public anymore (not that I don’t think it is my right, but I hate trying to wrangle my poor boobs out in shirts that aren’t made for it). I want to buy nice shirts. I don’t want my pjs to be all stretched out. Damn it: I want a new bra.

To his credit, Aodhan has made strides to needing/wanting the boobs with less ferocity. But, this guy isn’t going to give it up. He doesn’t believe in ideas like “self-weaning” or “just forgets about it”. No way.

So we play. It is outdoor play and play with others that distracts him the most from the boobies. And if I can get him to the zoo – my lord, we can go the whole day without boobies.

I get it – I know he nurses for comfort. I know that. The guy can grab himself a glass of water or almond milk. I know it. He knows it. That is why I think he is ready, because play comforts him. He can get lost in his imagination for hours and feel ok about the world. He can check out and wonder about a million things and not need to connect with his mama beyond a conversation, a back rub and a snuggle. He can do this, and we will use play to get us through. Our weaning journey will be as gentle and positive as I can make it, but it has begun.

I have hugely mixed emotions about this. Part of me is pulling out the cheerleading pompoms, while another part (you know, the part that is with you at night when the house is asleep and all you can hear is his tiny  breath next to you. the part that can see that he doesn’t fit quite the same way in your lap anymore. the part that notices that his hand is so big these days) is reaching for a hankie and feeling a little sad and lost.

Over a year ago, my mom bought me a stunning little nursing necklace (because one thing I couldn’t handle was twiddling…it just wasn’t in me and was pushing me toward crazy), and on the back she had engraved:

wean me gently

I shall little guy, I shall.

nursing a toddler

Long live play.

Please readers: If you have any {positive and helpful} comments, I would really love to hear from you.

There are a million other issues that are tied up with breastfeeding. I promise to address them. But, this one was personal! 

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35 Responses to Gentle Weaning and Play

  1. What a beautiful post and good luck with the whole weaning journey. Kierna
    Kierna Corr (@CiarnaC) recently posted..Watching the clouds go by.My Profile

  2. birte says:

    wonderful to read your post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. the only advice i can give you is to see the freedom the weaning gives you, and on the other hand to be happy that you shared such a long and apparently good breast feeding time. good luck!

  3. Anne-Marie says:

    Thank you for sharing! What an inspiring post! As I am preparing to wean my little one, too early to my liking, you made me feel good about the special time that I shared with her and I look forward to breastfeed another one!

  4. M says:

    Go forward gentle mama, you have always let him lead the way and this will be no different.

  5. Christina says:

    Thanks for being so honest about your weaning journey. I, too, and beginning to wean my little boy. We are currently working on just night weaning because I am ready for continuous, uninterrupted sleep, and I think he is too. It’s going okay. My strategy is being very vocal with him that nursing is for when the sun is up and when it’s dark, the milk is sleeping. That has worked for the most part, but I have no idea what it’s going to look like to wean him all the way. But I will take your necklace’s advice to heart and wean him gently. (I love that, by the way, and I think I might have to steal that idea.)
    Christina recently posted..Play: Homemade Toys – Pattern Play BlocksMy Profile

  6. Very interesting to hear your weaning story. It is such a complicated and intricate process after such an intimate relationship, isn’t it? Thanks for sharing with us in the Mother’s Day Childbirth Story Blog Hop :-)
    Chrissy @ The Outlaw Mom Blog recently posted..Kids Co-op Playdate Linky #3My Profile

  7. Anna says:

    We night-weaned last December. I just couldn’t take the 3 + feeds every single night and was ready for my first full night’s sleep (ie. more than 3hrs unbroken sleep) in nearly 3 years. Ok, so a bit of explaining and bribery was involved…but once the suggestion was made and the trade-off initiated (we used the advent calendar choc a day to encourage her) she was 100% on board. I was surprised at how easily she gave it up, it was more a habit than anything else by this stage I guess.

    What surprised me next was how much more relaxed and enjoyable our daytime feeds became. She now creeps in at 5 am for a feed. Back again after breakfast for an 8am feed, occasionally has a feed before her midday nap – usually on a slow day or when she is having a growth spurt, and then has her final feed right before bed.

    Breastfeeding doesn’t seem to be as demanding and dominating on our schedule as it did a few months ago. I was worried that weaning her at night would lead to complete weaning prematurely but we’ve settled on a nice new balance to suit both of our needs.

  8. Oh, Lyndsay, we are going through the same thing right now with our second. I, too, have very mixed feelings about it. I’m finding it’s so much harder to let go when you know it’s going to be your last. Hugs to you and Aodhan. x

  9. PlayDrMom says:

    Such a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. Those moments are so precious.
    PlayDrMom recently posted..The ABCs of Make Do & Friend … and this week’s Kids Co-Op Linky!My Profile

  10. Beckie says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have been feeling the same way about my 32 month old Son. I want him to wean because I want my boobs back, I want a normal bra, I’m tired of stretching out shirts and toddler gymnastics and knees pressing into my bladder as he switches from side to side. I love my Boy, I love how sweet it is to hold his growing body in my arms and it Is bittersweet, to start weaning but, i’m ready, he’s ready and I know we can still be attached and snuggle. =)

  11. Jodiann says:

    “wean me gently” – made me cry! What a wonderful gift to you from your mom. What a wonderful gift from you to your son. There is no greater place for a young child than at his/her mother’s breast – nursing or not.

  12. Cheryl says:

    What a beautiful post!

  13. Melinda J says:

    Thanks for sharing! It’s nice to hear of other littles who clearly aren’t going to self-wean. Ever. My son loves his milkies with a fervor that is tough to overcome.

    We’ve talked about it often and he truly can’t conceptualize the idea of not having milkies. We’re working on it slowly, cutting back a little at a time. I refuse to make it traumatic. So far he’s doing really well. And I am too. :)

    • hisveganmama says:

      Sounds like we are on the same wave length. It is hard to be an attached mama and know in your heart that your child isn’t just “going to stop”. There really is a lack of encouraging and positive information about it being totally ok to gently encourage them to stop nursing….Wishing you and your son a gentle journey.

  14. Kristin says:

    what a beautiful post! My daughter is 13 months old and we are not weaning it but I do like to read about it to help prepare myself for the future. I know the feelings you talk about. I’m exhausted waking up at night but I know I will miss it and I try to cherish even those exhausted night feedings. Playing does distract my daughter. When we are out and about she nurses far less than just hanging out at home. I never thought about using it as a weaning tool though. That is great! I also got teary-eyed about the necklace you got saying “wean me gently” that is beautiful. Thank you for this post!

    • hisveganmama says:

      Thanks for your comment and your visit Kristin. 13 months is such a wonderful age isn’t it? Oh! Who am I kidding – every age is wonderful. I agree – I miss our nighttime milkies already. Though, the great thing about nursing gently is that we have swapped milkies for cuddles and hugs. He is waking up a little less though, so the sleep is lovely. Hope you visit again.

  15. Bethan says:

    Wow, I feel like I just read my own little life’s nutshell: we have just returned from living abroad, we had our son overseas and if it weren’t for my own set of ta-tas we surely would have never survived the long flights, the airport lines, or wandering a new country all day. Now we’re back in the US and approaching the subject of weaning. Play distracts him too, so we’re doing as much as we can.

    • hisveganmama says:

      Yeah for your boobies! Flights can be horrible. Wishing you luck and love on your own journey. Thanks for visiting! I look forward to reading your blog.

  16. Yeah we are right there. I am getting ready and he still loves it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  17. Ashley says:

    This was so amazing to read. Thank you so much for sharing. The part about the necklace gave me goosebumps. “wean me gently”…I LOVE that!! My daughter is going on 14 months and we are still nursing. I have noticed that she, like your son, will stay away from the “bobbies” (as she calls them), all day long if we are outside playing or on the go. I’ve had great success with nursing as well and have loved every minute of it, but I’m with you on wanting a new bra! And nice shirts! :-) Very sweet read. Thanks again for sharing.

  18. Kaysha says:

    Thank you for this post! I want you to know that, while I’d contemplated weaning my 12 month old 4th child, reading your post actually encourages me to keep going a little longer. I am not that ready. I’m tired of having to whip them out every 5 minutes, it seems, but I know that once I stop, there will be no more babies to nurse. This baby got the most of my milk, (as I weaned the others ones early, mainly due to social unacceptance), I want to rebel against those who don’t support ‘human milk for human babies’. I know my baby girl isn’t ready, and I wouldn’t dream of weaning her any other way, but gently.

  19. Karen says:

    How old is your little one? I have a 14-month old who I don’t plan to wean yet, but like a previous poster, I also like to read about others’ journeys to help me think about how this could eventually work. Thanks for your thoughtful sharing.

    • hisveganmama says:

      Hi Karen! My son is almost 3 (2 more months). Thank you for visiting – I hope you will come back and share your experiences when you start to wean your own little darling.

  20. Krystal says:

    Wonderful post! It was like reading about my life! My son is nearly 3, and I have mixed feelings about our nursing relationship: I love that it is my only chance to snuggle with a boy always on the go, and that I don’t have to worry if he’s a picky eater any given day because he’s still getting my milk, and breastmilk makes the BEST first-aid! But I miss wearing a nice bra! lol And I hate how the only clothing I can wear must be easy access, just-in-case.

    I don’t think our weaning process has begun yet (he has a milk allergy, so I think he still relies on it for nutrition more than other children his age), but it was great to read a well written post on the subject.

  21. Lovely post. I am a nursing mama, and really connected with this post. Those intimate nursing moments are some of the best <3

  22. ava says:

    Beautiful post! I did 24 months on my 2nd baby! The weaning was hard, but we finally did it. Exclusively breastfed her for 6 months and we mixed after that until 24 months. :) You are doing great Mama!
    ava recently posted..Giving BirthMy Profile

  23. amber says:

    Wow, so nice to read this! I think our sons are the same age! June 26 birthday : )

  24. amber says:

    Continued from above..
    I have loved nursing. But I would love to wean by his birthday. I’ve day weaned. If he tries to nurse, I say ok, time for bed! And he runs like I’m the plague, lol.
    Night nursing is the nightmare! Actually, twiddling is, I hate it!!!! We co sleep, so its easier, but still disruptive. I.need.sleep. He nurses laying in top of me, not so comfortable. One night, I told him no nursing till we wake up. He nursed the whole night! So I try ignoring him instead of lifting my shirt. It works while its dark, but when sun rises, he will pull my hair, shake me, whine until I give in. I give in bc I don’t want to wake up, bc he will not go back to sleep, will wake up and be a tired mess all day.. Cuddling does not work, nor does water. I would love to know how you end up weaning, gently!

  25. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. This brought back memories of my weaning journey and how special those nursing moments are. I weaned R in his own time, when he was ready, just as you are doing. When it becomes too much, and feels like it’s taking forever, just know that this is just a little blip in ime in the scheme of things, and it won’t seem nearly as long when you look back on it.
    Ness @ One Perfect Day recently posted..A special Earth edition of The Weekly Kid’s Co-opMy Profile

  26. Isil says:

    Congratulations on breastfeeding so long. Sorry haven’t all the comments. Have you tried night weaning? I night weaned my 2 year old 9 months and she was happy with water and adapted pretty quickly with the idea of “boobies are sleeping and you can nurse in the morning.” This book might help,too.

  27. This is wonderful. I love the thoughtful gift your mom shared with you and the care you are taking with this next transition.
    Kim of Little Stories recently posted..The Perfect PauseMy Profile

  28. Ashley says:

    My little A. self-weaned almost a year ago- late last June. I was already back to work (boo!) and she was still doing nightly and morning feeds. Slowly, in the mornings, she became far too busy to bother with the boobies, as she had many orders of the day to conduct and just needed to get up and move!, move!, move! No time for the boobies. At night, she still lingered and I was prepared to do it for as long as she needed. we had waited and hoped for her arrival for so long; I wasn’t going to ‘cut her off’ until she was ready.
    Soon the night feeds became short, as she would interrupt herself after just minutes, needing to share a thought or comment, or asking for a story. And finally, one evening, she just asked for bed, and that was that. It was totally and completely on her terms and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I guess she was just ready.
    Now, just past 2 years old, my precious little monkey still comes up and cuddles her Momma and strokes my neck and touches my mouth with her little (yet growing!) hand in the evenings and when she is tired. It reminds me of when she nursed and was always ‘petting’ my neck; I suppose the touch and gesture still brings her comfort.
    Good luck, my friend. You are amazing! You and your A. will find your way.
    Much love. xo

    • hisveganmama says:

      oh Ashley, you made me cry. I didn’t know that your little A had weaned. You are such an amazing mama to have let it happen in such a gentle and on her terms kind of way. Thanks so much for sharing and I look forward to seeing you two in the near future.

  29. Ashley says:

    Yes. I was sad. My baby! She was almost 16 months at the time. But she was ready so we did it. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t cry and miss ‘our time’ dearly.

    Such a fierce and independent little rascal I have on my hands. She simply MUST do everything on her terms and try, try, try everything on her own. Every single day she amazes me!

    I will see you this summer! Keep an eye out on your doorstep anytime after July 1st… :) xo

  30. tricia says:

    Love this post! Thank you for linking up at the Mother’s Day Blog Hop! The photos are beautiful and weaning is hard! We nursed exclusively for a long time, too- and for me, it was about when my children were ready to pull away- They let me know- By the time it was time to move on, they each were nursing for mere comforting seconds first thing in the morning- not for sustenance. And then, they weren’t. :) Thanks, again- Beautiful post!
    tricia recently posted..Guest Posting Today At Imagination Soup!!!My Profile

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