I let Adelaide wean on her own timeline. As a mom who has worked outside the home full-time since my daughter was 12 weeks old, I’m proud that I was able to nurse exclusively until she was one. At around 13 months we introduced whole cow’s milk and continued to supplement breast milk with cow’s milk. Then at about 17.5 months I stopped pumping while at work. As my supply dipped and Adelaide’s appetite for “real” food increased, it was natural that she only nursed three times a day and drank cow’s milk the rest. Then she was nursing only twice a day. It was that way for several months–in the morning lying in bed before starting our day and at night in her room in the rocking chair, right before books.
The last couple of months Adelaide’s nursing sessions have become shorter and shorter. I laughed when one day she announced, “empty,” as she patted my breast. Sometimes she seemed a little frustrated that Mommy’s milk supply was low, but it didn’t usually bother her. She still nursed for comfort.
A couple of months ago I stopped offering Mommy’s milk, but Adelaide would almost always ask for it. Each night I tried to pause and savor the moment, to look into her eyes and remember the special bond I felt. Then, nursing started to not be as fun anymore. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t as comfortable for me as it used to be. Still, I thought each night might be our last, so I tried to appreciate it.
One night when Adelaide was nursing, I asked her if it was empty and she shook her head no. Apparently, she was still getting something. But the sessions became very short–just a minute or two on each side. The last several weeks, Adelaide stopped asking. I was a little bummed that I couldn’t remember the exact last day, the last moment we nursed together. I thought the date would be something nice to record here and in her baby book, but I was okay. I knew it was time.
Then, on Friday, February 7, I was changing Adelaide into her pajamas when she said “Mommy nilk.” The request caught me by surprise. It had been a week or two since Adelaide had last nursed. If Tim has been around, he probably would have said, “Oh you don’t need Mommy’s milk anymore. You’re a big girl.” But, it was just me and her. I was excited to have one last nursing moment with my girl.
I said okay and Adelaide nursed for maybe 25 or 30 seconds. When I offered to “switch sides,” she sat right up and we switched. Almost immediately she popped back up and climbed down to get books to read. That was it. No grande finale. It was less emotionally climactic than I thought it would be, but in a good way. There were no tears (from her or me). That was it.
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A while ago I ran across an article that reassured my thought process surrounding extended nursing and weaning. The following is an excerpt from Norma Ritter’s post “Thinking About Weaning” at Breastfeeding USA:
…human milk does not suddenly turn to water after a certain length of time! Mothers can nurse their babies for as long as both they and their children wish to continue. Children will wean all by themselves when they are developmentally ready to do so.
Many mothers are surprised to learn that during their baby’s second year (12-23 months), 15 ounces of their milk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
Ritter goes on to say:
I’ll bet you have never heard a mother say, ‘I will make him walk by the time he is xxx,’ or ‘I will make him talk by the time he is xxx.’ We KNOW that you cannot make a baby walk or talk before they are ready to do so! All babies are different, and there is no reason to set an exact date. The same goes for weaning; children wean when they are ready.
The article ends with the line, “Remember, you know your baby best, and you know what is best for your family. Trust your instincts, and you won’t go far wrong.” Great advice for all of us.