I am eighteen months old and it has been four months since I’ve had breast milk. I’m a big girl now and it’s whole cow’s milk for me. I like my milk and my favourite way to drink it is from a bottle. I prefer drinking water and juice from a sippy cup but milk is different somehow.
I get one bottle of milk in the morning before breakfast, and another one at the end of my day. That works out to anywhere between 10 and 12 ounces per day and my doctor said that was perfect for a girl my age. If I have oatmeal, I have a bit more milk that day and that’s not a problem.
Before I weaned off breast milk, I drank half of it from a bottle too. Mommy always fed me half of my milk directly from her, and the other half she prepared for me ahead of time and served it in a bottle. That system always worked well for us. Although I prefered the bottle, nursing was a nice bonding time with mommy.
For us, weaning happened very organically. When I was around twelve months old I began eating more solid food and drinking less milk. As a result, mommy started producing less milk. In the past, if mommy noticed her supply dwindling she would have pumped more often to get her supply back up again. This time she just let it happen.
At my twelve month doctor’s appointment we discussed weaning with my doctor. She said there wasn’t much evidence supporting the need for continuing to breastfeed and that I was more than ready for cow’s milk. My doctor also said that the drawback to continuing to breastfeed much longer is that older babies become more attached to nursing and have a harder time weaning when the time comes.
Since our weaning journey was already happening of its own accord, and continuing as we were would require us to fight against nature, mommy decided it was a good time to begin our weaning journey. The plan was that over the next few months I would gradually transition to cow’s milk alone and leave breast milk behind. We figured we would be done by my next appointment at fifteen months.
The first phase was easy. Mommy began to cut back on the number of times she pumped milk during the day. This was never something that mommy enjoyed doing and it took up a lot of time. Getting rid of that was a relief to mommy, more convenient for all of us, and nobody missed it.
Mommy always liked to give me some milk in a bottle so that she could be sure that I was getting a fair amount of milk every day. As mommy began to pump less, she started adding cow’s milk to top up my bottles every day. By the time mommy was done pumping milk altogether, I was getting pure cow’s milk in my bottles.
The transition to cow’s milk was very easy for me. I always liked the taste, it never upset my stomach, and I had a long period of time to get used to it as the ratio of breast milk to cow’s milk gradually changed. Up until this point our weaning journey was going well but our nursing schedule was unchanged.
I always preferred drinking milk from a bottle. It takes a lot less effort to get the milk out that way. For me, nursing was always more like my pacifier. I liked the bonding time with mommy. It was always in a quiet room and it was a peaceful and relaxing time for us to spend together. It was nice, but I was ready to move on.
Mommy wasn’t as ready as I was. Between all the solid food and cow’s milk, I didn’t really need mommy’s milk anymore and I wasn’t willing to work for it. Whatever I could get easily I would drink but then I would give up and be content just sitting there and hanging out with mommy.
Mommy’s supply kept getting lower and I continued to give up on nursing sooner. Mommy started cutting back on the number of times we had our nursing sessions. Instead, we did other things together. This worked well because when I did nurse, there was more milk and I would keep drinking longer.
Soon we were down to just one nursing time per day. It was the one before my daytime nap. The one that helped me get to sleep. At first things went well and this moment of our day continued as it always was. Then the milk supply started being insufficient again and I would give up on it before I was ready to sleep.
It became clear that we would have to find a replacement for my nap time routine. After nursing, mommy began giving me my pacifier and reading me a story. I liked that a lot. It was just as good as nursing. Maybe even better as there was no effort involved on my part. I was ready to give up on nursing altogether and complete my weaning journey.
Mommy was not ready to let go. She continued to insist that I at least try nursing for a bit before story time. Even when I made it clear that it was time to let it go by turning away after just two or three minutes, mommy still made me at least try every day. I guess I can understand her point of view. This had been a huge part of our routine for fourteen months.
In some ways it was an even bigger part of mommy’s life than it had been mine. She was pumping milk and making sure the milk she was making was of sufficient quantity and quality for me. Making milk and thinking about milk was at the center of mommy’s world. Second only to me. It was hard for mommy to reprogram her brain.
Not only did weaning mean a change in mommy’s routine, and letting go of something she worked very hard for, it was also closely linked to our bonding time. For me, bonding time was just as nice with a cuddle and a story. For mommy, it was different. It took her longer to adapt to our new routine and to appreciate this big girl bonding time the same way that I did.
Perhaps most significantly, weaning was the end of something. When it comes to me, mommy doesn’t like it when things change and the truth is that I am a bundle of constant change. I outgrow clothes at an alarming rate. I learn new skills just about every day. I grow new teeth and my hair gets thicker as well as longer all the time. Mommy struggles to keep up and weaning was just another change that mommy wasn’t quite ready for.
Time waits for no one. Mommy put up a good fight but she couldn’t keep it up forever. One day in February, we skipped our nursing time. I barely noticed but I could tell mommy was upset. The next day we were back at it and again the following day. Then another dry day, followed by one more.
It was time for mommy to accept the truth. I wasn’t a baby anymore. Somewhere along the way I had grown into a big girl and I didn’t need mommy’s milk anymore. Physically mommy was feeling fine but emotionally she was hurting. It was the end of an era and there was no going back.
I knew mommy was sad and I had to make her feel better. One day while mommy was resting on the couch, I climbed up on top of her, pressed myself close to her heart and fell asleep with mommy’s arms wrapped around me. I woke up to find mommy looking at me. In that moment I knew mommy was going to be ok. All she needed was a good snuggle.