The start to my son's and my nursing journey together was a difficult one, but I think even more difficult was weaning him. There wasn't any physical pain or blood like there was in the beginning, but there were definitely tears. Except this time, instead tears from pain, it was tears from mere exhaustion. After trying SO many different tricks and methods for trying to wean him, I finally found one that his two-year-old brain was able to comprehend.
When we went to my son's one-year-old check-up, his pediatrician recommended I wean him sooner than later because it will get tougher to wean him. While I believed it would get harder, I wasn't quite ready to wean him at that time and he clearly wasn't ready for it either. WHO actually recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies up to at least two years. So, I figured we'd continue until then.
Part of our problem though, was that our son was a terrible sleeper until he turned two, and the boob was his comfort whenever he woke in the middle of the night. I tried my best to wean him from night feedings since I knew it was just for his comfort, but if you know the power of breast milk as an aid for sleep, then you understand how for an exhausted mama it's just easier to roll over in bed and give him the boob.
Once we hit 18 months I really started to feel the 18 or more months of sleep deprivation. So, I started to look into all the different suggestions people have for slowly weaning baby...at least at night to start. This was basically a combo of trying to get him to sleep through the night and wean, because the two essentially went hand in hand.
At around 21 months, was when I really became desparate to wean him, because the almost two years of sleep deprivation was really affecting my mood and temper, particularly during the times of the month I'm more emotionally vulnerable. We tried various tricks, including one in which I basically taught him to understand that when I say "bye-bye nenes" (nene = breast in Chinese), that was his cue to get off. You're supposed to be able to gradually get baby off the boob in shorter amounts of time until they no longer need to latch, but my son would just say "no" and hold me tighter.
At one point I even bought a bitter chapstick type product to help discourage him from the breast. It worked at first, but then at night there were times I think he was so sleepy and desparate for the boob that he just went for it anyways. I have no idea how, because I took a tiny lick of the thing just to see what it tasted like and it was nasty. And that stick didnt' last very long either, so I gave up on that.
I even tried telling my son, "nenes owie" to see if he understood. But that didn't get me anywhere.
FINALLY, I stuck cute band-aids across my nipples and when my son saw that, he said "Aw, nene booboo." And that's what did it. Around the same time is when he turned two and magically started sleeping through the night (for the most part). He still asks for nenes sometimes, and on occasion I have let him nurse a little, particularly when he has been sick and those puppy dog eyes are too difficult to resist, but otherwise, we do alright. When he starts to ask for them again, I just stick band-aids back on. And now he tries to peel them off, but he has only managed once to do that. Usually he's too tired and gives up.
What I'm really amazed by is my milk supply. While it has certainly dwindled down, I'm really impressed that even after a week or more of not nursing, I haven't dryed out. I've had friends tell me that they went away for a night or two and dried out.
So, if you've struggled like I have to wean your toddler, and would like to wean them, give band-aids a shot. We get cute ones with llamas, sloths, and whales on them.
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