Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the long process of weaning

Last night, I slept with cabbage leaves in my bra. A true sign of desperation!

How did I get to cabbage leaves? Well, I've been thinking about weaning for a while. I started the breastfeeding journey with E with small goals. 2 weeks. 2 months. 3 months. Hey, maybe we'll make it to 6 months! And ultimately, I hoped to make it close to a year like I did with her big brother W. Around 9 months, she started to be much less interested in nursing than in food. It became a challenge to get her to latch on long enough to bring on let-down. I skirted mastitis twice during months 9 and 10 because of plugged ducts. I got shoddy about my pumping at work, abandoning it altogether at some point because my output was so low and I didn't feel engorged during the day. Even worse, she started chomping down on me with her four little teeth, especially during those middle of the night feedings where we were both half asleep. Around 10 months, I decided I had enough.

If you've read any of my previous entries, you know that I'm generally pro-breastfeeding but am also very supportive of formula feeding--my philosophy is that babies need food and love, and the kind of food doesn't really matter. That said, I've been feeling some anxiety about not making it closer to a year. You know how it is. A philosophy for others is one thing, but a philosophy applied to ME? Different. I think I've worked through that anxiety for the most part. Remembering those little teeth biting me is helping!

So our last breastfeeding session was a middle of the nighter about 10 days ago. I felt a pang of sadness and then a bit of relief to know that this would be it. She barely took anything and seems mostly to have adjusted. There were a few days where she'd kiss my chest or bury her head in my clothed breasts, but I took this as a signal that she was hungry and that she could use extra cuddling, both of which I provided right away. Now, she seems to be okay with the sippy cups of formula and on her end of things, all seems to be well. In fact, she has started sleeping through the night after almost 11 months of at least one wake-up (often two or three). It took a few days of my husband going in and cuddling/rocking her to sleep, but she almost magically stopped waking all on her own.

The weird part--the part that leads to cabbage leaves--is that I seem to still be making milk, and in fact, am again skirting plugged ducts and mastitis. I actually got up and pumped briefly last night because I was certain that if I didn't, the blockage might get worse. Do cabbage leaves really work? I'll let you know. So far, they just seem soggy and smelly and weird.

One of the hard parts of this transition is that my baby girl seems suddenly closer to toddlerhood than babyhood. I'm not great with the baby phase, but seeing it end is still very sad. I loved breastfeeding, especially in those early months where it's just you, the baby, and the endless cuddle. I don't plan on having any more babies, so in all likelihood, I'll never snuggle a baby to the breast again and just writing that makes my eyes well up.

But it's time. It's time for me to go back on medication that helps me control my anxiety. It's time to enjoy being with baby E more than when I was wincing in pain from being bitten or when I had to force her on. I sometimes wish I was the kind of mother who was all extended-breastfeeding-is-for-me. And again, I support whatever works for other people. Most of my friends are extended bfers and I think it's awesome.

For now, I'm reeking of soggy cabbage and hoping that this new phase of milk production winds itself down soon. I'll keep you posted!


  1. ha ha. again, we're in the same trench. but i'm trying to hold onto cabbage leaves for me, i need SOME trick to keep baby in bed at 5am when he wants to play. and yes, the baby stage ending...i'm getting teary already, and we're 6 weeks from one year.
    Good luck with it all. its hell on the hormones, too.

    1. I know...we are so working through similar issues these days! I really appreciated your post (and will comment in a few minutes over there). But really. I can't believe I'm already nostalgic for babyhood!

      Oh, and we are having some 5am wakeups these days, and without nursing, you're right. I'm without an easy way to get her back to sleep! Ugh.

  2. Have you asked anyone on the forums at kellymom for tips on drying up your milk? I haven't weaned my kids, but the ladies on those forums tend to know their stuff. I know about cabbage leaves and REAL sudafed (the kind you have to sign your life away for) and Ask Moxie the other day suggested sage tea.

    1. Love Ask Moxie. I should have gone to kellymom, but sometimes I feel bad that I've weaned my kids so early. That's my issue, though, not necessarily real. People there are generally supportive. Good reminder!!

      I'll post an update in a day or two. Cabbage may have worked. I'm still in the end days of drying up (maybe sudafed will finish the job).