Monday, September 8, 2008

Advice Wanted

Esmé's Mommy here.

It's time.

She's groping and grabbing at my shirt at all the most inappropriate moments. And she's started checking out other shirts more and more frequently to see what offerings they might have.

Esmé is 17 months now, and I'd like to have her weaned from breastfeeding around 18 months. As naturally as possible. With as little pain as possible. How do I do it?

A couple of factors to consider:
  • She generally nurses about once a day, just before her nap. Sometimes more, but we can keep it down to one fairly easily.
  • Night is a different story. Since we came back from the US in June and she was all messed up with jet lag, she has been waking up 3-4 times per night, sometimes more, and demanding to be fed each time.
  • We've finally transitioned her to her own bed this last month, at least to start with. She naps there and spends the first leg or two of the night there. But after several nursing sessions, I give up and put her in our bed for the rest of the night. For my own convenience.
  • We've tried all sorts of tactics on the sleeping thing. She's not the type to stop crying after 15 minutes. More like at least 4 hours. And my nights are only so long.
  • We're not cows' milk people. I've tried giving her soy milk, but she doesn't like it. So I don't have a good substitute for breastmilk.
  • She's never been a bottle drinker. We started her on sippy cups with juice/water and never did the bottle thing. I hate the idea of regressing and having to wean her from a bottle later. But she's lately had an intense interest in bottles, so I've started giving her water in a bottle in the last few days and she loves it.

Any advice, people? I'm desperate enough to invite all your criticism about how I should have done this sooner or how I should wait until she does it herself, or how she should have been sleeping through the night for eons now. So bring it on . . .


BaronessBlack said...

Oh Honey, I am SO with you on this one! My daughter weaned herself at 11 months – just wouldn’t stay on the breast! So with my son I thought, “I’ll make the most of breastfeeding him, it may not last very long!”. Needless to say, at 17 months he shows no inclination of giving up at all, and would nurse all day every day if it were up to him! So, I’ve started to try and cut out a few feeds at a time.
We started cutting out morning feeds, because we’re often out and about in the morning, and he’s more easily distracted. Now we’ve cut afternoons too. We have one place for feeding which is our bed.
My health visitor promotes “baby-led” weaning on a “don’t offer, and don’t refuse” policy – we’re very enlightened in Oxfordshire! But that didn’t work for me as I was feeding on demand anyway!
I’ve found that not feeding during the day is encouraging my son to eat and drink more, and as a consequence, sleep better. My hope is that as he goes longer between feeds and if I can be disciplined about cutting down feeds, he should get to a point where it’s just too much effort and he loses interest. I’m really not looking forward to stopping night feeds though; that’s going to be brutal!
Very best wishes!

KathyLikesPink said...

Not so much advice, as commenting on my own experience.

I stopped breast feeding at 17 months. I actually was ready a month or so before but she got an ear infection and the nursing was a comfort to her.

We were also down to about once a day. Mostly right before a nap or bed. And also, I ended up bringing her to bed with me. Truthfully she was in our bed for a long time but I didn't mind it.

Could you spend those "needing comfort" times rocking or rubbing her back, instead of nursing? It's been a long time for me but it seems like the protests really didn't last as long as I expected. And my daughter was also a "four hours of crying" girl.

Also, we didn't do cow's milk or bottles. We went to a sippy cup with about 25% juice and 75% water. Darling Daughter has never liked cow's milk and even now will only drink it with chocolate in it.

I wish you the best of luck.

One Mom said...

I wish there was an easy answer for you but I'm afraid there's not :( Each of my three babies has a different weaning story. The first and third self-weaned at 15 and 20 months respectively, but that's not what you want to hear, is it?

My middle baby was another story. He was still nursing at 30 months and I was 5 months pregnant. What to do? As luck would have it, my husband and I had planned to attend an out-of-town convention...yes, I just left town. Not really a solution I recommend, but at 30 months I knew my son would survive without me for a week. And it worked; weaning accomplished!

All this to say that unless you are prepared to "shut down" the nursing station, Esme will nurse until she loses interest. I think that sometimes the harder we try, the more the babes resist!

Annie said...

I don't have much advice for you either - but I will share my mistakes in the hope that they help.

My daughter nursed at night just like yours and I never denied it - she's almost four and still has the habit of coming into our bed. Every.Single.Night!

Anyway - I wouldn't go the bottle route - for the exact reasons you state - having to wean her off that.

I used to give my daughter sippies of milk to substitute the nursing - and she took it and so we established a very bad habit - sippy of milk at bedtime, and six months ago she had to have 4 fillings and her dentist directly attributed this to milk in bed.

So, to learn from my mistake - keep it to water before bed and during the night.

She'll probably wean herself in the next few weeks considering that she's not nursing that frequently. You'll probably get to the point where you realise that you haven't nursed for a few days and that will be it.

I know you've read my blog post about hormonal shifts after nursing - just a reminder to look after yourself during this time, too.

Best of luck!

Christie O. said...

when ours (9 months) wakes up in the middle of the night, i don't offer him breast at first, and sometimes a cuddle and a rock will do just fine. but sometimes he needs to be nursed (not the 15 minute crier either!) and then i nurse but always put him back in his bed.

when he woke up a few times during the night, my husband and i would trade off rocking him but we would always return him to his bed and he got the message after a few days. we would even resort to laying down on the floor of his room next to his crib and leaving when he fell asleep. i know, it's a huge drain. but it worked after a few days, and it was worth it -- he sleeps through the night almost every night now, except for when he's teething. (i did bring him into our bed a few times too, but that seemed to facilitate the nightly waking. ugh. it's so hard. it's so hard to break that pattern! but so many different things work for different people.)

oh and since she's being nursed only once a day, i don't think you need an actual substitute for breastmilk. she's getting all of her daily nutritional needs from other sources, so if she doesn't like milk and you give her things like yogurt and cheese, you'll be just fine! we transitioned from bottle to cup at a year with poops and he didn't like milk either at first, so that's what we did. he eventually grew to like it.

anyway, when she's waking at night, i guess my biggest advice would be trying to have the hubby go in and rock her first. but i know when mini is screaming in the middle of the night and nothing will stop it except for nursing, i guess my biggest piece of advice after that is to just be consistent with putting her back in her bed. take it step by step. if you have to nurse, nurse, but put her back in bed. then maybe the stretches of sleep will be longer because she will eventually stop associating waking with nursing and/or comfort. i wish i could help more! but it sounds like you'll have a harder time weaning if you have those night wakings too. once you can get her to be comfortable with sleeping in her own bed at night and you get nursing back down to once a day, you can focus on giving up that one last naptime feeding. keep us posted! good luck!

Debra said...

I'm just too old to remember! But I have great advice for teenagers..a lot of good that will do you, huh? How about I pray for Esme and for you...that I can always do!

Pregnantly Plump said...

We ended up giving him sippys of milk in lieu of breastfeeding, and Little Elvis took it very well.
I've seen rice milk at one of our grocery stores, but I don't know anything about it. Thought that might be an option.
And you shouldn't feel bad about your decisions. You do what works for your family. Hopefully no one will chide you.

Kori said...

The only advice I have is not what you want to hear, and that is when she is ready, she will wean herself. I cried when my Owen at 15 months weaned himself, would still be nursing at 2 yrs. if I could. Becuase they are only babies for a very little while. Maybe you could try distractions, other snacks, the rice milk is actually quite tasty, but I wouldn't start on the bottle thing were it me. We just gave O. as sippy cup in my lap before bed every night. And good luck!

Breanne said...

I am no expert. WIth my daughter I just took a way a feeding every week until she was done. She did really well.

I hope it goes well for you!

Leslie said...

I also have no advice to offer...both of my children weaned themselves - they were both younger than 1 year and so I let them have a bottle, but by the time they were 1 we were also weaned from the bottle to sippys and straws. Good luck!

angie said...

I didn't read the other comments, so hopefully mine is not a repeat. I weaned my oldest at 16 months, and it was by far the hardest weaning. She was MAD at me. We had much the same routine as you and Esme. I just went cold turkey. Put bandaids on my nipples and showed her that the milk supply was gone. She checked a few times a day to make sure. I used the same method with my other two at 14 months (I pumped for the twins) and it went much easier. They didn't seem to take it personally and it only took seeing the bandaids once to get the idea. Grace was another story though. The first week she cried a lot in the night, but by the second week she was finally sleeping through the night. She went straight to a regular cup. She didn't like sippy cups. Both of my daugthers wouldn't touch milk for about a year after they were weaned, but they got plenty of dairy in other ways. Good luck.

angie said...

P.S. I didn't offer her anything to drink at night except a cup of water before she got into bed.

SarahHub said...

You will hear absolutely no criticism from me. I am certainly no expert in the sleep department, as you know.

Having just weaned Evie, I can share what worked for me. I offered her water in a cup instead of nursing, and I let her sleep in our bed. There was a little crying, never more than a minute or two. I sing to her while she's drinking the water, and I hold her hand. It worked for us, but every child is so different!

Oh, good luck!

SarahHub said...

Oh, sorry, I forgot to say I did this one feeding at a time, spaced over a few months...

Jennifer said...

No advice here... I just want to sleep for more than 3 hours straight!

I'll be watching these comments closely and hearing how you handle it with Esme.

Charlotte only nurses about 2 times during the day, once before bed, and then 2 more times during the night. I convinced her to give up the middle night feeding a few weeks ago by doing what others had suggested - comforting her in other ways, including trying not to pick her up.

Andrea said... got lots of advice up there already! :) Do you have access to goats milk out there? That is what we gave our son, and he still actually drinks goats milk instead of cows milk or soy...apparently goats milk is the closest kind of milk to breastmilk that you can get. As for the bottle vs. sippy cup, I'd say go with the bottle if that is the only thing that is going to help her stop wanting to breastfeed all the might make things easier for you now...and when you have to switch her to a sippy cup, well, hopefully she'll be a bit older and be able to understand things more...and not be too upset about it? Maybe?? :) Anyways, that's all the ideas I've got right now...oh, and on the bright side of this son started sleeping a MILLION times better at night once I stopped nursing him at once you're on the other side of this whole things hopefully Esme will start sleeping better for you too. :)

grammy said...

I will leave the advice to the younger moms. I came here from Notes from one mom. I am also a grammy (o: My daughter is teaching right now for an organazition called sharpening your inner skills. She was a 'teacher' in Kabul for two years. Just thought I would say hi.

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

Girl, don't listen to anyone that criticizes you! This is your baby and you get to decide when the right time is. :) I am afraid I don't have too much advice for you...mine sort of self-weaned around 14 months. It was a little harder cutting out the last feeding, which was the one right before bed, but then she realized after a couple of nights that it wasn't going to happen. I think it was harder on me than her. :) But anyway...I will pray that it goes smoothly for you.

Lis Garrett said...

Uh . . . considering I'm at three years with no end in site, I'm the LAST person to be giving you advice. I nursed my oldest two for 3 months and 1 month. I was hoping to nurse Bridget for 6 months, but she has other plans. I've tried just about every tactic, short of shipping her off to her grandparent's house to go cold turkey. She's a night nurser. Unfortunately for me, I'm in and out of her room as many as four or five times a night. I get NO sleep.

If I were going to offer some advice, it would be to do whatever feels right for you and Esme. Everyone's situation is unique and what works for one might not work for another.

melanie said...

Hailey is also a four hour cry kind of girl and we never did the cry it out- I couldn't take it.

She nursed until 17 months and our night time feedings were the last to go. It's easier to cut out the day time feeding with distractions. Hailey also slept with us and I was kind of like an all night buffet for her. I cut one feeding out at a time and let her adjust to that before cutting out the next one. What worked for us was I kept a sippy cup of water next to our bed and when she asked to nurse I gave her that instead. Finally one morning I woke up and realized she had stayed asleep all night and didn't ask to nurse at all. And actually, even though I was ready to stop- it still made me sad. Anyhoo- the next night was a different story- she wanted to nurse, but I stuck with the sippy cup of water. It was hard for maybe one or two nights but it was worth it- we are both sleeping a lot better! (She still sleeps with us, I'm just not an all night buffet anymore)

melanie said...

Just had to add one thing- I'd talk to her pediatrican about what to give her instead of cow's milk. Esme needs some kind of milk- I'm sure she gets a lot of vitamin D where you are from the sun but I'd be worried about whether or not she was getting everything she needs that breastmilk isn't giving her. There must be an alternative besides cow's milk if she won't drink soy milk????

ispeakbeanish said...

I wish I had advice for you. Since I pumped and The Bean got breastmilk in a bottle, it was easier.

I will be praying for you during the process though!

Damselfly said...

I know this is hard because I am trying to wean my 2-y-o son right now too. We don't have the same issues with him that you have with Esme, though.

The only thoughts I have to share -- I can't call it advice -- are that if she's nursing just for comfort, is there another item or way to comfort her? Also, I know a woman whose infant son wouldn't drink milk, but she got him to eat yogurt. Is yogurt of some kind available? That would at least provide some calcium.

Callista said...

Hi there. This is my first time to your blog and may I saw your daughter is beautiful!!

However even though I'm a stranger, I wanted to offer some advice in this area as I've fairly recently weaned my now 16 month old.

My daughter Alastrin was down to I think 3 nursings a day which we easily wound down to before bed by just keeping her away from me when she was demanding some or distracting her. However she had always woken up 3 times MINIMUM each night and always had to be nursed to sleep.

You said she doesn't sleep in her own bed all the time. We did that too for quite a while and although it's easier at the time, it's really just making things harder for you now.

What you should do first (in my opinion of course) is work on getting her to sleep in her own bed all night. That means you will have to commit to making the trek to her room 3 or so times a night. Just keep telling yourself that I did it 6 or more times LOL. Anyways, if she falls asleep nursing, no problem. If she isn't fully asleep, than start by holding her/rocking her to sleep. It is possible to do this half asleep.

After a few nights of this you need to get her to fall asleep on her own. To start, you nurse her as usual but just before she drifts off into sleep, take her off the breast and give her a cuddle then lay her down. If she cries, pick her back up and start nursing but take her back off again just before she drifts off. You may have to do this many times the first night. Eventually you will be able to lay her down in her crib still slightly awake and she will fall asleep by herself.

The next step is to take her off the breast sooner, just a little. Keep weaning it down until she is able to nurse for only one minute and then lay down to sleep. This could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 months however you can speed it along (since you wanted her weaned soon) by not necessarily picking her up right away if she starts crying. She can whine a bit. Sometimes she may just pass out right after that whine. Your the mom, use your judgement.

For me, it got to the point where I sat down with her and said "remember, only one minute" and she nursed while I counted to 60 in my head. Then I took her off. Sometimes she was fine, other days she threw a little fit but either way she went into her crib. I rubbed her back or head, stayed in the room if she wanted me to, whatever, as long as I wasn't nursing her to sleep.

By that time she had learned that she could fall asleep on her own and she started waking up less at night. Or more likely, waking up but putting herself back to sleep.

That extra sleep helped me deal with the nights she wasn't having any part of the one minute feeding. I'd have to stand by her crib with my hand on her to remind her to stay laying down until she fell asleep. This is hard on the back and mind but trust me, you have to go through the rough before you can get to the gold.

When I felt she was ready, I went in to her room when she awoke and picked her up but did NOT nurse her. Since I usually nursed in the rocking chair, I did not sit down. In fact everytime I nursed ever I was sitting down so I stood with her. I'd rock if she needed rocking, lullabies if she needed those, whatever, until she was sleepy enough that I could lay her back down but she was not completely asleep.

Some days this took minutes, sometimes it took hours. Finally she started waking up less and taking less and less time to fall back asleep. After picking her up a week or two, I left her in her crib but reassured her that i was here and she could go back to sleep.

I started thinking about weaning at 9 months because I wanted her weaned at about 12 months but I didn't start what I've written here until she was about 12 months. She is now 16 months old
and has been weaned since 14 months. She still wakes up at night, usually between 1 and 3 times although I've had a few full nights of sleeping. When she does wake, I go in, lay her down if she's standing, helper her find her soother and bottle (of water), cover her with the blanket, kiss my fingers and then touch her head and say goodnight, turn on the music and leave. I'm back in bed in less than a minute.

Now, you said:
"We're not cows' milk people. I've tried giving her soy milk, but she doesn't like it. So I don't have a good substitute for breastmilk."

Well this could be a problem. What do you drink I wonder? She's above one so she CAN have cows milk. I don't know you so I don't know why you don't want to use cows milk but I must say that it's much better for them, than a soy formula. There are toddler formulas on the market. If you are going to wean, you will have to give her those nutrients somehow so talk to your doctor and figure out what to give her.

You also said:
"She's never been a bottle drinker. I hate the idea of regressing and having to wean her from a bottle later. But she's lately had an intense interest in bottles..."

Same thing here. Alastrin had had only 2 bottles total when I started weaning. She used sippy cups just fine for water and juice.

I started out by giving her the milk in sippy cups but she wasn't having any of it. She wasn't used to the taste I guess. Finally I gave in and gave her milk in a bottle and while she didn't gulp it down, she drank more of it than she normally would have. After a few weeks of pushing the bottle on her she accepted it and all of a sudden it seemed, loved milk. She was however, after she had been weaned so she was probably thirsty and her body may have been craving the nutrients. So yes she went a few weeks with barely any milk (of any kind) in her. That's not enough to stunt her growth. When she finally started drinking milk all day, she didn't feel as thirsty at night and woke up even less!! Bonus!!

I'm not worried now about weaning from the bottle to the cup. I think it will be easier since she hasn't been dependant on it from day one like a formula fed baby has. She's not as attached to it.

I know this is very long and I'm sorry but I hope it has been of some help to you. If you have no interest in my advice, that's fine too. Hope things go well with you, I will be back to your blog again. I will probably also post a condensed version of this on one of my blogs (not the part about you, just my experience with weaning.)

Takin' time to smell the flowers! said...

I haven't read the other comments so I may be repeating what someone else has already said, but Goat's milk is the very next best thing next to breast milk. To help you stop producing milk naturally, take parsley tablets, be warned it will happen quickly with this method. By the way thanks for leaving a comment on my blog about the kitties. I hope I didn't offend you in my not being a cat person. Have a wonderful weekend! ~April.

perilloparodies said...

hey, this is totally a LOADED question, you know that? each family is different, i know, so i will give you my experience. i only nurse till about a year, maybe a week or so over, but beyond that, i am tired of teeth marks. I am currently trying to figure out when I should wean our youngest from his 5,6,7 a day feedings down to 2 or 3. He does not want to stop, but i am working on it. I have heard that Donkey's milk is actually VERY great and similar to a mom's breast milk. any donkey mommies around you? as far as bottles go, trying to wean my almost 3 year old from milk in a bottle. i suggest keeping juice and water in a sippy cup, and if you must, use a bottle ONLY for milk. then the weaning off of it is cut down a touch. and once they do wean from a bottle they will not drink as much milk as when they were drinking from one. Don't get her hooked completely on a bottle for all things, or you will have a harder time of it. She knows what she is comfortable with, and what she wants, so at least if you can limit that, it will help you a bit later on. weaning itself... for me was cold turkey... they went down to 2-3 feedings and one day just got a bottle of milk. no matter how much they insisted,cried, and such, that is what they got. They WILL take it if they are hungry enough, and, it took them about 3 days to adjust. just like it takes about 3 days for mine to adjust with life without a pacifier, etc... hang in there. thinking about you so much. thank you for that long note you sent to me. I have thought about you and prayed very much, but these last couple of months have been crazy. I hope to send something out to you soon, as i promised. and... i have a message for you on my blog, if you care to check it out... have a great day, and know that you are on my heart... :-)