THE METHOD: Wean him gradually over a month, starting with the daytime feeds.
- When he turned 11 months, I dropped his 11 AM feed and replaced it with a dairy snack after his first nap.
- A week before his 1st birthday, I dropped his 3 PM feed and replaced it with a dairy snack after his second nap.
- I dropped his night feed on his 1st birthday and his morning feed four days after. We gave him frozen milk in a bottle for another week or so until we ran out. After that, we started giving him cow's milk.
THE WEANING PROCESS
This is a much more detailed, personal description of the weaning process.
I weaned Theo gradually, over a month and a week. I wanted to take my time with it for physical and emotional reasons. I also wanted to keep him on three milk feeds a day until he turned one year old, as I had read that that was best for his development. Therefore, right after he turned 11 months, I dropped his 11 AM milk feed, so he was now down from four milk feeds to three. We actually gave him a bottle with frozen milk for a few weeks - until we had used up the milk that was about to expire, as I refuse to throw that liquid gold away! - and then started giving him a food snack instead. In my mommy and me class, I learned that a dairy snack is best, assuming your baby can tolerate it. This way, you are replacing dairy with dairy and helping to provide the necessary calcium and other nutrients your baby needs; these are especially important for brain development. Accordingly, after waking up from his first nap, Theo had a dairy snack of Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or a cheese stick (cheddar, mozzarella, colby jack, etc.) and some fruit.
Dropping his 11 AM feed was very difficult for me emotionally. I felt significantly more depressed again for a week or so. I am sure some of it was hormonal, but I felt it was mostly emotional. I couldn't shake the feeling that Theo didn't need me as much. I didn't need to be around to feed him or to pump. Of course, this was very freeing for me, but I also felt a little lost. What would I do with myself now? The entire first year of his life had been structured around me feeding him, so it was strange to suddenly not need to be there. After about a week of struggling with some difficult emotions, I started to enjoy my newfound freedom more. I aimed to enjoy his remaining milk feeds as much as possible and just live in the moment.
A week before Theo's first birthday, I dropped his 3 PM milk feed and replaced it with a dairy snack, just like the 11 AM. The snack wasn't necessarily at 3 PM, however; it was whenever he woke up from his second nap.
Dropping his 3 PM feed was easier than the 11 AM, perhaps because I was more prepared and knew more what to expect. I was better able to appreciate having even greater freedom. In fact, the day I dropped it, it was Presidents' Day and Ben had the day off. We were able to go out to lunch and then see a movie while my mom stayed with Theo. It was the longest stretch of time I had ever been away from Theo during the day! I was a little physically uncomfortable, but it wasn't too bad. Nonetheless, my emotions and hormones felt imbalanced again and it took a few days to feel more stable.
I had planned to drop Theo's remaining milk feeds (morning and night) shortly after his first birthday. When it came time to do it, I felt very anxious and sad. Ben was in Europe for work, which made it even harder. I dropped his night feed on the evening of his actual birthday, February 28. My hand shook as I gave him a bottle of frozen milk, but I got through it. I cried later that night, knowing I only had one feed left. It felt very hard to let go.
I was intending to drop Theo's last milk feed on the Friday morning of that same week. That was my plan, anyway. However, Ben was still away, my mom had gone back home and I felt incredibly nervous, anxious and sad. I just couldn't do it. I decided to wait until Ben got back later that day. That way, I could have him give Theo a bottle in the morning while I stayed in bed. I wouldn't be tempted to just nurse Theo, mostly because it's so much easier and more convenient than going downstairs, making a bottle and bringing it back up!
The next day, on Saturday morning, Ben got up and gave Theo a bottle. I was officially done with breastfeeding. It was exciting and scary and sad all at once.
I initially wrote this post a few weeks after fully weaning Theo. These were my thoughts and emotions at that time. It has now been a week and a half since I stopped breastfeeding. I am still processing and dealing with the emotional and physical effects of it. My mom friends have been there for me with wonderful advice and support, as always. I have had some physical discomfort, which has lasted longer than expected. Each day is a little better, though, and I feel it is a small price to pay for the gift of nursing Theo for a year. While I am still letting go of the whole experience, I know I will remember it fondly for the rest of my life. I hope Theo and I can talk about it one day when he's older. I hope he will understand what it meant to me.