How We Weaned From Breastfeeding At 25 Months
Success! (Actually, this is a picture of Babygirl dancing to Sade in the car, but whatevs, it works.)
On April 23rd, I set the goal of having Babygirl completely weaned from breastfeeding by her second birthday, which gave me seven weeks to get ‘er done. I missed that deadline, lol. But I made the second one, which was for the end of the month, just under three weeks later. Here’s how we did it.
I had been putting it off for a while, actually. Though I was ready, I wasn’t sure how to start, and there is a definite difference, to me, between weaning a six-month-old (what many folks deal with, and many authors have written about) and a stubborn, firmly attached, nearly 24-month-old. My first step actually came before the 23rd: I stopped nursing outside our home. No more pulling out my boob in The Home Depot, or sitting in the back seat with her before we could head home from the mall. It was a good start, and one that felt pretty liberating, but I had a lot more work to do.
So I reached out to a friend who worked with lactating moms (and had nursed her three kids into their first year) for advice. (Hey, Vickye!) She suggested that I create distractions and new routines, then step down the number of feedings gradually to avoid stress (both of us) and engorgement (me). It sounded like an excellent plan, so I started that very day.
A list-maker by nature, I used the Notes app on my phone to keep track of each time she fed. That did two things: It allowed me to see patterns in when she wanted to latch (so that I could break them) and motivated me to cut them, because I had to physically log each one, forcing me to really think about whether I was nursing her because she “needed” it, or if I was just hoping to calm her if she was whining. While I had never really counted how many times she nursed each day, I know it was 10+ before I started the log.
I was able to get her down to nursing six times a day within five days: when she first woke, mid-morning, nap time, during her nap, once in the evening, and at bedtime (and of course a couple times at night, hence the “-ish”). Then every five to seven days, I dropped one: waking, mid-morning, mid-evening, mid-nap, in that order.
The entire time, I told her what we were doing, that she was now a big girl, and big girls don’t need as much breast milk. I also reassured her that she could have a cuddle any time she wanted, that it didn’t just have to be tied to milk. She would say, “Okay, mama,” and nod her head each time, while reaching for my shirt.
Because she’s ridiculous, she quickly realized that it was easy to trick me into nursing her. By the time we got down to only nap and bedtime, she knew it, so she would pretend to be sleepy to get it. I’m talking full on, rubbing her eyes, turning herself horizontal in my arms, fake-sleepy. And I’d fall for it, thinking she was really ready to go down. Chile. She’d suck me dry, pop off and up, and hop down to the floor to go play. I started noting those in my log as “fake outs.” There were lots of them, until I got tough and only nursed when I knew she was truly pooped.
We were going strong until we went to Puerto Rico for a wedding, and she ended up with an ear infection. I went back to on-demand nursing while she had a fever, then quickly got back on schedule when it broke. But we missed the June 10 deadline. A week after her birthday, I realized I was stalled, afraid of the crying that would come with expecting her to nap without milk.
Which led me to the worst day of the process, the day that I cut nap time. Read about that here. I still shudder. But we got through it. She tried to wait me out that first day, and finally fell asleep in my arms. On the second day, we were in the car at nap time, so I just let her sleep. The second day involved me rocking her and singing her bedtime song, which works like Pavlov’s bells on my child; no joke, her head instantly starts to droop. (I’ll share it in another post.) I kept that up for nearly two weeks, and it got easier each day.
Then came June 29th, which I had targeted as out last night with milk. I was worried, because she still associated sleep with nursing. But one of my girls (Jaida Potata) reminded me how effective a new routine could be in getting Babygirl to move on. Up until then, when she was sleepy, I’d either ask her if she was ready to go to bed, or she’d say, “I’m tired,” and we’d go upstairs and get in bed. Easy breezy. But I decided on a new bedtime routine: bath (she used to take showers with me in the morning), pajamas, book, prayers, sleep.
That morning, I told her that we were almost done, that the milk was almost gone, and that night would be the very last time she would nurse. “Okay, mama,” she said.
She nursed at bedtime and during the night, and I reminded her that it was the last time. “Okay, mama,” she said, before she drifted off.
The next morning I told her that we were done, that she wouldn’t be getting any more milk at bed time. She didn’t even answer me, just started jumping on my bed, like I hadn’t said anything.
That night, the 30th, we started her routine. after her bath (I put a couple drops of lavender in the water to help her wind down), pjs, two books about going to sleep, and prayers, I switched off the light and laid down beside her in her big girl bed (yes, that’s how I put her to sleep, don’t judge me—I’m just glad she sleeps in her own bed). When she turned toward me, I said, “Remember our talk this morning? The milk is all done. There is no more, you drank it all. Now you’re a big girl, and you don’t need any more milk.”
She let out a little sigh, stuck her left thumb in her mouth, rolled back toward me, and when to sleep. Finito.
No crying. No begging. Just the final stage of grief: acceptance.
And we’re done. On the second night without milk, she slept for eight hours, which is the longest my child has ever slept since she was born (I woke up at 6:10 a.m. worried, and crept into her room to be sure she was breathing). Since then, she has also slept the entire night in her bed without waking once, from 10 p.m. to 8:30 a.m.—I did not check on her that night. Progress.
She still asks for milk, especially when she’s sleepy. She likes to fall asleep with her hand wound into my shirt, if she can’t fit her fingers into my bra. But she understands that there’s no more milk, and she seems to be okay with it. And so am I.
Any questions? Shoot, and I’ll tell you what I know, and ask other folks what I don’t.
I really like this. Never force feed a child.
Totally agree. It’s one of the reasons we have an obesity problem. We’re taught early that cleaning our plates is more important than listening to our bodies. Eventually, we can’t hear it anymore.
Need a Kick in the Butt? There’s An App For That
Like most mamas I know, “overwhelmed” is an apt descriptor for my life pretty much every day. And with a fabulous beach wedding trip planned for next month (yay Sherika + Mae!), I’m acutely aware these days that my crazy life is getting in the way of working out.
I want to work out. Truly. I used to do it at least five days a week, and I had a body that I definitely didn’t appreciate enough at the time. I’ve had a few false starts since Babygirl was born. Just a few weeks after she was born I got on the floor for postpartum yoga while she slept. The result: popped vaginal stitches from the delivery. Ouch.
A few months later I tried again. Things were going well for a few days, then: too busy. Wash, rinse, repeat, never getting up enough momentum to make it happen. And because I’ve lost all the pregnancy weight and then some, I haven’t felt an extreme sense of urgency, despite knowing that moving your body is about so much more than keeping your weight in check.
So I was excited when I heard about this new app, Fig, which aims to encourage me to do better by myself (free for Apple and Android). I love that it’s actually not really about working out—though I need that push—but it’s about nurturing your whole life, and the lives of those around you.
Just set up an account, then pick from suggested goals in several categories, like eat (drink water eight times a day), move (exercise), refresh (take a moment to breathe deeply), connect (call your mama), feel (start and write in a gratitude journal).
My daily goals are modest, and reflect what’s most important to me right now: drink water, take a multivitamin, tell my hubby I love him, breathe deeply, read with my child and affirm her, too. Though I certainly don’t remember to check in with the app to confirm that I’m meeting them (but it sends me emails every night to encourage me to rally!), I find that the very act of setting the goals is helping me be more mindful. My water consumption is up, I reordered my prenatal vitamins, I read with Babygirl several times a day and look deep in Hubby’s eyes at least once. :-) I chose not to share with my network, but you can invite friends to join you and hold you accountable for your goals.
Try it out and let me know if it helps cut through some of the crazy of your day.
How Hyperemesis Disrupted My Pregnancy
I wrote this for Loop21, where I am a political contributor.
I’m not what you would call a fan of the whole royal family thing. I don’t care what President Barack Obama said during his Diamond Jubileetoast to the Queen, didn’t wake up before dawn to watch Prince William lose his bachelor status, and didn’t jump for joy when Kate Middleton confirmed that she was indeed pregnant.
I did, however, send up a special prayer when I heard that Kate was in the hospital with hyperemesis gravidarum. It’s a little known condition that is suddenly all over the news, now that it has invaded the royal family.
But I know it well. Early one morning in 2010, my hubby and I found out we were pregnant after just two months of trying. We were hype; we couldn’t call our parents and closest friends quickly enough to tell them the news. But just two weeks later, joy was the last thing on my mind. It was a Sunday night, and I knew something was wrong when it literally took me an hour to change the sheets on our bed. I had to lie down every time I tucked a corner. By the next morning, the toilet and I were having a torrid affair. As I sat on the floor, draped around the bowl, a huge part of me was glad that I had recently cleaned it.
Read more here.
Pro vs Con: Should We Immunize Our Children?
I wrote this for Loop21, where I am a political contributor.
It’s a decision that many new parents struggle with: To vaccinate or not? Everyone has an opinion on the subject, from pediatricians who refuse to see children who aren’t fully vaccinated, to parents who swear by the Dr. Sears Alternative Schedule, to those who won’t let a needle touch their little ones on religious grounds. But which is the right path for your family?
We asked folks on both sides of the debate to make their case. Dr. John Snyder, associate director of the Pediatric Residency Program at Baystate Children’s Hospital is on the pro side; that is, he thinks children should be vaccinated according to the schedule recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On the other side is Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit she co-founded in 1982 to “prevent vaccine injuries and deaths through public education.” We asked both the exact same questions; their answers have been edited only for clarity and space. Give it a read, then head to the comments to tell us where you fall in this debate. Let the discussion begin:
Read more here.
Healing An Ear Infection, Naturally
My girl’s daughter is suffering with an ear infection, and as I was texting her about what we did for Babygirl, I realized that I never actually wrote about anything beyond our struggles with getting her to take meds (hint: make her your helper).
Per our amazing go-to sick guide, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Natural and Conventional Treatments for Infants & Children, we did a few things to make her feel better and help her clear the infection. In all, it took 24 days from diagnosis to the “all clear,” and she had a fever for 48 hours before we took her in. We used amoxicillin for ten days, on the advice of the doctor at the urgent care center. If we had to do it again, we might not have gone that route—I think her doctor would have skipped it—but it is what it is. Anyway, when we took her in after ten days, her left ear was still a mess. We decided to give it time to heal without another course of meds, and bring her back in two weeks, at which time it had cleared completely.
In the meantime, we had already started other treatments within a day of the antibiotic. We used:
-Ester-c With Citrus Bioflavonoids. This Vitamin C is in a powdered form, because I couldn’t swallow the huge pills. I drink it in orange juice and pass it to her via breast milk. One dose has 1500 mg of Vitamin C. We also continued our daily regimen of having berries with our breakfast every morning, as they are high in Vitamin C. Here is a list of foods that are high in this vitamin, which has been proven to help boost immune system function.
-ChildLife Essentials Echinacea. It’s made for kids, vegan and has no alcohol in it; it uses orange oil for flavor. For kids 1 to 12, the recommended dose is 10 drops four times a day. We put it in her water and she loves the taste. For ongoing immune support, you can give it three times a week.
-Culturelle Probiotics For Kids. The antibiotic stripped her of her good gut bacteria and she had diarrhea within a day of starting them. We immediately started this probiotic to fight back. I give her half a packet, twice a day. It’s tasteless, but it doesn’t dissolve well in water, so I put it in a tiny amount of water, suck it into the syringe, and let her help me put it in her mouth.
Why I’m STILL Breastfeeding
Today marks the first day of the second annual National Breastfeeding Month, and the start of yet another month of people asking when I’m going to stop nursing Babygirl. She’s 13 months old, and still firmly attached to my boobs, signing for her favorite beverage following most solid food meals, and whenever she’s feeling sleepy. Each time I’m asked, I calmly explain that while I used to think I’d wean when she turned one, I had no idea what I was talking about, and now that I’m here, I’m planning to let her self wean. Inevitably, they ask if we’re going to be like the family on the cover of Time, Babygirl standing on a stool, boob in mouth, looking at the camera. While I truly can’t see her pushing up my shirt at the age of four, I’m reluctant to push her to detach before she’s ready. She still likes to cuddle, and I love that it’s something only we can do together. Not to mention that she’s still working with just two teeth (which means I pre-chew the bulk of her food), and though she eats three meals and at least one snack a day, she’s still getting a lot of her calories from breast milk.
Turns out, doctors would agree with my reluctance. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and supplementing solid foods with breast milk for at least one year, as long as mama and baby are interested. And the World Health Organization recommends that moms nurse at least until their children celebrate their second birthdays.
But Black women aren’t even coming close to meeting those guidelines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just 26.6% of Black mamas make it to the six-month mark, versus 41.7% of the total population. And only 11.7% make it a year, as opposed to 21% of all American moms. The bottom line is that it is the healthiest choice for our little ones, when it’s possible for the mama to nurse. The AAP reports that breastfeeding reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal infections, SIDS, asthma, eczema, obesity, diabetes and childhood leukemia, and makes for smarter kids.
Which begs the question: “Why doesn’t everyone breastfeed their children?” I’m not exactly sure. But in talking to many Black women—who with and without children—I hear a lot of fear circulating. A lot of women worry that it will hurt, or they try and feel discomfort in the beginning and opt for the bottle soon after. But I also echo what every birthing education and lactation consultant I’ve ever spoken to has said: “It doesn’t hurt if the baby is latched correctly.” In my experience, that’s true. I always hope if I explain how it feels, that it will help. So here goes: There was some discomfort for the first two weeks, but nothing I would describe as pain. It felt like a quick pinch on my nipple each time she latched. Then the feeling slowly subsided as she nursed. I pushed through because it was important to me, and the pros she would reap far outweighed a few minutes of discomfort on my end. Over the next six weeks, it was like a little twinge right when she latched, not as sharp as the first two weeks, but I definitely noticed it. After the first two months, I eventually realized that I didn’t even feel it when she latched. And now, seriously, sometimes I have to look to see if she’s eating, because I feel nothing, lol. If you have pain, you can request to see a lactation consultant for free before you leave the hospital or birthing center. And you can contact La Leche League to find someone to visit you at home.
It also seems that some women are afraid of the commitment it requires. I can’t lie. Nursing isn’t a game. I am with Babygirl most of the time, in part because nursing makes it hard to stay away from her for long. She never took to bottles, and at this point, it’s hard for me to pump much milk at a time, so I have to plan far ahead when we need to leave her with a sitter. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone has her own path, and if you start your little one on bottles sooner than we did (we didn’t try until 10 weeks, due to fear of nipple confusion and a nonresponsive lactation consultant who apparently didn’t want my business when I tried to buy my pump from her) you’ll likely have more luck on the bottle front. And while nursing typically means more night waking (babies process breast milk faster than they do formula), when I wake at night, I just pop a nipple in her mouth and we go back to sleep. There’s no getting up to make and warm bottles when you carry your milk with you!
Then there are the outside forces. We live in a society that pushes infant formula. New mamas who opt for breastfeeding are sent home from the hospital with a “breastfeeding kit,” which contains formula and coupons for more formula. And I received so much free formula in the mail before and after Babygirl was born that I started taking it to my old apartment management office and leaving it for women who needed it. The only reason I escaped the constant mailing was that we moved. The AAP recently issued a recommendation that doctors no longer give patients freebies from formula manufacturers.
And then there are the recent public battles with folks being nasty to women who nurse their children in public. All but three states protect our right to nurse in public (boo to West Virginia, Nebraska and Idaho), but that doesn’t stop restaurant and retail workers from harassing moms. Research shows that this hostility makes women uncomfortable nursing in public, which leads to early weaning. I’m shaking with anger right now, btw. I wish a muthafucka would try to tell me to put my boob away.
Shoot, I’ll just tick off some other positives, to make me feel better: It’s free, it burns 500+ calories a day, and your milk evolves with your baby’s needs, so you never have to worry if she’s getting what she needs.
I recognize that breastfeeding is not for everyone, but I truly believe that even doing it for one day is better than not doing it at all, if you are able.
Did you opt to breastfeed your children? Why or why not? For the mamas-to-be, what are you planning to do when the time comes? Tell me all about it in the comments!
Black People x Sunblock
I’m a fan of the sun. Given the choice between freezing my tail off and sweating, I choose the heat all day. It’s a good thing, too, since the thermostat has been set on “hell” in the DC area for the last few of weeks. Seriously, Hubby was going to take Babygirl to the park so I could have some quiet work time last week, but Wunderground said it was 101ºF, but “felt like 120ºF.” Word? That’s nuts. When temps do drop enough to make it safe to venture out, we’re fanatical about wearing sunblock.
I know, some folks thinks that’s unnecessary, with me being dark brown and all. But I know that no matter how much melanin you have in your skin, you’re still at risk for skin cancer, plus Black might not crack, but it for damn sure can crease if you don’t take care of it. Much to Hubby’s dismay, I’m also very picky about what we put on our skin, because I know it can affect our health just as much as the things we eat. So I run sunscreen—and everything else—through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to be sure it’s safe. We are currently using Coola MineralBaby Moisturizer Suncare Unscented, SPF 45. It’s a sunblock, rather than a sunscreen, so it uses minerals—specifically, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—to prevent the sun’s rays from reaching your skin. I like it: The database gives it a 1, and there are none with the coveted 0 rating, so it’s as good as it gets. It leaves your skin with a bit of a pearly sheen at first, but it rubs in pretty well eventually.
Not wearing sunscreen? Please take a minute to look at the graphic above from EWG about why it’s important to slather it on. Using a sunscreen with oxybenzone, Vitamin A, or fragrance in it? Please look it up in the database and see the potential long-term harm it could be doing to you and your children. For example, according to the database, the popular Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Clear Continuous Spray, SPF 50 contains oxybenzone, which is associated with developmental and reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and cellular level changes in the body, among other things. Ugh.
My point isn’t to scare you, because I don’t believe in dealing in fear, but I do want to make you take another look at something you might not have considered. What sun protection are you currently using? Were you surprised by what you found out about it in the EWG database?
How I Got Babygirl to Love Her Meds
Well, “love” is a strong word, but she does take it without a fight. I wrote last week that she was giving me hell, and asked if anyone had tips. I didn’t receive any from you busy mamas, but I figured it out! It came down to making her my partner: She gets to take the medicine out of the refrigerator and shake it up and hold the syringe. She takes a little, then signs “more” when she’s done, and so on until she has taken it all. Then we clap and say, “Yay!” Lol. No more pink stuff on my floor.Tweet