Parenthood

The sudden, unexpected weaning

My mum sent me an article about a woman who’s son suddenly weaned at 18 months. The woman shared the physical and emotional pain she went through as her son stopped breastfeeding and only drank from a bottle and ate solids. I had also recently heard a lot about post-weaning depression and the hormonal changes that take place during the weaning period from a mum I follow on Instagram.

From these two accounts I felt pretty prepared for when the time came that Maisie would wean, and knew I had time to prepare myself – Maisie was still very much into breastfeeding, never did drink milk from a bottle and was not particularly interested in solid foods, not in any real quantity anyway. I had in mind that I’d nurse her until she was one year old, and then see where to go from there.

Then out of the blue, one day after she turned 10 months, Maisie weaned.

The Friday was absolutely normal. Maisie has always been a super efficient feeder, with each feed lasting between 3-9 minutes on average. She’d feed on one side, then about three hours later she’d feed from the other side and so on. We still hadn’t established “good” sleep routines so Maisie was still falling asleep feeding, then being transferred to her bed – for naps and nighttime sleep.

The Saturday morning was normal, nothing seems wrong. A couple of time Maisie bit me before latching and I had winced but she latched and nursed, no problem. Then, Saturday afternoon she didn’t come to me for a feed. I picked her up and tried to feed her a couple of times but she just turned her head and pushed away. That night was horrendous. Tom was out and I was putting Maisie to bed, and she just would. not. feed. I was getting more and more worried that she wasn’t eating/drinking. And she would not go to sleep either. After about 90 minutes of rocking her, leaving her to wriggle and wear herself out, and attempting to feed her I brought her out of the bedroom. We FaceTimed my mum and sister which perked Maisie up and then at about 9.45 tried bedtime again. She still didn’t feed, but she did go to sleep.

The Sunday she still refused to feed. But now, each time I brought her to my breast she screamed like she was in pain. Mid-afternoon I took her for a nap and she was so sleepy she latched on and fell asleep feeding. Each time I tried to remove my boob from her mouth she woke up and cried. So she napped suckling for about 45 minutes.

Then that was it. She never nursed again. I kept offering it for about 10 days, but each time she just screamed. She was clearly over it!

Before this, she’d been having bits of purée and slightly textured baby food here and there and trying a few bits of our food but wasn’t majorly interested. Suddenly now she was only interested in what we were eating. She ate a whole nectarine we’d left on the table one morning (we were there and monitoring her…)!

Now, a month later she’s eating toast, cheese, paella, omelette, scrambled egg with spinach, roast chicken, potato, carrots, raspberries, biscuits, cake, basically anything we’re eating – she will eat, or at least try.

It’s been such a huge leap. She is totally uninterested in baby food. The only baby food she’ll eat are pouches of yoghurt and smoothies, and she has to have them straight from the pouch. She’s very independent and now wants to feed herself a lot of the time too.

I really struggled the first few days when she wasn’t nursing. It felt like I was failing and maybe doing something to cause the strike. Was it because I’d winced when she bit me? I had changed my deodorant – did she hate the way I smelled now? Was she teething and in pain and I just wasn’t noticing? Or was she just rejecting me?

It was particularly hard when I was at my parents one day, and when she got upset she went to them instead of me. It felt like she just didn’t need me any more. Thankfully that didn’t last long and she soon came back to me for cuddles and comfort.

In fact, it almost felt more special, because she was not longer coming to me because I was her source of food, but because she actually wanted me – either a cuddle or to show me something or get me to do something for her.

I started pumping with my manual hand pump to keep my milk supply up. We still weren’t sure if it was a nursing strike and if she’d want to come back to it. Finding the time to pump was hard. Especially as Maisie was so interested in what I was doing and wanted to play with the pump whilst I was using it. After about a week I could only pump at night after she’d gone to bed because it was too time consuming in the day time.

Now my supply has dwindled down to just about 45ml a day total, which I’m mixing with whole milk and feeding to Maisie at night. The rest of the day she’s drinking whole milk. To start off with she really wasn’t bothered, but now she’s reliably having a bottle/sippy cup of milk before each sleep. She likes it cold which is great as it’s nice and easy!

The next step is deciding whether or not to continue expressing milk or to just use up the freezer stash and move onto whole milk entirely. The Monday after the nursing strike/wean began we had a health visitor appointment anyway. Maisie had lost a little weight so we’re booked in to get her weighed next week, but she seems to have upped her eating and weight seems on track. She did say that if Maisie doesn’t go back to nursing just to introduce cows milk and dairy in other forms to ensure Maisie gets enough fats in her diet – so cheese, yoghurt etc. The health visitor didn’t seem at all worried which was reassuring.

So there we go. Walking and weaning at 10 months. 🤷🏼‍♀️

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