Uncategorized

We Are Weaned

Fair warning: there are pictures of adorable babies breastfeeding in this post. And not little tiny newborns – full grown, happy, healthy, normal babies and toddlers gettin’ they nurse on. Guess what? It’s normal. And the kind of mammal milk we were designed to consume.

I share these photos in the hopes that it can become more normal and acceptable for children to “extended breastfeed”. Maybe then, mothers won’t feel pressured into weaning before babies are ready, causing a rapid spiral into the worlds of processed foods and over consumption.

We get asked a lot of questions about breastfeeding, so before I begin – let me recap all of the plethora of information I already have on the topic:

For a recap, I have a total of SEVEN years under my belt of being either pregnant, nursing or both. All 3 of my boys were exclusively breastfed, until they were given homemade baby food through their own desire and ability to eat it. And now, I can say that all 3 of my boys self weaned. Cole nursed the longest, Finian the shortest and Wesley averages them out at about 21 months.

It’s bittersweet, writing that. Even though Wesley hasn’t nursed since February, there’s a part of me that mourns the end of that relationship. I feel guilty when he has pointed and grunted at me, murmuring “mama my” (less-than-a-handfull-of-times since he weaned). But as self-weaning goes, I let him try to latch on, and he giggled at the idea. Then the next time, he bit me. He’d lost his latch, he was done.

I heard Chris Kresser say that there’s some scientific data showing that nursing beyond 22 months doesn’t provide any biological advantage, that the benefits (other than comfort) no longer exist. I haven’t investigated the research, but it is interesting that the month he gave is the same time frame my boys naturally weaned.

That’s not to say that healthy, normal breastfeeding relationships can’t continue long after 22 months – just that the biological and immunological benefits aren’t provided in the same capacity after that.

But none of that matters. Because I have my body back.

If I would’ve heard myself say this 5 years ago, the Boob Nazi in me would’ve been making some big judgements about whether I truly was a good mother. Perhaps that’s a fair judgement. Poor Wes, he got the least of my time of all the boys – having to share with 2 brothers and a heftier career.

He was (sorry if you’re reading this and offended, Wolfie) a gamble for Matt and I. We weren’t sure if wanted a 3rd. But I refused to be pregnant in the summer (Cole was born the summer of Katrina and it was the most miserable 3 months of my life) and Matt wanted to finish having kids before he was 30.

So, we gave ourselves 2 months to get pregnant. Knowing we’d been super fertile and lucky with both Cole and Finian on our first try… we knew our odds. But, I’d had 2 c-sections and my 2nd was quite traumatic, both emotionally and physically. So, we had no idea what would happen.

And then, along came a fetus. It was a ROUGH pregnancy for me. I was very stressed at work because my company was purchased by a larger company swallowing it whole. I was having an emotional battle with my mother (we’re fine now, hi Mom!). And 3 months into the pregnancy I thought I was going to lose him. I was put on modified bed rest for about a month. No stairs or activity. At over 300lbs, getting going once I got cleared to be active again never quite happened for me.

So I laid around, rubbing my belly and talking to the baby I was grateful to still be carrying. When he was born, he was spoiled rotten. It was the only baby we had where Matt and I were on leave at the same time, since he quit his job when I returned to work with Finian. Matt got to experience a newborn full-time. They bonded. We bonded. It was beautiful.

We found Paleo and joy was brought into our life. Wes was an infinitely happy and easy baby. So we just carried him, fetched him whatever he wanted and spoiled him rotten. We still do, he’s our baby – and he’ll likely live in our basement when he’s 45 years old because I’ll still be calling him my baby.

So the fact that my baby has stopped nursing, should be a difficult situation to face.

But the only part of me that feels guilty is the part that thinks I shouldn’t be as thrilled as I am to finally have my body back. Did you know there’s like a million things you can’t do when you’re a pregnant or nursing mother?

I’m not talking about cured meats, sushi and honey – we all know I did those things (especially with my third child), right? And alcohol? Please. I’ve been in LLLi long enough to know that alcohol doesn’t go into your milk the way it goes into your blood. My philosophy was always, “if you can walk, you can nurse.” What I’m talking about are quality of life items:

  • Wearing dresses
  • Staying overnight some place without bringing a pump with you (or facing infection)
  • Traveling for more than one night
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Not considering someone else’s schedule before you act
  • Being able to work the hours necessary to progress your career

For those of you who haven’t found yourself in this situation, imagine if you will SEVEN YEARS of not going ANYWHERE for more than 24 hours without a child attached to you. Of not getting to wear what you want, sleep when you want, or plan your day how you’d like – because someone’s gotta come with you.

And then there’s the glass ceiling issue.

I’m not going to lie. If you are still a nursing mother or intend to get pregnant – having a career is hard, if not impossible. Granted, by most standards people would call my current position and stake in life an impressive career – let alone for a 30 year old. However, I’m an ambitious fool. I want to take my career not just to the next level, but to a few levels above even that (eventually).

Do you have any idea the impression I made when I started my new job (14 weeks postpartum, not that they knew that at the time) and I asked for packing paper to tape up the window of my office? I had the executive management team in my office faster than I could turn on my pump.

And disappearing from the day 2 or 3 times a day for 20 minutes? No matter how progressive your company is, you’re working less than other people and that’s not a positive reflection on your work ethic. Regardless of productivity.

Then you can’t travel for work, stay late, network at happy hours or go to team building events, because the baby needs you. He or she deserves your comfort for bonding. You have a baby! So guess what, I had to choose. And I chose a dedication to motherhood for 7 straight years. Pregnant or nursing – I focused on the kids and helping their little bodies be the best I knew how at the time.

But then time came for me to take a different path. A path that put my family first in a different way. As the sole wage earner for this family, it’s my responsibility to take care of them as best I can. If I were a man, progressing up the corporate latter, there would not be a bat of an eye if my wife were taking care of the family as I worked late.

But I’m not a man. I’m a mother. And a damn fine one if I do say so myself. I hope I look back later in life and still think I made the right choice. The choice to put more effort in at work, which meant more time away from the family. More time away from the weaning nursling.

Here we are, in the midst of that journey. And instead of me crying – filled with remorse and guilt – as was normal with the first two, I’m so grateful to Wes for weaning. I thank him for giving me my life back. I can detach – I can stay at work until 10pm if I need to. I can mingle and teambuild. I can focus on things I need to in life for things not related to motherhood – like taking care of me, this blog, the book or my real job. My career.

Without Wesley’s “support” to wean himself and be an independent little man, our lives would not be the same. Amazing things have happened in our lives this year.

I was able to put in a crazy amount of hours at my work and I have been rewarded accordingly. I could not have done it if Wes was still nursing, or if I were pregnant. And although I’m filled with some crazy fluctuating hormones from weight loss and weaning, I feel great. Diana’s protocol has been earth shatteringly fantastic. And the result? I’m not tired. I’m not cranky. I’m not losing my hair or craving insane food.

I’m getting a rampant desire for intimacy with my husband back. I look at pregnant women or ity bity babies and I say to myself, “I’m glad that’s not me.” I no longer have any desire for, “What if a 4th…” nor do I long for the smell, softness or sweetness of a newborn.

I look at Wes and think He’s so cute, he’s just perfect like he is, he’ll always be my baby. Seemingly, I’ve triggered a biological change. There’s a switch in me that’s been flipped, and I like it.

I’m in the hunter mode. No more gathering for this mama.

 

You Might Also Like

  • Cheers to you, Stacey! I weaned my youngest in January after a long haul of 13 and a half years of nursing (4 kids/extended nurslings).  It is quite a change, but I am very much appreciating having my body to myself.  I loved nursing and what it did for my kids, but I was certainly done! 

    • THIRTEEN YEARS? You deserve a medal. Enjoy having your body back, if you even remember what that was like before! 😉

  • Also, I totally agree with you on the glass ceiling.  We can have it all, just not all at once, eh? 

    • Exactly. And despite my degree in cultural criticism with a minor in women’s studies… I can now completely understand why and how women often make less, or don’t make it as high. Saying motherhood doesn’t impact your career can’t be true. But saying it has to also isn’t true – it’s all about the choices each person makes. But we can only have 1 focus at a time!

  • CrossFitHottie

    I can completely relate.  I nursed three girls, all weaning on their own at around that same age.  It was such a bittersweet time when the last daughter was done.  Now they are 19, 17, and 13.  I miss those days so much but love the independence of now.  Congrats on doing such a great thing for your boys…and enjoy your new-found freedom!!

  • Mallory Curtis

    Wonderful post. I so appreciate your openness and honesty.

  • Agapilot

    I can certainly relate to the five years of either nursing or pregnant. Definite career inhibitor as I’m a pilot. But those are years behind me and now going thru the “weaning” stages of leaving the nest. I averaged about 16 months mostly because I shortened the nursing stage with one ( maybe I should’ve tried little longer but man was she and still the challenging child! ) I was so glad to have my body back, now I just wish we had been paleo back then maybe a few things would be better than are. My youngest was the most laid back easy going baby of them all, while now he is entering these teen years, he still bit laid back. I’m back to flying, trying to keep my hubby going and starting to enjoy grandkids from the older step kids. I might have wanted at moments to have a baby again, but grandkids are way better! And the spoiling never stops!

    • I think I have career issues with babies, but a pilot – wow – you win! Congrats, I can’t wait to have grandkids!!

  • Amanda

    I actually mourned my lost career this week when a friend I went to grad school with was award a multimillion dollar grant.  I was once on an academic career track, but am now a SAHM with 5 children.  I have been pregnant or nursing for all but 3 1/2 months of the last 12 years.  I am getting ready to wean my 4rth (at 3 1/2) and my last is 18 mos.  Even not having a crib anymore is a big change, but I’m settling in to the change and the things that I can do now that my kids are moving on to the next stage.  I have a sneaky suspicion that my last will wean shortly after his brother and I am definitely looking forward to having my body back and getting my house in order!  Wishing you well in balancing life!

    • I can imagine that mourning too. Sounds like you’ve done some wonderful things, too. And I bet on your death bed you’ll feel you made the right choice 🙂

  • Mary

    This is awesome, Stacy. I am generally just a blog lurker, but I am proud of you, and your family is awesome. Kudos to you all. 🙂

  • Heather

    Good for you, Stacy. I nursed my baby for three years, the last 6 months or so purely for comfort as I had next to no milk anyway. But yes, isn’t it such a bittersweet feeling to be done?

  • Jenn D.

    I have just recently entered the world of extended breastfeeding (baby is almost 14 months) and couldn’t be happier!!  Well, most of the time 😉  I do have that longing to just get away with my husband for the weekend but know that for right now I can’t and that’s ok.  All too soon and at the same time not soon enough we’ll have our getaway.  For now the baby needs me and my milk and that’s my job and I’m very happy with it…for now 😀

    •  That’s a great place to be, mentally, for where you are. Who knows what the next 6 years of your journey will bring 🙂

  • I exclusively breastfed both of my boys, what seems like many moons ago and both of them weaned without any urging on my part right around 13 months. I was a SAHM, so never had to pump……but WOW what a commitment that takes!!!! Kudos to you! Last year, I took care of a friend’s baby, full-time, from the time she was 8 weeks old until she was a year old. She too was exclusively a breast milk baby. I was proud of my friend, a very ambitious career woman, who committed to breastfeeding/pumping for a year. During that time they even took a 5-day vacation and the baby stayed with me and she continued to pump and supplement with fenugreek while she was away. Her milk supply stayed up and as soon as they returned the baby resumed nursing. So happy to read your body is bouncing back and you feeling great. That’s awesome.

    • Pumping was definitely the hardest part. Especially for a full year for all 3 kids. But, it was important to me so I made it work!

  • Kristin Danenberger

    what a beautiful post stacy! it is so wonderful that you are willing to share your journey as a woman and mother. thank you!

  • Whitney S

    I’m so proud of you, Stacy! DD is still nursing at 25 months but we’re down to once a day. Granted, she’s my first but I am both excited and sad about the idea of her weaning. 

    On a random note – you were brought up in a post I wrote on Ketosis in a breastfeeding LJ community. 😉

    • Thanks, W! Cole & Wes nursed once a twice a day for the last few months before they stopped. Cole only weaned because my milk dried up when I was pregnant with Finn, he’d latch on and say, “Milk all gone.” And then I was able to give him a cup of water and snuggle. I felt guilty because the new baby clearly took his youth from him… but he turned out fine 🙂

  • Julie B

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! So helpful to hear this as we’re preparing for Baby #1 in August. All your posts on breastfeeding have been so helpful and encouraging, and really keep me on track with my own eating. You guys are great 🙂

  • Lillimay5

    Stacey Yeah for you! I just wanted to share with you my breastfeeding journey. After I weaned #3 (she was 2) I crashed physically within a year of weaning. What I had’nt realized was either my progesterone was low and breast feeding helped or my cortisol was low and it was robbing my progesterone. Either way both were low and I hit bottom physically. Just a beware if you find yourself getting pooped a lot. Paleo has really helped with my hormones, especially coconut oil. If you have questions I will gladly share more.. This is a journey I would love to spare anyone from going on.  My baby is now 5 and I am just starting to turn this thing around. Good luck to you dear. thanks for your sharing your family journey with us.

  • Shaina

    Thanks for this post! I’m nursing our second (and last) who will be 3 in Aug. Though I’m happy to let her continue to nurse if that’s what she needs, I don’t think I will mourn when she weans. I think we should be proud of the fact that we’re making sacrifices to do what’s best for our children, but I don’t think we should feel ashamed about wanting our bodies back! 

  • My daughter is 18 months and not showing any signs of slowing down her breastfeeding. She *is* night weaned, and that’s awesome, but I so relate to your list of things you can’t do while nursing. I long to wear cute dresses this summer with my new Paleo body!  But I guess I’ll have to wait until next year…

    Hooray for getting your body back!

  • Barbara

    I just thought I’d let you know that you have some broken links on your 101 page. The about Stacy and about Matt links are broken. I haven’t checked all the others but I knew you’d want to know since that’s where you want people to go to learn more about your story. I’m commenting here because I couldn’t find an email address to contact you privately. I hope that’s ok, if not feel free to delete this comment. Thanks for all you do to get the paleo word out to us people that really need it to change our lives and improve our health and our families health.

  • kara

    I found your blog after ordering your book recently.  I love it!  And after reading this post I love it even more!  

  • Racquel2003

    Congratulations on moving onto the next stage of motherhood and womanhood! I have been happy/content each time my kids weaned b/c in the best sense of the word they (and I) were ‘fulfilled’ in the nursing relationship and letting it go was natural and easy. The photo of W nursing as a toddler brought a smile to my face and recalled memories of nursing my two when they were talking/walking little people.

  • Thanks for a great post!  I love all your pictures, especially that last one of a little boy with some personality still snuggling with his mama :).  I have also nursed all my boys, the older two until they were over two years old, and it’s a wonderful relationship.  But it sure is nice to have your body back, and I am very much looking forward to that when my baby weans.  And being able to wear a dress again is near the top of my list of things I can’t wait to do again, too.  

  • ColoradoDreamer75

    Congrats to you on your journey. My only question would be the claim that milk after 22 months doesn’t offer any “biological advantage.” This is a study worth reading for those who are interested: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/116/3/e432.full.html Additionally, evidence suggests that because the milk supply
    generally lower during toddler (due to nursing frequency/demand) nursing
    the ratio of immunological cells and factors actually increases,
    meaning you have more protection in less milk- sort of like how
    colostrum is loaded up. Congrats on your great work. 

  • Laurelanne

    You are so Incredibly lucky to have done this for your children. I was the unfortunate type that had to work double time for each ounce of milk I produced. Even while on medication to increase milk production I was tapped out at about 11 months. Good job Mama!

  • I’ve never commented here before, but felt the desire to after reading this one.  I completely understand what you’re saying (except about the job stuff, I don’t miss that at all 😉 )!  I nursed both my kids for 2.5 years each, the second having just weaned a month ago.  I am LOVING not having to nurse anymore!  And, yes, a few years ago I would have been ashamed to admit something like that (especially at an LLL meeting!).  Being able to wear dresses…I’ve bought five just in the last couple of months.  I wear them as much as possible now.  I missed it so much.  That and not having to worry about what would happen to my baby (emotionally and physically) if something happened to me and I was not able to breastfeed.  It’s a huge relief.  Congratulations!

  • Oh my just what I needed to read-I had a friend say to me today-why are giving up that part of your career..I just felt horrible, but we can’t do it all “right now” or ever. Thanks again, I will nurse my baby for as long as it is right for us. Thanks again 🙂

  • Beautiful.  I went back to work at 10 weeks postpartum and am still nursing our 21 month old.  We’re nearing weaning (down to 1-2 times a day, although we’ve been there for at least 6 months now) and I feel bittersweet about it.  On one hand I’m thrilled that my body will truly be my own again for at least a few months before hopefully getting pregnant again, but on the other hand our nursing relationship has meant SO much to the two of us.   She’s our first baby and we plan 1-2 more, so there will be future babies to nurse, but weaning means that this very meaningful relationship between the two of us needs to shift and adapt  in new ways. 

    I hated going back to work when I had to, but as the bigger breadwinner there was no choice in the matter.   Other trusted caregivers were taking care of her, but pumping my milk allowed me to give her something that only Mommy could provide.  Nursing when we were together was our way of reconnecting after time apart.  I was so incredibly proud to have sustained her solely on my milk until we introduced solids at 6 months, and that we never needed to supplement with formula.  I was fortunate to be surrounded by other moms from a nursing moms’ support group who were successfully combining working and breastfeeding and they are now my dear friends (our kids are all around the same age).  It’s undeniable that my choice to pump at work and to put my family first has sort of put the “pause” button on my career.  I’m fortunate that my job requires only infrequent travel (approx. once a year) and I was able to postpone travel until after her first birthday.  Even though I always shifted pump breaks to accommodate meetings when I could (99% of the time) and gave up my allotted lunch time for pumping, the perception was still that I was less available than I was before.  That’s probably somewhat accurate, to be honest; I don’t want to advance in my career if it means that my husband and I can’t parent our kid(s) the way we feel is best.  Still, I know that the stage of my working life in which I will be nursing/pumping and mothering young children will be relatively short compared to my career.

  • April

    I love all you had to say, and so have felt the very same things. We had six little monkeys by the time my switch went off and I no longer longed for that newborn smell and softness. We were four years along and doing great and I was in go gear and then WHOOPS found out number seven was on her way! Sadly, while everything is perfect now I never switched out of my no more baby gear, and my body and head never made the connection to the pregnancy. I never really quit got ready for her and I had the oddest pregnancy. Almost had to induce, my head just never came around to the whole idea of another baby. Thank God the moment I held her it all came together. It is so funny how the mind and body are connected though and how it all works. When those biological clocks are working “either way they are working” they are truly in charge. Congrats on all your sweet babes, and I love your blog. I am just learning and creeping into the paleo way of eating with my family. We will see how things go.

  • RB

    Love this article! I breastfed until 13 months all while maintaining a career. I just want to add that it’s possible to mix some travel in there too. Build up your stash for while you’re gone, and then don’t be shy about asking for mother’s rooms at companies or facilities where you have meetings, letting flight attendants know that you might be in the bathroom a little longer, asking hotels to let you use their deep freezer (they’ll take good care of your milk in both Amsterdam and Mexico City, and it will stay frozen at 30,000 feet if well packed with ice packs). Put the phone on mute and pump during conference calls, etc. I’ve heard some companies (like top accounting firms) will pay for nursing mothers to ship milk back on dry ice when mothers are on business trips. But now that it is done, I do enjoy wearing dresses again!

  • I’m hoping to breastfeed baby #2 as long as I can.  I’m returning to work in about 3 months, so I can relate to your post.  

  • Read this and could not help but post. My second sassy girl is weaning and its bittersweet. She will be 2 in July and thats the same time frame her sister self weaned at as well. I feel that same feeling though, the itch to have myself back. To have guiltless freedom. To have my “momcation” and not feel as guilty as if I was nursing…..I have never left either girl over night (except when I delivered the second) and I totally GET where you are at..Completely.

  • Amy

    OMGOSH the nursing toddler with glasses on tugged on my heart strings!!! I loved nursing my kids, (yes, I STILL miss it sometimes, even though they’re 8 and 10 and nobody’s nursed in 6+ years), but it’s okay to celebrate your body being yours again!  When my kid weaned, I had a weaning party with my friends!  🙂 

  • Nicole

    This is beautiful! I’m happily still nursing my third (I’m not having any more kids either!); he was two in May. (I’ve been doing this for almost 11 years…either pregnant or nursing or both.) A child isn’t too old to nurse until after he or she weans–that could be 18 months or three years or five years or whatever. It’s amazing how perspectives can shift after weaning in that way. Thank you for your post!

  • SweatyMummy

    Great post. I am just weaning my almost 3-year old and nursed my first for 22 months as well. It is a difficult thing to do when you know you will never breastfeed again, but I am also excited at having my body back and enjoying the non-nursing cuddles that only come when the breast is no longer the focus.

    Best wishes. xo