Weaning and the Breastfeeding Journey: It Took Covid to Wean My Toddler

Okay, so weaning. Not in the British sense of the word where they mean feeding your baby food. What I mean is no longer breastfeeding. Though I guess you should probably be feeding your baby some food before ending breastfeeding anyway. But

When I was pregnant with my daughter I just assumed that I would breastfeed her. My own Mother had breastfed me back in the 90s for 18 months and I so figured if it was easy for her then I could do it too. I prepared myself by reading a couple of breastfeeding books (Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding) and just figured that I was a mammal and this is what mammals do. Well when my newborn little angel arrived I tried to breastfeed but had some challenges due do my daughter having a severe lip tie and tongue tie. We got those fixed and I went on to get untreated thrush for a month which was torture but I told myself I was going to breastfeed until 6 months and then I would reevaluate. Though I had plenty of milk, my breasts didn’t respond to a pump and to leave my daughter I found myself having to pump for days to get enough to feed her even one bottle. I persevered anyway.

At 6 months I decided to continue until a year and as the year mark approached me and my daughter had settled into a routine where I was enjoyed nursing her. She nursed like a champ and I didn’t mind at all. I could step out of the house for longer as she was eating solids. Figuring out bottles and pumps and cow’s milk seemed like some mystery I had never really cracked and I just kept breastfeeding right up to the year mark. Then my daughter turned a year old and learned to walk and started that transition from baby to toddler. I had decided that I would nurse her until I didn’t enjoy it anymore. At 16 months I said I was going to quit. But I didn’t. Instead I just quit daytime nursing, cutting back to once before bed and once when she woke up in the mornings. I started to feel tethered to her. like I wasn’t free in the mornings. I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted to stop. Everyone talks about how hard breastfeeding is. And it is hard. It’s even hard to stop. When I got my daughter out of her crib in the morning she would cling to me and cry and scream until I nursed her.

Finally I recruited my husband to stage an intervention when she was 18 months old. For several days he got her up in the mornings and got her downstairs to breakfast and a cup of milk without me there. She fussed a little the first day, but without me there she accepted there would be no nursing. After a few days I stepped back in and to my relief we had dropped that nursing session. There was only the one time before bed now.

At this point I still felt like a hostage to my toddler. Any enjoyment of nursing was gone. Those old days of staring down at her adorable face as she latched were replaced by me shuddering as I thought of putting her back to my breast. But at the same time it was me who couldn’t let go. Yes, she would cry for it but we are talking about a toddler here. She also cries because I won’t let her play with an electrical outlet. I could have just said no. But I felt guilty, like I was robbing her of something she deserved if I took this last nursing session away from her. I felt that by nursing her I was holding onto my baby, even as she was firmly in toddler territory and approaching 2. But I hated it.

And then an absolute miracle happened. I got Covid. I didn’t get a few sniffles Covid. I got full blown, 103 degree fever, aches, fatigue, loss of smell, cough and the works Covid. And honestly it was the best thing that could have happened. Because for a day or two I was physically unable to care for my daughter. Which meant my husband took over and when bedtime came I wasn’t able to insist on giving my daughter breastmilk. Instead, my husband gave her a cup of milk and put her to bed. Did she cry? Yes. I heard her calling for “Mama” from her room as she was getting ready for bed. And that broke my heart a little but I knew that couldn’t physically breastfeed her with me sick like that. Not a wiggly big toddler. And then I got better and she was weaned! Hallelujah! She was weaned! I felt like shouting from the rooftops in complete joy.

It’s been a month since then and in that time I have lost 5 pounds without any effort on my part. I was one of the unlucky women who hold onto weight when breastfeeding instead of it acting like some sort of magic weight loss bullet. I’m enjoying my freedom now and am trying not to think too much about how traditional societies didn’t wean until 2 or 3. For me the 21 months was quite enough and it was time to stop.

Leave a Reply