Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Pumpkin is 15 months old now, and we're still nursing. Not only that, I'm still pumping, albeit only one time a day. Pumpkin gets five ounces of breastmilk in a sippy cup at day care, and probably drinks another 5-8 ounces of cow's milk throughout the day.

I fully expected to stop pumping when Pumpkin was one year old. But then she was eating so poorly, and we were stressing about getting her onto finger food and drinking from a sippy cup instead of a bottle so that she could move up to the toddler room at day care... so I kept pumping. I didn't want to change any more of her routine than necessary. About a month ago, I dropped one of the two daytime pumpings, and started spending down some of the accumulated frozen breastmilk in my freezer. I thought I would drop the other pumping after a few weeks. But I didn't.

I can't really say why I am not actively weaning Pumpkin. Maybe it is that contented look she gets when she latches on and starts nursing. Maybe it is the fact that when I pick her up from day care and hand her the blue sippy cup with cow's milk, she reaches instead for the now empty red sippy cup that had breastmilk (we color code to make it easier for the day care workers to remember to give her the breastmilk first). How can I take away something she clearly likes? She still seems so little.

And yet, the weaning has clearly started. We don't nurse in public much anymore- when we are out and about, she drinks cow's milk from her sippy cup. Pumpkin has remodeled her nursing schedule and may be slowly dropping feedings. We just added a pre-bedtime snack (with cow's milk), because she kept signing that she wanted a cracker after her bath. However, if I'm home, she still also likes to nurse before falling asleep. If I'm not home, she's not too interested in a sippy cup or bottle of breastmilk, but then wakes up earlier for her middle of the night nursing. (Yes, she is still nursing once in the middle of the night. We had mostly nightweaned her fairly painlessly when she was about 10 months old. She un-nightweaned herself quite stubbornly when she was about a year old and now screams like her little world is ending if I don't come in and nurse her when she is ready for it.)

I can't figure out how I feel about all of this. On the one hand, I think it is a good thing to nurse a bit longer. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding (with "complementary foods") for "up to two years or beyond". As long as I'm breastfeeding, I don't worry about the nutritional quality (or lack thereof) of Pumpkin's solid food diet, which still relies heavily on crackers. Pumpkin's clearly still enjoying nursing, and I enjoy nursing her. So why stop?

On the other hand, I'd like to drink a margarita (or two!) without calculating the number of hours before I'm likely to nurse again. I also suspect that Pumpkin won't sleep through the night until she's weaned, and I'd really, really like to sleep through the night with regularity again. Pumpkin's solid food diet may not be great, but it is clearly within the realm of normal toddler eating habits, so I don't really think she will suffer nutritionally if I stopped nursing her. So why don't I stop?

I don't know what I'll eventually decide to do. I'm sort of hoping Pumpkin will decide for me, by dropping more nursings. I know that there is even a school of parenting thought that says that waiting for Pumpkin to decide to wean is precisely what I should do. However, I also know that this school of parenting thought isn't the reason I'm not weaning. I'm not weaning because I can't quite bring myself to decide to do it.


  1. Shortly after we nightweaned at 14 months, we came down to two feeds a day - morning and bedtime. At that point I couldn't come up with a good reason for weaning. It was just so easy, especially compared to those first six months or even the first year. He dropped the morning feed after a couple of months, and then we dropped the bedtime feed probably around 20 or 21 months. At the time I just took advantage of him being a bit sick and his schedule being off... he didn't ask and I didn't offer. That was the first strategy suggested by a workshop I went to on "to wean or not to wean": don't offer, don't refuse.

  2. I had a hard time with weaning. I sometimes miss it. But I am glad we did it. I think it was the final step we needed to take to get him to sleep through the night.

    It is a hard decision to make. I think Pumpkin will do fine with whatever you do.

  3. I hear ya. Our Limelet is nearly two and I have some similar feeings. I guess I don't feel strongly enough about the quitting aspects to actually do it, and the few times he's been sick it's been a lifesaver, so I just haven't bothered. Especially since we'll be moving state soon, and I like having the nursing option to help him feel happy and "normal".

    I thought I'd stop at a year, too!

  4. I aimed for 18 months, enough to get her through her first two flu seasons. I realized it was a mistake within a couple of weeks, but it was too late; my milk had stopped.

    Weaning is irreversible. Do not do it until you are sure you and your baby are ready. It sounds like you two aren't.

    She doesn't sound like a large baby. You need to make sure she gets enough calories and nutrition. Perhaps she wakes up in the night from hunger?

    There could be underlying medical issues why she isn't ready for more solid foods. Take your cues from your baby. Just enjoy being with her and follow her lead.

    Why was it a mistake for us to wean her? The night feeding was the only reliable way to put her to sleep. After weaning, she stopped going to sleep until 11-12 at night.

    She used to wake up in the middle of the night, take a few comfort sucks and go back to sleep. After weaning, she would be up, and up and up.

    On weekends, we couldn't put her down for afternoon naps.

    She snored unbelievably loudly for such a small creature. We waited for her to outgrow that. She never did.

    We recorded the sounds of her sleep and played it back for the pediatrician. She referred us to an ENT right away. She had sleep apnea. She wasn't a bad baby, she was just frightened and needed all the comfort she could get.

    My child did not sleep through the night, often waking up 3-4 times a night until she was 3.5 years. That's when we gave up waiting for her to outgrow sleep apnea and had her tonsils and adenoids removed.

    I am not saying that Pumpkin has sleep apnea. But I am saying that she clearly needs your milk now, for whatever reason. And scientifically, breast milk is beneficial, the longer the better.

    BTW, why do you worry about a trace amount of alcohol in your breast milk? Didn't people used to spike baby bottles with rum to help babies sleep? Do you think French women stop enjoying wine with dinner while breastfeeding? Do you think Chinese or Indian women stop eating spicy foods while breastfeeding? Why impose so many "don'ts"?

  5. @Grace- its not that I mind a little bit of trace alcohol in Pumpkin's milk. I often have a beer in the evening. But I wouldn't drink a beer 30 minutes before I was planning to nurse her. It just feels wrong to me. That's not to judge people who do- I know that there is no evidence that moderate alcohol consumption while nursing is harmful. It is just not something I feel comfortable doing. I guess I don't miss those margaritas that much!

    Anyway, the fear of losing the magic "go back to sleep" method for those middle of the night wakings is one reason I keep nursing... but goodness, last night was a rough night, and only nursing would do to get her back down each time she woke up. I long for another way, but we've yet to find it.

    We're not sure if she really needs the food in the middle of the night or not. I suspect maybe she does, because as you say, she is small, and she does tend to want to eat frequently during the day. Right now, she is also teething, which adds to the night time waking fun. And it seems like whenever she wake sup, she thinks, "hmmm... as long as I'm awake, let's nurse!"

  6. We are down to nursing mornings and bedtime, plus sometimes on the weekends during the day, like if she wakes up from a nap all grumpy and upset and I hold her and she says "nur?" How can I not? I would still be pumping, if it hadn't been so hard on my body.

    I think it sounds like neither of you are ready yet. I believe that you will know when you are ready. Even the AAP recommends at least one year and longer as long as it is mutually desirable (or something like that).

    My little one seems to be nursing shorter and shorter in the mornings, but it's still the best thing to get her to bed. And so helpful during the teething, as you well know.

    I like what cinnamon gurl says about "don't offer, don't refuse." I think I will adopt that. Although lately, my little one is saying "nur" because she is naming things, not necessarily because she wants to nurse. At the same time, she points out my hair and necklace and eye, so I'm having to figure out how to distinguish. It's never just a simple answer with this little ones, is it? ;-)


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