Breastfeeding was a big thing for me when I gave birth to my boys. Once I read that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for the first six months of life, I was committed to do my best to breastfeed exclusively during that period. I almost hit the six month mark for both of them, just shy of a few days. Now, this is not to say I don’t appreciate the fact that some mothers cannot breastfeed for that long. What I believe in is to give our best to this aspect of the journey too.
Exclusive done so what next? Well the experts advise us to continue breastfeeding until 2 years so once again, I was committed to that. In the case of Asempa, I got pregnant again when he was about 10 months so I had to wean him earlier than expected. It was kind of difficult for me because I felt I wasn’t treating him fairly. Oh Mummy guilt!
I continued to breastfeed till he was about 15 months, by which time I had a huge belly so breastfeeding had become uncomfortable. So how did I go about it? You won’t believe this story!
Asempa is pretty independent and learnt to play on his own very early so by this time, he had already reduced the number of feeds to about three during the day and two or three at night. We had a feed just before I left for work, when I returned and when he was ready to sleep. Since I knew the times he would like to feed, I got Emmanuel to hold him for a while during those times. He will then get distracted and forget about me. It took just three days for this strategy to work. I was shocked! For the night feeds, we offered him milk (Nido 1+) and he willingly accepted it. Case closed. End of weaning story. I actually felt rejected and wanted to go back but Emmanuel discouraged me. There was a day when he was crying a lot about something and I decided to offer him the breast. He took it alright, but it felt uncomfortable for both of us. You will think he would have come near the breast again that day but nope. From all indications, he was done. I was the one who needed the mental weaning. Hehe.
You can therefore imagine my utter shock when by the time Ayemye was about the same age of 15 months, he was having more feeds than he had had as a baby. The only difference was that they were shorter feeds. Like this boy will be playing, he will take a pause a come for a sip. 10 minutes later, he will remember the “glass of wine he had left on the table” and come for another. Another 15 minutes later, another excuse to suckle. Like…This was happening around the time schools had been closed due to Covid so he was always with me. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I decided to introduce the distraction technique so instead of having the breast milk any time he wanted it, he will only have it every 2 hours. Guess what? So long as Daddy carried him, he was fine. Once Daddy put him down, over to the breast! So let’s say he’s had a feed and wants another in about an hour. This means Daddy had to carry him for a full hour. Nothing else would distract him. And what was more annoying was that when he finally got the chance to feed, he spent more time on the breast as if he was trying to make up for all the feeds he’d missed.
I figured he wasn’t ready. Besides, I really wasn’t keen on completely weaning him off yet so I just tried to cope. About two months later, we decided to take him to my mum’s. Maybe if I’m not around, he will be fine, we thought. Oh my! At the time he expected a night feed, he cried his heart out. He was absolutely inconsolable. He wouldn’t accept any thing. Not water, milk, fruit juice, nothing. If my mum had to call me to ask what more could be done, then you realise how bad it was. We concluded he probably wasn’t ready (once again) so I went for him the following day.
Another two months later, we decided he should spend the night at my in-laws’ but this time, with Emmanuel there. We figured a familiar face would help with this transition. It worked! Emmanuel just needed to give him water when he woke up for night feeds. When they came home the following day, he still attacked the breast 😒, but at least, now we knew he could survive without me.
After this success story, we started trying the various “breast bittering” techniques. Bitter leaf, neem, aloe vera, garlic, cloves…ready to hear this? Not a single one worked!🤦🏾♀️ He would come to the breast, notice the weird taste, stop for a second to think if it was worth stopping and then get right back at it. 😂We tried the plaster trick. Initially, he was scared. Then one day, he came to it and stared at it for a long while and then ripped it off. 😏 I then tried wearing clothes with a high neck that didn’t give him access to my breast. This worked but the challenge was I literally have two clothes with this description that I could wear in the house. Was weaning this hard?! In fact, if the mother of Ayemye had come to tell the mother of Asempa about this experience, I would have concluded as the mother of Asempa that she was just not determined enough cos weaning is easy peasy! Haha.
Some time during this period, he suddenly started to eat far more than the picky eater that we knew him to be. He finally started to drink other stuff apart from mama’s milk. Some mornings, when he woke up, he will go straight to the kitchen to pick water instead of coming for breastmilk. So finally, he started to reduce the number of times he came seeking breast milk. He did this on his own! Suddenly, I felt like I had been worrying myself all the while for nothing. But charley, Mummy was tired. Hehe.
So how did we finally end? I think he just stopped being as aggressive for it both during the day and night. Initially, he would literally wail (not cry oh), when you refuse to give him the breast. It got to a point where he will just move on and come back later hoping I would change my mind. In fact, it’s been about two months since we stopped completely but he still asks for it occasionally 😂😂😂
So there you have it! That’s how I weaned two toddlers with two completely opposite breastfeeding habits. Another experience that has shown how different each child is so as parents, we should observe them and handle them with this difference in mind. I should mention that Ayemye’s drastic change came around the time he turned 2 so maybe, just maybe, WHO is right. Maybe, we are supposed to breastfeed till they turn 2 and fall off on their own 🤷🏾♀️. But yeah, I know how tiring it can be, so if you are like me and you feel at a point that you are done, you can start trying any of these tips. Hopefully, you have an Asempa and it works like magic. Otherwise, I wish you well 😁
Got any other weaning tips? Do share with us in the comments below!