Oh my goodness! We accidentally weaned Max last week! I say accident because we didn’t prepare or plan for it, it just kind of happened one night and we followed through. Here’s a quick recap of how it happened:
It was a tough week for us. We were all getting over a bug and I had work that I wanted to get to. Max fell asleep the usual way that night—by breastfeeding until he was knocked out. As usual, I ninjaed my way out of bed so that I could keep working. On good nights, Max gives me 1.5-2 hours before he wakes up and asks to breastfeed to sleep again. But that night he kept waking up every 45 minutes. I’ll admit that I was very frustrated. I ended up finishing my work at almost 4 AM.
When I finally got back to bed, I had a total of 8 minutes before Max woke up again and started pulling at my shirt. At first, I pretended to sleep, but he got more persistent. I was so sleepy and tired that I said: “No Max. No more kikis. Momma is so tired and you’re so kulit tonight. No more na.”
(Kikis is what Max calls breastfeeding. We borrowed it from his friend Mateo, who called it milkies.)
He cried and cried. And I thought it would be a matter of time before I gave in, but after a few minutes he just fell into my arms and went back to sleep. I was so surprised! That has never happened before. He slept until about 8 AM, but because I was so sleepy from the night before, I let him latch on again when he asked for it in the morning.
We had a full day on Sunday. We had a birthday party to attend and I had some work that I wanted to finish. Mikey and I didn’t really get to talk about what happened the night before, so we stuck to our regular night time routine—Mikey gives Max a bath, I dress him up, Max plays a little, and Max breastfeeds to sleep.
When Max fell asleep, I decided that we would try to get him to put himself back to sleep again. I was riding on the confidence from the previous night’s accidental success. I had an epiphany that night: I realized that Max will be completely OK without breastfeeding. And that he is capable of getting over it—I just need to give him a chance. I let Mikey know and he seemed to be cautiously onboard with me.
The timing also made sense because it was a holiday the next day. So, I wouldn’t feel too bad about keeping Mikey up all night if Max didn’t stop crying.
To our surprise, the same thing happened. He woke up at around 1:30 AM and he asked to breastfeed. I said no and I said that I couldn’t because my kikis were wawa. He protested for a while, drank water, cuddled up, and went back to sleep! I was so amazed and these first two nights really helped build my confidence to keep powering through.
Looking back, it seems like our accidental weaning was timed perfectly. We had another packed day on Monday. We spent most of the day with our friends and their kids to celebrate my Goddaughter’s birthday. So Max was preoccupied all day long and didn’t even think about breastfeeding until late in the afternoon when they finished playing. But by this time, he was so tired that he fell asleep on his stroller.
We had dinner and dessert with our friends. I made sure that Max ate a lot that evening. I even bought him a tub of Potato Corner cheese fries after dinner. I thought that it might be easier to keep weaning him if he was full. Before we entered the car to go home that night, I needed to talk to Max. The car is one of two places that we’re allowed to breastfeed and I knew that he was expecting it after a long day.
I told Max that we couldn’t kikis because Momma’s kiki’s are still wawa. And I made sure that he agreed to not breastfeeding before entering the car. When we were in the car, Max was still expressing his desire to kikis. So I had to keep talking to him. Here’s our exchange:
Char: I’m so sorry Max. I know you want to kikis. I know that it’s hard for you. But Momma’s kikis are broken. We can’t kikis anymore.
Max started quietly tearing up and he hugged me.
Max: Broken like Ga-ma’s shoes? (A few days back, we were out with my mom and one of her shoes broke while we were walking.)
Char: Yes! Just like Gwama’s shoes. Remember she couldn’t use it anymore after it broke?
Max: Yes (and then he changed the subject).
I think this exchange made a world of difference because Max understands the word “broken”. He’s had (MANY) first hand experiences with things breaking. So he knows that, sometimes, when things break, you can’t use them anymore.
When we got home, Max went through his usual nighttime routine. Mikey gave him a bath and I dressed him for bed. When we got to the bed, I made sure to put on three layers of shirts so that he didn’t have easy access to my boobs. He picked out a bunch of books to read and we gamely complied to his requests. Usually, Max would already be latched by reading time, so it was really amazing when he just sat there and asked that I hold him while we were reading.
When it was getting late, Mikey and I warned him that it was the last book and we’d be turning off the lights soon. After we finished the last book, Good Night, Good Night, Construction Site, Max snuggled up into my arms and put himself to sleep.
It was so crazy because we were really expecting Max to cry all night long. Our friends told us all about their weaning experience and all of them told us to be ready for the buckets of tears for a couple of nights. Not counting the times he passes out because he’s so tired, this was the first time he put himself to sleep. We could hear him sucking on nothing for maybe 30 or so until he finally fell into deep sleep. We were so proud of our boy! He woke up once or twice that night, but all we did was give him some water and cuddled with him. He never stayed up for too long.
I couldn’t help but tear up when Max finally went to sleep. I’ve been stressing about weaning since he turned 2 years old. I spent the last few months worrying, planning, and trying. In the past, I would cave in really quickly when he started crying. Maybe all he needed was some time. Time to be able to understand the situation and the ability to express his sadness about it.
At around 6:30, Max woke up and asked for kikis. But when I reminded him that we couldn’t anymore, he didn’t want to go back to sleep. He asked for pizza and ice cream, so I promised we’d have that for dinner. In the meantime, I made him some bread and milk and I let him watch his favorite show. I also made him his favorite homemade mac and cheese for lunch. He was very clingy and sensitive throughout the day, but he didn’t ask for kikis. I think he was just working out his feelings.
Since we were up so early he actually fell asleep while watching TV at around noon and he woke up at 4PM. I took him to our apartment’s outdoor area and we raced cars and blew bubbles. I just wanted to reassure him that I still loved him and that he could still count on me even if we stopped breastfeeding.
After a dinner made up of many helpings of mac and cheese, pizza, and ice cream, Max went to sleep without breastfeeding again.
Max woke up at a decent hour on Wednesday. He woke up at 9 AM and we were having a really pleasant day until it was time to nap. I could tell that he was already sleepy, but he really didn’t want to go to sleep. He fought it all afternoon.
At one point he said: “no sleep mama! Sunny day!” It wasn’t until he had a meltdown because I finally refused to leave the bed to join him outside that he finally let me hold him. But as soon as he got into my arms he feel asleep!
Apart from the endless books, we didn’t have too much trouble putting him to sleep later that night. I think he was closer to accepting our new routine. In fact, sometime during the day, we had a funny conversation:
Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama kikis.
Char: No, Max. Remember, Mama’s kiki’s are broken.
Max: Papa give Maxie a baff (bath). Mama hug.
I was so amazed. He corrected himself automatically when I reminded him of our new set-up!
To Infinity and Beyond!
Max is still learning how to fall asleep during the day time. I guess it’s easier at night when it’s dark and he can’t see anything. So, we’re still figuring out nap time over here. It’s Thursday (2:30 PM) and I’m writing this after an hour of trying to get him to sleep. (And I’m editing it at 6:30 PM when he finally fell asleep!)
So far, here’s what we found to be helpful in kickstarting the weaning process:
1. Having Activities Lined Up
My goddaughter’s birthday party was perfect timing. If we had stayed home all day that day, Max would’ve wanted to breastfeed for his nap and it would’ve been really hard to say no. I’m glad that we had activities that distracted him from wanting to breastfeed.
Everything changed when I realized that Max will be OK without breastfeeding and accepted that it’s also OK for him to cry. It gave me the courage I needed to hold my ground and it made me find other ways to soothe him.
3. Language Development and Empathy
None of this was planned but I’m so glad that I used the word broken. It’s so much easier to get your toddler to do what you want them to do if they understand the context. And, from the beginning, I should’ve made an effort to explain things in his terms instead of just saying that we’re not going to breastfeed anymore.
4. A Bedtime Routine
It helped that we already established a routine with Max. So even if we had to remove one part of it, he still has a semblance of predictability that offers him a sense of security.
I know that this is already a really long post, but I still have all sorts of feelings and thoughts that I still need to work out. It feels like a really important transition in my journey as a mom. The difference is so palpable and it’s only been a few days.
A few days ago, Mikey ran some numbers and told me that I had been breastfeeding Max for a total of 895 days (or 2 years, 5 months, and 12 days). It’s been a hell of a ride and I still can’t believe that it’s actually over.