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Weaning my son “Cold Turkey”

October 23, 2007

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Last week I made the decision to wean my son against his will. He is more than 20 months old, so I’m not feeling guilty about it. He’s gotten plenty of milk in those 20 months and now I’d like my body back, thank you very much. Anyone want to buy that mama merit badge for me? Here is our story.

My daughter was born in Japan in 2004. I awkwardly nursed her within a few minutes of her birth. After a few tries, she took to it very well and so I nursed her on demand. She was a very demanding baby, waking up twice a night and basically asking to nurse about every 2 hours of her life. We moved to the United States when she was 5 months old and she continued to breastfeed until I realized that I was pregnant again. She was about 14 months old when I got pregnant. I couldn’t bear being pregnant and catering to a nursing toddler at the same time, so I asked her to give it up. At that point she was very in-tune to my emotions and she seemed to understand my pain completely. I whined about how my nipples were sore and she understood and gave up nursing for my sake.

My son was born in 2006 in the United States. I was able to nurse him within a few minutes of his birth too. I had another little professional breastfeeder under my care. When we hit the 14 month mark I started to get antsy. I was ready to wean him, but I was afraid of frustrating him. I tried to reduce the number of times per day that he was breastfeeding, but we hit a plateau. He was adamant about continuing to nurse. If I ever refused he would whack his head against the floor in protest and cry inconsolably. If he wanted to nurse during the night I had to keep him quiet for the sake of my daughter and my husband. So that they would be able to sleep through the night, I would have to let my son have his way.

Last week, though I decided that since I was not having any success in gradual weaning, I would just go cold turkey. I told my son that was the plan and I didn’t let him nurse all day Thursday or Friday. He got frustrated with me, but it was not as bad as I was expecting. He did punch me a few times, but he was willing to be distracted by apple juice in a box.

He has always carried around a sippy cup of water so we were not worried about dehydration. The one box of apple juice per day is apparently pretty exciting and comforting. Also, he has always been good at falling asleep on his own and not relying on breastfeeding in order to fall asleep.

I was reading an E-How article on how to wean cold turkey and decided to take that woman’s advice to make the last time memorable and loving. Although the milk production in my left breast had been declining for months, my right breast was getting really uncomfortably swollen, so my son did nurse on Friday night to relieve that stress. That was the last time. He was grateful and so was I.

These past couple of days he has slept very well. Instead of waking up early to nurse, he has been sleeping in until 8:00 each morning. I’ve also been sleeping really well, but the first night I had very strange dreams. During the day if he asks to nurse I just remind him that we’ve stopped and he puts his head down on my bare stomach and gently pats me. Then he raises his head and smiles flirtatiously at me. Overall, we’ve had a wonderful experience with not much stress. It is the kind of transition I would wish for every nursing mom.

  1. Accountable permalink
    October 24, 2007 9:34 am

    Way to go!!! I’ve decided that Baby Girl (2 years) is not going to nurse before naptime anymore on the weekends, since she doesn’t need it during the week at school.

    We are down to 5 minutes before bedtime now so hopefully by the end of the month, we will be weaned as well. She doesn’t need to nurse to fall asleep anymore and she’s good for just a cuddle instead on those rare occasions that she does wake up in the middle of the night.

    Unlike you, I have not had the engorgement, so that’s not an issue. Yippee!! Here’s to being weaned. FINALLY!

  2. October 24, 2007 9:39 am

    You’re on the right track too, with your fitness journal! At least you won’t be gaining weight due to weaning, but since I don’t exercise I have noticed my rings and jeans are a little tighter. I need to watch what I eat instead of just relying on breastfeeding to subtract those calories.

    *clinking your glass* Here, here!

  3. October 24, 2007 4:12 pm

    Well done! More sleep for Mommy is always a good thing, right? 🙂
    My kids weaned with ease, but I’ve been with friends who’ve had a terrible time. The only thing that made me soo sad about weaning was that we couldn’t cuddle in Mama and Daddy’s bed for awhile, because they associated it with nursing.
    I’m pregnant and I can’t believe I’m about to begin all over again. It seems so surreal still!

  4. October 24, 2007 4:58 pm

    Hey girlymama, congratulations on your pregnancy and having the chance to do it all again. 🙂 My son was a little bit angry at first, but he loves to cuddle and was willing to just settle for cuddling. Of course, it is associated with nursing, but thankfully he’s been able to deal with having one without the other.

  5. October 24, 2007 9:47 pm

    Girl, I feel your pain…That’s almost exactly the story of my younger two…Miles (the youngest) nursed the longest, about 20months in fact! It was HARD to get him to quit but we did cold turkey and that week was a sort of blur, actually. Now it’s been over a year and he still likes to hold only the corner of my tee shirt once in a while for comfort (it’s reallllly cute!) but I’m happy to have my body back! I never wanted our nursing relationship to end badly, you know? I didn’t want to resent him for wanting to nurse and I was really starting to do that.

    Keep on keepin on babe.

  6. October 27, 2007 6:20 pm

    My son weaned himself at about 13 months, and it was a sad day for me. I was ready, but not, if you know what I mean. My left side had been less than productive for months by then, but righty was doing okay, so he was down to one side, about 5-7 minutes, before bed only by then. I was happy to have my body back, even though it looked nothing like it did before we started this endeavor…

  7. October 27, 2007 6:45 pm

    It’s been a week since I decided not to let him nurse. My right side is still a lot bigger than my left. It will probably always be that way. He still asks to nurse, but I haven’t given in. Today he was a little fussy when we were downtown trick-or-treating and he kept asking to nurse. I think what he really wanted was to go home and take his costume off. 🙂 My wedding rings don’t fit me today! Argh! I am either gaining weight from not nursing or I am puffy for some other reason. Seriously, I can’t get my rings onto my finger.

  8. October 28, 2007 11:39 am

    I am glad it went well for you, weaning wasn’t difficult for my kiddos either, thank goodness…that would have killed me, LOL

    I did nurse my last until he was 18 months, I guess waiting a little longer may help. 🙂

    Drink lots of water, it will help the swelling go down.

    Oh yeah… just enjoy getting to get lots of wear on the Halloween costumes. Three of my four kids are older now and you only get one wear out of a costume and then it becomes dress up or passed on to a neighbor. 🙂


  9. October 29, 2007 7:25 am

    Thanks Stef. 🙂 I’m not puffy anymore. I think it was the Papa John’s pizza I ate that day. LOL!

  10. Accountable permalink
    October 30, 2007 1:15 pm

    So far, the weekend with no nursing was good. I think she actually fell asleep sooner than when we did nurse her!

    As far as night time, 5 minutes or less and lots of reading.

  11. Ann permalink
    November 4, 2007 12:49 am

    This gives me hope – I’m not looking to wean my daughter yet, she just turned 1 a couple weeks ago, but I’ve been thinking about the when and the how and I just had no idea about how it might work. I’m glad it’s gone relatively smoothly for you, now I’m hopeful it may go well for us in the future.

  12. November 7, 2007 2:24 pm

    Accountable, how is it going with you and your daughter? My son sleeps so much better now that he’s not nursing. That was a surprise!

    Ann, thanks for coming over and commenting. Your daughter is so cute! I’m glad if my post about weaning is any help to you. I did get really antsy around the 14 month mark because I was comparing my son with my daughter and hoping he would stop that early. Now, we are at the stage where I don’t have any milk left and my son has stopped asking 🙂 He still lies down in my arms, putting himself in our nursing position and closes his eyes for a few moments. Who knows what is going through his mind, but he doesn’t verbally insist on nursing anymore. He’s such a sweetheart and I’m grateful we were able to transition in this way.

  13. Kathy permalink
    March 2, 2008 12:31 pm

    I am into hour 27 w/ weaning my 18 month old daughter cold turkey …PAIN…my right breast is the size of a cantalope and as heavy as one too….i have cabbage leaves on them now..does anyone know how long the pain will last?..i don’t really want to pump b/c i’ll just have to go throuh it again….i didn’t even plan to wean her yet, but i’ve been tired from nursing and being the only one who can get her to sleep (no breaks) and in the nite, she’s up 2-3 times to feed from me. But yesterday, i decided to put bandaids over my nipples ( she doesn’t like sticky things) and it really worked…when she wanted to nurse, i’d just show her and tell her ‘they have bandaids hunny…done’ and she accepted it…which was weird b/c if i refused her them other times she’d have a tantrum…!…i’m pretty excited, a little sad (ok alot sad), and VERY SORE….only on one side…how long will this last? and do they go back to being the same size after awhile???..thanks..

  14. March 2, 2008 5:00 pm

    Kathy, I´m sorry you are in so much pain. I had the same trouble where one of my breasts was painfully full and the other one was fine. I decided to let my son nurse once more, just for about 20 minutes on the one side to relieve the pressure. Then I put the cabbage leaves back on and he hasn´t nursed since October. If you let your daughter nurse once more you might be able to deal with the soreness that way. My breasts stopped producing milk after about a week of not letting my son nurse. They are much smaller and different than they were before. But I don´t let it bother me because I´m so glad to have nursed my two children.

  15. Kathy permalink
    March 3, 2008 9:09 am

    Thank you!!…i think i may let her nurse once more, but i’m scared that if i do once, she’ll want it again all the time!…i am putting cabbage leaves on my right side, and the coolness does help…u said your breasts were different now..are they kind of like loose skin flaps? b/c 2 months ago when she stopped eating alot from the left side, it went really small, and loose….and do they go back to normal a little do u think?…or r they now destined to sag?!..hehe…and like you i’m so happy to have nursed her, that what’s a couple of causualties?….thank you again, it makes it better to talk to someone who’s been through the same…!

  16. March 3, 2008 2:09 pm

    Mine are changed forever. My husband and I joke that the only way for me to have full breasts again would be to nurse another baby. Until then, we have our memories of the way things used to be. LOL. I´m glad that my blog post helped you, Kathy. Best of luck with your daughter!

  17. March 5, 2008 10:19 am

    I’ve been officially deflated in that area too! I never had much in that area to begin with either. I’ve gone from a comfortable B to a barely B. LOL!!

    My sister had a reduction when she was 19. We joked that we should have done a transplant! No sense in letting it all go to waste.

  18. Kellie permalink
    July 19, 2009 5:27 pm

    OMG i need help i have been trying to wein my baby girl off boob for two days now its sooo hard no pain yet but one breast is getting big so i binded and it helps alot… but at night is the worst she still wont sleep through the night last night she woke up at eleven, two, five, then seven, if someone has any advice on what i could do please!!

  19. kristeen permalink
    June 25, 2010 2:49 pm

    i have just started weaning my 23m old and hes a bit upset in feeling like ive had a really bad boob job just from being so sore… cold turkey has to work because im so wanting nursing to be done ..i enjoyed being able to nurse this long with my first i stopped at 4 1/2 m cause we went on vaction to the dominican and we well my family didnt want us to bring him … so now im just lookig to see what i can do for breast care during weaning 🙂 hopefully everything goes smooth…

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