I'm writing this post for 2 reasons:
1. So I can remember what I did when I have another child to wean in a few years. I know I'll forget otherwise.
2. In case it helps any other mom out there to read what I did.
I am an expert in nothing. I just wanted to share my experience with weaning because I know it always helps me to read how other moms do things. I like getting ideas from others and seeing their perspective. What I did may not work for you or your baby, and/or you may not agree with me and that's OK.
Before I ever got pregnant my goal was always to breastfeed my baby for a year if possible. I know breastmilk is best for babies and that mom can get benefits from breastfeeding as well. I am not someone who thinks formula is "poison" or that a mom is horrible for choosing not to breastfeed though. I don't judge others for choices like that. In fact, when Landon was first born, he was so big the nurses needed to test his blood sugar for the first 24 hours of his life. They told me if I did not supplement with formula that he'd fail every sugar test. I gave birth at a very pro-breastfeeding hospital and Landon was given to me to nurse an hour after he was born, every 3 hours after that, and then given formula afterwards as needed. I was totally fine with it and he was really only getting 1-2oz of formula and not after every nursing session. Other than that, Landon has never needed to have formula in his life.
My breastfeeding experience was a pretty good one for the most part, but I did have a few issues, and to be honest, I HATED breastfeeding the first few months. I got mastitis 1.5 weeks in and that was terrible, but I got antibiotics to clear that up and have had no recurrences. Until my supply evened out around 12 weeks, I was engorged a lot, leaking milk all over the bed, my bras and clothes, and Landon when I held him. I was so sore I couldn't face the shower spray without covering my girls up with my hands for a good 2 months. Landon was nursing every hour and I was always worrying that I wasn't making enough for him. I had no idea cluster feedings were normal. I've had clogged ducts a few times, but a combination of Landon, my electric pump, and pressure massages took care of those (they hurt a lot though and I didn't enjoy dealing with them). Landon has bit me a few times (once bad enough to draw blood and make me only able to pump that side for a few days while I healed) and when L was getting top teeth, his latch changed a bit and gave me a couple of small sores.
Through it all, I stuck with it. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to quit when I got mastitis. I felt like complete shit and I thought formula would be so much easier. If it weren't for the support of my husband and an online mom's group I'm part of, there's no way I would have continued on and I would have regretted it. I had no supply issues, Landon was latching fine, there was no valid reason in my mind for me to stop, so I didn't. The guilt also would have eaten me alive if I quit. Breastfeeding wound up being great for both of us once I got the hang of it because I feel that we really bonded and I lost all of my baby weight and then an additional 10lbs just from breastfeeding! I could eat like a pig, not exercise, and stay thin. That changed once Landon stretched out his feedings, but it was such an awesome side effect for me. Breastfeeding just became something quick that we did so Landon could eat. I stopped looking at it as an inconvenience and enjoyed those quiet few minutes while L was eating and I could play on my phone.
In the end, I did meet my goal of a year and it got easier and easier as time went on. Landon stopped nursing every hour and stretched his feedings to every 2 hours, then every 3 hours, and eventually every 5-6 hours (solids had nothing to do with him stretching nursing sessions by the way. He did it in his own time). It was awesome, and he'd be done with a feeding in 5-7 minutes instead of 20 minutes or longer. He's in the 97th percentile for weight, and has been way up there since birth, so he was clearly getting enough from me.
I never had a desire to do extended breastfeeding until Landon was 2 or 3. It's just not for me, but again, I don't judge women who choose to nurse their children longer. I was willing to go a few months past his first birthday in order to have a gradual weaning process, but no way was I going for years more. Weaning cold turkey was not an option for me either, mainly because I didn't want to deal with the horrible pain of engorgement and possibly getting a lot of plugged ducts and risking mastitis again. For me, it was better to be OK with going a little longer than to just cut Landon off from the boob. I honestly don't think he would have cared if I did though.
What I wound up doing was "don't offer, don't refuse." I introduced whole, organic cow's milk to Landon 2 weeks before he turned 1. I offered it straight up at first, but he refused unless I mixed it with some breastmilk. Within a week he was taking it with no mixed in breastmilk, so that was pretty easy. I did have to get him a different sippy for his milk at first. He preferred the thick straw of the Nuby cup for milk over the thinner Playtex straw he had for water. Now he'll drink out of any straw cup I give him, but just keep in mind you might have to try several sippy cups. We started by replacing the 2 afternoon nursing sessions. Somedays Landon wanted to nurse that second afternoon session, so I let him. He dropped both pretty fast though. Next, I dropped the first thing in the morning session, then the one right before bed. He got a sippy of cow's milk for both of those feedings, then he was offered throughout the day as well (Now he's offered milk just at breakfast, lunch, and bedtime). Finally, we got rid of the middle of the night feedings that he was wanting out of habit. If he wakes up now, which is rare, he's offered water instead of milk, and I leave the sippy in his crib (which will stop eventually. I worried about ear infections, but he's old enough where that probably won't happen from the cup now). He only got up once the first night we did that instead of 2-4 times. It took a good 39 hours after we stopped nursing completely before I got engorged, and it wasn't even that bad. I think the fact that my period finally came back 2 weeks after I introduced cow's milk helped because for a lot of women, getting their period back causes their supply to take a hit. I didn't work to get mine back up since we were weaning, and I think Landon learned fast that he was getting way more milk from a sippy than he was from me. I did get a couple of small plugged ducts, and what was odd was that a few came 2 weeks after L stopped nursing. Pressure massage and a little hand expressing took care of those no problem. I also drank peppermint tea every day, which a friend told me dries you up, and I took a Benadryl every night. I used to take one at night before sleep because I have bad allergies, so I wasn't just drugging myself for the hell of it, nor am I telling any of you to do that. Just know that if you do need allergy meds, they can help dry you up depending on what you're taking. Some don't affect milk supply at all. I do think both of those things helped immensely, especially the tea. We haven't nursed in almost a month now and L hasn't looked back, I'm not really making milk anymore, and I got to buy normal bras again! The freedom to wear whatever I want and not have to worry about easy boob access is amazing to me.
The whole process took about a month for L to wean, and then 2 additional weeks for me to not have plugged ducts. Even though I was so ready, (and apparently so was Landon) it was a little bittersweet. I cried a little bit the first night that Jeff gave him a sippy of milk before bed instead of me nursing him. I felt like my baby didn't need me anymore. He doesn't need me for milk anymore but he needs me for a lot of other things, and within a couple of days, the tears were gone and I'm OK now.
The next hurdle is getting Landon to allow Jeff to put him to bed without me in the room. I'll do a post on that once we're successful. Lots of changes, and Landon needs some of them to be gradual I guess.