My personal breastfeeding goal in terms of duration is 2 years. I don’t see it as a chore to breastfeed, on the contrary, I find that breastfeeding is less troublesome compared to bottle and formula feeding. In addition, since Ethan had been breastfed for 2 years, it goes without saying that Hannah should also be breastfed for roughly that same duration.
That was my plan, I told myself, unless she weaned herself off.
When Hannah was approximately one month shy of her 2nd birthday, I decided to try to wean her off her daytime breastfeeding sessions. I didn’t want to use Bonjela because I had heard that it contained a substance that was not safe for kids (there was no report of this danger back when I weaned Ethan off). So I decide to go natural this time round and used bitter gourd.
I started by slicing the bitter gourd up and manually squeezing the juice out, then I used it to apply on my nipples. Nope, didn’t work. Not potent enough.
So I then chopped up the bitter gourd and added a little bit of boiled water, and then I puréed it in the blender. With that one medium bowl of bitter gourd purée, I applied it to my nipples immediately before breastfeeding Hannah. She immediately rejected it. I did this for 2-3 days in a row, and after that Hannah was completely weaned off the breast during the daytime! I hadn’t expected this method to work so fast, but it did!
Sometimes she would instinctively come for a feed and then it was as if she suddenly remembered and then she would back off and make a face, saying, “Not nice anymore, Mommy?”
I didn’t suffer any breast engorgement nor blocked ducts because I didn’t really have any milk left anyway.
However, even though Hannah had been weaned off the breast during the day, she would cuddle up to me as soon as I had taken my night shower and asked to be breastfed. And she would need that comfort suckle to fall asleep.
This was the hard part.
I knew I could simply use the bitter gourd purée to wean her off completely then, but something in me wasn’t quite ready yet. Sometimes I would tell her that Mommy didn’t have much milk left, and that she was a big girl now and she would reply, “Can drink from cup?”, and I would say, “Yes Hannah…”. But the comfort suckling still went on. And I admit that I did nothing drastic to stop that.
And then some time in July of this year, Hannah fell sick with high fever and cough. The first night she was on medication, she fell asleep out of tiredness without the need for comfort suckling. She still got up at night and asked for milk though. On the second night, I told her to try to sleep without breastfeeding because I was afraid she might throw up. She quietly obeyed.
Then on the third night when she got better, she smiled and looked at me, “Mommy, have milk?” So I gave in.:P
But I knew then that she was ready to be completely weaned off. So following that, I told her that there was really no more milk left, and that all her friends drank milk from the cup and not from the breast. She whined a little, but she listened and obeyed and eventually fell asleep in my arms. No screaming or crying. And she did not even wake up at night for milk.
Again, I did not see it coming and I had not expected it to happen so fast! God really did answer my prayers again, and I am truly grateful that the weaning process happened rather smoothly. It has been close to three weeks now that Hannah has been completely weaned from the breast, and I last breastfed her on Saturday July 23 2011.
Hannah still loves to cuddle close to me, and I suppose there is a close bond in terms of smell. She still needs me to sleep beside her when she falls asleep, but she has achieved a grand milestone in independence. Her dairy intake now consists of any kind of milk products: fresh milk, UHT milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
With that, I know that I have successfully completed my second labor of love in 2 years and 4 months. I have given her my best and I am so grateful to have this experience to carry with me through my life. Breastfeeding is the most wonderful and rewarding journey any mother can take with their child, and I am so blessed to have been able to go through it not once, but twice over, cherishing every step and moment of it, and establishing a bond so strong with my kids that nothing can shatter.
** The first picture at the top of this post was candidly taken by Ethan **