Let me start by saying that I am a big supporter of child-led weaning and I allowed my older children to set the pace for their weaning process (my oldest weaned at 2.5 years and my middle still asks to nurse at 4.5 years although she doesn't like the taste of milk and pops off as soon as there's letdown). Anyway, my beautiful baby boy is 9 months old and exclusively BFd at this point (around the clock) but with a heavy heart I think that I'm going to need to wean him very soon. I have recently been diagnosed with cancer and will be starting my radiation treatments in about a week. I will have surgery in March to remove a large tumor from my leg and will likely have significant rehabbing to do after that point.
I have been told that it is safe to continue nursing my son throughout radiation, but my gut keeps telling me that the best thing that I can do for my children right now is to pour my energy into getting their Mama healthy and staying cancer free. I know that if my son could talk that's what he would want most of all...I want to be able to get restful sleep at night, detox my body without concern that I'm dumping toxins into my milk, go to my daily radiation treatments without stressing that I have to rush back home to feed the baby or find a place to pump, and allow my hormone levels to regulate.
That said, I have NO IDEA how to wean a child and I am concerned about how stressful the experience will be on me and on him as well. I'm not sure if there's a gentle step down approach or if I should start by night weaning or what. I don't exactly have months to do this either. I don't even know what to wean him to....my other girls are sensitive to gluten and dairy and he seems sensitive to dairy through my milk so I'm not too keen on a cow milk formula but I don't want to give him soy either. I've looked into breast milk banks to a degree, but it seems unlikely that I would get the quantities that I need and I'm a little concerned about feeding milk from multiple unknown women to my little guy.
I appreciate any advice that you have to offer. I hope that this post doesn't violate any rules since I am asking about weaning....it's just so hard when my natural mama ideals and my physical limitations conflict.
Oh mama, I am so sorry you are going through this! I hope that your treatment goes well, and swiftly. Your decision regarding breast feeding and your needs makes a lot of sense to me.
What does your DS eat now in terms of solids? What high-fat, high-protein items can you add to his diet? How do you deal with family mealtimes - does he just nurse at those times, or is he offered other foods?
Based on my experience, my first suggestion would be to try and increase his intake of solid foods. He will still need some kind of formula, but given the dietary sensitivities in your family, I would suggest that you consult with your pediatrician about what kind. In conjunction with this, start putting some limits on nursing - start going to a specific place to nurse, or having a clear beginning and end to nursing sessions. And in conjunction with *that* start offering solid foods at set times as well.
When I was weaning my DD from breast to formula, I continued to feed her on demand, but offered bottles at more and more nursing sessions, increasing every few days. The morning and bedtime nursing sessions were the last to go.
Are there child care providers involved in your situation at this point? If so, could you talk to them and ask for assistance? They can help you figure out what foods are most appropriate and appealing to your DS, and they can let you know the feeding schedule that they're on so that you can continue it at home (or vice versa). (Also, my DCP was wonderful when I was hospitalized - they were very understanding and supportive of DS, offering him a lot of reassurance, and a rock-solid routine, which he found very comforting at the time. I wish you a good and speedy recovery, and while you are undergoing treatment, I wish you the best childcare imaginable.)
Hugs to you. I can't imagine what you're going through.
The book How Weaning Happens has a section on weaning children under 1.
One of my children was nursing exclusively at 9 months, then a month later had a "holiday weaning" sort of reaction, once he started solids. You're actually approaching a time when some children get so interested in the world around them that they "forget" to nurse. Of course, this may not describe your child at all -- just letting you know that a "window for weaning" may catch you by surprise anyway.
An alternative to formula may be something like Milkshare, or finding mothers local to you who might be willing to donate extra milk to you. Looking to an API group close to you might be a source. There's still the issue of weaning from the breast with that. As far as milkbanks go, calling one and talking to them about their safety procedures might put you at ease a bit.
Who will be caring for you and your children during and after your medical procedures and treatments? Is is possible to include this person/these persons in your lives and to gradually introduce his/her/their care to your baby and to have him/her/them offer your baby food beginning now?
Thank you for the suggestions thus far. To respond to the questions asked, DS has not had any solid foods, only breast milk to date. I was planning to delay solids until 12 months (which is what I did with DD#2) but this plan is likely going to change in light of my current situation. There are not any other care providers at this point. I am a full-time SAHM to my 3 kids. Unfortunately I was on bed rest for 24 weeks last year due to complications when pregnant with DS and my DH totally revamped his work situation to meet our DDs' needs and my needs at that time. He's getting a bit concerned about his job security should he need to step down for our care again so we're doing our best to creatively fill in with child care help from wherever we can from our school community/friends/family and I'm even checking into hospital volunteers who might be able to just hang out with my kids at the hospital while I'm in treatment (the sessions should only be about 20-30 min. but the hospital is a good hour away from the house so it's more the travel time that will keep me tied up). I am hoping that part will come together soon but since I was just diagnosed and we haven't shared the news too broadly yet we're still working on that part. I also won't know my radiation "time slot" until I go the first day so I have to wait until I know when I'll be needing child care before I can arrange for the child care.
I will see if I can get a hold of a copy of "How Weaning Happens" I may also try to contact a local LLL leader tomorrow and see if they have any thoughts or advice to share. I so wish that I was one of those women with such an abundant milk supply that I'd have 6 months of milk in the freezer just waiting for a situation like this, but I was never an effusive pumper.
Again, I appreciate all of the ideas and support thus far. Please don't be shy about chiming in with more.
I had to wean ds1 when he was 9 months old. Unfortunately, I don't know how to do it gently as one day I was fine, and then the next found out that two days later I would be having surgery, plus be on heavy medication for 6 weeks following that were not safe for baby. So I had to wean the hard way. I hope you find some good advice. I just wanted to let you know that I understand the sadness that comes with weaning early, so please prepare yourself for that. Especially since your hormones go all wacky at that time too. Best of wishes to you, I hope you get better quickly.