Monday, January 20, 2014

My Baby Isn't Even One...Is He Weaning?

A few weeks ago, a tragic thing happened in our house - I thought my 11 months old was weaning!
"Mom!  I like breastfeeding WAY too much to wean now!"

As it is, my child has a crazy transfer rate and is really efficient at the breast (which I attribute, at least in part, to our late posterior tongue tie diagnosis and revision that you can read about here), so he was only nursing 3 or maybe 4 times in a 24-hour period as it was.  When he started refusing the breast at his afternoon feed and the feeding before bed, I started panicking.  I had hoped to nurse until L was at least two and I was distraught at the thought of not even making it to a year.

Thankfully, he started showing signs of teething (stuffy nose, swollen gums) the next day!  Now, I know you're thinking I'm a horrible mom for being excited that my child was stuffed up and swollen, but now I knew what the issue was.  This wasn't L weaning, this was teething and maybe a bit of a nursing strike.

So how do you tell the difference between a nursing strike and/or teething and self-weaning?  And what do you do if it is a nursing strike and/or teething to ensure your successful breastfeeding relationship continues? 

What you need to know:

1. Babies rarely self wean before 18 months.  Babies self wean when both their nutritional and emotional needs no longer need nursing to be fulfilled.  This means that your baby is primiarily getting their nutrition from solids/table food.  If that is NOT the case, do not assume your little one is trying to wean.

2. Self weaning is a gradual process.  If, all of the sudden, your baby decides, like mine did, to stop nursing, they probably aren't weaning and there is likely something else going on.  This was why I was so "excited, " or maybe relieved when L developed the sniffles and I noticed some other indicators of teething.

Tips for pushing through a nursing strike:

1. Pump to maintain supply and reduce risks of mastitis/blocked ducts.  This is probably the most important (and often time consuming) tip. Even though your baby is taking a few days away from the breast, they will be back!  You want to make sure your maintain your supply.  Also, mastitis and blocked ducts really stink!  Pumping is the best way to avoid them.  Try and pump around the times your LO would typically nurse.  If your little one has no discernible pattern, pump when you start to feel full. 

2. Offer the breast...a lot.  Keep offering and eventually your baby will probably take it and begin nursing like they used to.  It never hurts to offer the breast, just don't get discouraged if your baby still won't take it.  In that case...

3. Use bottles/sippy's as needed.  Most likely breast milk is still your baby's primary source of nutrition and you need to make sure they are getting all of the food they need.  It may seem counterproductive to offer bottles, but unless you see a major bottle preference in the weeks leading up to the strike, you should be okay using bottles or sippy's as needed (just make sure you pump afterward!).

4. Try early morning or middle of the night feedings.  Your little one may still be a little sleepy or (if they've slept through the night) really hungry.  Those feedings are great times to get them back to the breast.

5. Go back to skin to skin.  Even if your baby is older a little skin-to-skin cuddling can't hurt.  There is just something about being close to mom and skin-on-skin that may coax your little one back to nursing.

6. Try different positions/locations.  As babies get older and start developing new skills your tried and true cross cradle or football holds may no longer work.  Sitting L up right next to me really helped during our strike.  A quiet, dark room will help block out the distractions.  Or maybe they just want to try something new, like crawling up to you and helping themselves to milkies!

No matter what, if you don't think your child meets the criteria for weaning and you want to keep nursing, keep at it.  They will, most likely, be back to the breast in a few days.

Have you experienced some sort of nursing strike?  What are some tips you would offer other moms going through the same thing?  Share your advice in the comments below.

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