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Business Travel & Breastfeeding

Jan14

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amy,

I so enjoy the blog–thanks for all you do.

I have a 15-month old that I’m still nursing a couple times a day. Mostly at night before bed (if I’m putting him to bed) and right when he wakes up since it’s usually far earlier than we actually want to get up. Then it’s maybe one other time during the day unless we’re home all day together in which case we do nurse more frequently.

The main time he asks for it is after he’s been at daycare for most of the day and we’re ‘reuniting’, if you will. The main time I offer it is in the morning so I can doze for another half hour in my bed! I’m curious as to how you and/or other moms went about weaning? I’m not a cold turkey kind of a mom, so I’m unsure of how long one would recommend taking–a couple weeks? a couple months? I am not sure of where to start–with the one that will be most difficult for him or for me? We don’t have any pressing issues for it, btw–just a need for me to eventually do some work travel this year so I want to think ahead. Lastly, any clever ideas for what to do at 5:30am when he is ready for 1st breakfast and we’re just not ready to be fully functioning yet?

Many thanks,
Erika

So even though I have two children, and I breastfed both of those children for as long as circumstances allowed, I’m not sure my “weaning experiences” will be very helpful to anyone. And I don’t really have much weaning knowledge beyond my personal experiences, because both of my children weaned looooong before it ever hit a point where I had to go, “Hmm, I think I would like to be done with breastfeeding. How exactly does one DO THAT?”

With Noah, my always-craptastic supply dried up around five months or so. Pumping, supplements, etc. were no match for my returning to work and Noah’s growing disinterest in anything other than the bottle. I offered him the boob one morning, he took one or two sucks and pulled off in fury — there was just nothing there, and though I tried again that afternoon and night, he would only turn his head and refuse to latch on. And we were done.

With Ezra, weaning was not even on my radar at all when he, too, started gradually losing interest in the undertaking. I figured we were into nursing for a relatively long haul, and was so focused on trying to find solutions to his nasty little biting habit that I didn’t notice that he was cutting out nursing sessions at a somewhat alarming rate, and nursing for shorter and shorter periods in between. I thought it was a phase and kept going, kept offering. Finally it dawned on me: My baby was weaning. I felt a bit panicked and sad and went through a few days of pretending that no! Phase! And I went back to artificial supply-boosting measures (fenugreek, Mother’s Milk tea, pumping) to keep things going until he snapped out of said phase.

He never snapped out of it, and finally — I don’t remember exactly how long my denial went on for — I realized that I would much, MUCH rather have my baby make the decision now, when he was ready, than…well, any other scenario I could think of that involved me withholding it or me getting sick or otherwise having to force him to wean, for whatever reason. Child-led weaning, if you want to retroactively slap a label on it. So I decided to only offer nursing if Ezra asked for it or initiated it. He didn’t. And we were done.

I have to say your current set-up sounds mostly ideal and beneficial to you both, since the morning session allows you some extra rest and I have no doubt that the post-daycare and bedtime sessions are extremely comforting for your son, AND (if I’m inferring this correctly) it sounds like Dad manages to put him to bed without breastfeeding occasionally as well. So personally, yeah, I wouldn’t be in any rush to change any of that.

As for business travel…a lot of moms (a LOT) will use trips AS the weaning period, or at least an all-important test run. You’re not going to be there regardless, so it’s not the same as “withholding” a nursing session from a confused baby at home, so in many ways a business trip can be the perfect opportunity to see if your baby is ready to wean for good. This does mean you’ll have to pack a pump for your trip (though whether you chose to transport milk back or dump it behind is entirely up to you), just in case you return to a baby who is still rooting around in your shirt the minute you’re reunited. If that happens, then you’ll really need to decide what YOU want — parent- or child-led weaning. You may be able to travel for work and resume nursing just fine…or you may notice a natural dip in supply that doesn’t return, or that he’s less interested or equally happy with a 5:30 am bottle or cup of milk instead of the boobs. In that case, weaning may more or less just happen on its own, with just the slightest push from you.

(My boys eventually altered their waking time on their own, by the way, post-nursing, to eliminate First Breakfast. They slept a tad later and we eventually learned to sadly say goodbye to the chance of “just a little more sleep” and resigned ourselves to waking up and getting Real Breakfast going. BUT. It does not ever happen at 5:30 am anymore, thank God.)

I’m obviously interested to hear everybody else’s weaning experiences — particularly from those who maybe DID have to make the choice for their baby, instead of just letting it happen. (NO judgment, by the way, swear — travel, hospitalizations, nursing difficulties, there’s no right or wrong, just shades of real-world gray, like everything else.) And of course there’s the question of weaning toddlers and children who are old enough to know what’s happening and be involved in the discussions.

I’m sure there are books and steps and advice and how-tos, though from my experience, it seems like weaning can just…happen when it’s supposed to, and while I would have very much liked to have nursed Ezra for longer, I’m happy that the choice, ultimately, was left to him. Even if I did fight him on it for a good month or so! It still happened when it was supposed to. It’ll hopefully go that way for you, too, be it a future business trip causing juuuust enough of an interruption…or it be even sometime after that, when you both just feel ready for it.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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21 Responses to “Business Travel & Breastfeeding”

  1. Shannon Jan 14 at 12:52 pm Reply Reply

    I really wanted to wean when my daughter turned 1, so it was definitely parent-led. I was scared about it being tramautic for her, but it was much easier than any of my worries led me to think it would be. Having a business trip the week after her first birthday helped that tremendously. I spent the last month dropping 1 feeding/pumping session a week until my trip, when we were down to just morning and night nursings. She was in day care and doing fine with bottles of pumped milk, and I had left her for a few days before on work travel and she did just fine with bottles from her dad while I was gone then. I nursed her one last time the night before I left, cried a little after I did, packed the pump, only pumped to relieve discomfort while I was gone, and when I came back never offered again. She didn’t seem to miss it at all. We finished up the frozen breast milk stash and gradually switched those last 2 feedings to whole milk, and that was that! It was bittersweet but really drama-free.

  2. Elizabeth_K Jan 14 at 1:20 pm Reply Reply

    My first … I pumped until he was 11 months, and then at 13 months I was spending so much time (at our only two nursing sessions a day, before bed and in the a.m.) worrying about him biting me that I weaned him. He cried for two mornings, then … was fine.

    My second is 15 months old next week, and still nurses 3-5 times a day (including 2-3 each night) and I don’t know who loves it more — she or me — but we both love it. And I know I should be thinking about weaning, or GOOD LORD she should be thinking about sleeping more at night, but ….

    I just … am not ready yet. I love the time, holding her, seeing how BIG she is compared to a year ago. I don’t know. It makes me sad to think about it. When I (rarely and for short trips only) travel for work, I pump and dump.

  3. Laura Lou Jan 14 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    My son was about 15 months when we weaned for good. I went with the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” strategy since, like Erika, we were only nursing a few times a day anyway by that point. I started with the bedtime session because I work a couple of nights a week and he was already going to bed without nursing those nights. I simply changed the bedtime routine to be a cup of milk instead of nursing, and he was fine with it. Same thing for the mid-day session–cup of milk with snuggles, lunch, and he was good to go. The last to go was the morning one and one day I simply got up with him and we had a cup of milk downstairs, and that was it. He never asked to nurse during the weaning process, which I figured meant that he was ready to be done. If he had, I would have nursed him, and then tried the cup again the next day.

  4. Linden Jan 14 at 1:37 pm Reply Reply

    My son weaned himself when he was about nine months old.  It was sort of like what Amy described with Ezra – he just lost interest, which meant my supply decreased, and then he completely lost interest.

    I’m in the middle of weaning my daughter right now (she is almost nine months old).  I started the new year with a decision that if she wanted milk in the middle of the night, she could have a bottle (until then I had been nursing her at least once a night for every night of her life).  She was fine with that (and I was happy to finally be getting some uninterrupted nights of sleep!).  About two weeks later, I switched from pumping twice a day at work to once, so she now gets one bottle of breast milk a day while I’m at work and the rest formula.  When I’m home in the mornings and evenings, she still nurses whenever she is interested, which is less and less as the days go by.  In another week or so, I will stop pumping at work entirely, and just nurse her in the mornings and evenings.  As I said, I’m in the middle of doing this, so I can’t say how it will turn out, but that is my plan.  

    Good luck with your weaning process!

  5. Olivia Jan 14 at 2:17 pm Reply Reply

    I don’t have weaning advice because I haven’t been thru it. I just want to say to Elizabeth K, that you don’t need to be thinking about weaning if you and your daughter are happy.

    I’m still nursing my 21 month old and it’s definitely more than a couple times a day. More like 5 or more depending on if I’m working and how many times she wakes up at night. But, we are both happy with that so I haven’t even entertained the idea of weaning yet.

  6. Julie Jan 14 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    For us it was a combo of baby-led weaning, plus dropping supply due to my being pregnant again, plus the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” and occasionally offering a paci instead when I was just too sore to let him try to keep nursing when he wasn’t getting much. At that point (about 17 months) he had dropped to mostly fairly short comfort nursing sessions of his own volition.

    I think the “don’t offer/don’t refuse” approach is the best option if there is no rush to wean – since it sounds like you are both enjoying it, I wouldn’t be in a rush to wean. But if you let him decide when he wants to nurse, you may find him occasionally forgetting to ask, which will likely lead to supply dropping a bit for that feeding, which will make him less interested in nursing at that time, and he may start skipping more and more days.

    If you need to hurry things along a bit more than that, but still want to keep it a gradual process, you can add in the “moving target” approach – encourage him to “forget” to ask by keeping him distracted at the time of your nursing sessions, offering other activities that you know he enjoys, don’t sit in the favorite nursing spot, etc. You can also try letting him nurse for a limited amount of time at each session, and shortening that over time. Towards the end of our weaning process having my little one attempting to nurse when there wasn’t much supply left was becoming uncomfortable, so I would let him nurse for a few minutes, then offer him a paci and cuddle instead, and that seemed to make him just as happy. And eventually we could go straight to the paci and cuddle and skip the nursing. Then he lost interest in the paci of his own volition.
    LIke you, I loved the morning nursing session – that was the last one to go for us. Mainly because of the combo of enjoying morning snuggle time and enjoying the extra 20 minutes to doze in the morning. The way we ended up “officially” weaning was that my parents visted, so that weekend they got up with him when he woke in the morning, and he was so excited to see them that he didn’t want anything to do with me in the monring. When they went home, I offerred, he refused and seemed to get frustrated by my offering, so I figured we were officially done. He tried to nurse again a week or so later, but by that point the supply was gone, and he realized it very quickly.

    On the other hand, he was still willing to come cuddle with me in bed in the morning, or to play quietly with a toy, so I often would still get the little extra sleep time. I found that giving him a good, solid bedtime snack helped with that – if he had a glass of milk and a snack before bed, he was less likely to wake up early, starving. THough these days he will often skip the bedtime snack and still sleep to a reasonable hour (he’s 22 months now), so part of the increased sleep time is probably just developmental as well..

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

  7. Robin Jan 14 at 2:36 pm Reply Reply

    When I weaned my 13.5 month old, I was so reluctant to drop the early morning feeding. We were only nursing twice a day, and I was pregnant and wanted to stop, but the extra sleep, the getting up at 5… As it turned out, he woke up at 6 the morning after our first full day without nursing, and has ever since. So really, he was waking up that early just to nurse. Of course, I’d rather not get up at 6, but it seems like a reasonable time for a toddler.

  8. HereWeGoAJen Jan 14 at 2:38 pm Reply Reply

    I just weaned my daughter at 25 months because I decided I was ready to be finished. I also thought it was time for her to be a little less dependent on me (mostly for sleep). I went slowly and dropped one feeding at a time (the 6:00am first breakfast was the last one I dropped because I like my sleep, but after the first day of being quite mad at me, she started sleeping through it and waking up at her normal time.) Eventually, she was only nursing before bed and before her nap. Then I quit those cold turkey. BUT, since we moved to our new house when she was 18 months old, I would only nurse her in her room and in her rocking chair. She learned that if we weren’t in her chair, she didn’t get milk. (This was my way of getting her to quit nursing ALL the time.) So when I was ready to wean her, I took the chair out of her room (and hid it elsewhere). She asked me where it went, I told her it went bye-bye. Then she asked me for milk and I told her the milk went bye-bye with the chair. She asked for it once or twice again, but she pretty much accepted it. (She did spend a day or two nursing all her baby dolls though.) I think removing the physical cue for nursing really made the transition easier on her.

  9. Melissa D. Jan 14 at 2:58 pm Reply Reply

    I weaned both my daughters at 12 months for two reasons: 1.) They never took a bottle, cup, etc, EVER and not for lack of trying. My poor husband who just wanted a non-crying baby while I was teaching dance classes. And 2.) I was ready to be free without having a child who was screaming.

    Strangley, even with our issues, it was very, very easy. I picked the one nursing session a day that the child was least interested in — and it was different for both kids. And just… didn’t offer. I gave them a cup of whole milk instead. And, they never asked either. I was shocked! I gradually cut out another feeding a week (or so, sometimes longer) and honestly, I think my first daughter fussed once or twice, but was fine with a cup and snack and distraction.

  10. Jill Jan 14 at 3:06 pm Reply Reply

    This is pretty much how I ended up weaning.  I figured I would nurse for a year and then wean, but a year came and went and I couldn’t really figure out how to wean.  By 14+ months we were down to one feeding directly after naptime.  At 15 months we went on a trip with family and at the end of the trip I went away for a long weekend to a wedding and left my baby with my husband.  When I came back I just didn’t offer it, until about a week later when I was definitely missing the nursing and my son saw his boppy and started crying and signing for milk.  He nursed, but I don’t think he got much at that point, and that was the last time I nursed him.  I put the boppy where he couldn’t see it and just started offering him a cup of milk right after his nap.
    If you want to wean, traveling is a good time to do it.  If not, you will most likely still have some supply even if you don’t pump during your trip.  I would still leak occasionally for a few months after I stopped nursing, although I’m sure everyone is different.  Good luck!

  11. Jen Jan 14 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    My first nursed until he was 11 months.  i would leave work to nurse him at lunch and then he would nurse in the evenings and mornings.  Unfortunately, my work load didn’t allow me to leave so that ended that feeding.  Eventually, my work load carried over into the evenings so that was just a gradual transition as well.  My boy has always been extremely particular about his boobs/bottles.  He would only drink from a certain type of bottle and an absolutely certain temperature.  Only one.  And absolutely wouldn’t take it if I was there.  (for those reasons, we never used a sippie cup with him for fear of him being 7 and still trying to use it!)

    my daughter on the other hand was completely opposite.  She didn’t care if she was nursing, or having a bottle or if it was so cold it was partially frozen!  She stopped nursing at 5 months.  She just didn’t care – the bottle milk came out faster I think, and she was able to look around while eating!

  12. annemarie Jan 14 at 4:08 pm Reply Reply

    I weaned my daughter at 15 months really easily – she was down to one or two feedings a day, and after we came home from a trip (another notch for the “no mama, no boob” method) I just adjusted our routine so that we weren’t snuggling in bed first thing, and she didn’t even miss it. Good luck!

  13. Jenn Jan 14 at 4:22 pm Reply Reply

    Cut out the easiest one first- either the before bed (since it sounds like he sometimes goes without it) or the after pick-up one because it’s easy to offer a snack + snuggles + distraction in place of nursing. Substitute nursing with a cup of water or milk, (and maybe a snack).
    With both my girls, the first thing in the AM was the hardest one to drop. When we did finally drop the morning one, I used daylight savings time to my advantage- we were “springing” ahead so our usual nursing time was skipped. I just didn’t offer and we went about our day as usual. Since they were already kind of adjusting to a new schedule, honestly, they didn’t even really seem to notice that it was gone! It helped I think that breakfast and lunch were a little bit “earlier” due to the time change. Good luck!

  14. Susan Jan 14 at 4:25 pm Reply Reply

    There’s great advice here from the other commenters, so I won’t include all of my own story. I just want to add one thing from my experience. Hormones! I weaned during the week while working as usual, and I was a wreck. I was teary and emotional and irrationally angry. I told myself that “next time I’ll do it on a weekend when nothing important is happening.” It was only a few days, but I was a hormonal mess! Maybe it’s different for others, but I wouldn’t want to be on a business trip while weaning — unless I was pumping, too, of course.

  15. heather Jan 14 at 11:19 pm Reply Reply

    My weaning story is similar to the other commenters. My daughter and I slowly started nursing less and less after she hit a year old. I started substituting a bottle for my least favorite nursings (mid-day when she would rather play than sit still), and by the time she was 16 months old we were down to 1 session a day at bedtime. I also was facing a little longer business trip where I really didn’t want to pump (I HATED pumping while traveling – but that’s another post), but I just couldn’t bear the thought of weaning and saying good-bye at the same time. Leaving for overnight business travel is always emotional, so I didn’t want to combine it with weaning. A few weeks before my trip I started having her father give her a bottle at bed time. I still nursed her a couple of times during those weeks, but by then she preferred the bottle so that she didn’t have to wait for my milk to let down.

  16. Christy Jan 15 at 9:19 pm Reply Reply

    My weaning experience was pretty straightforward.  I nursed/pumped after returning to work at 11 weeks and around 11 months, started to feel like my supply was going.  I started by gradually cutting out a pumping session during the day and doctor said we could start whole milk.  As we gradually increased the whole milk to breast milk ratio, I cut out more feedings.  By 13 months, we were down to one session at night, and he lost interest in that soon after.  I was relieved that it wasn’t a painful process for him or me.

  17. ksmaybe Jan 15 at 10:05 pm Reply Reply

    With my first, I nursed him until #2 was a few months old. I did travel away from him for a few nights several months before weaning. He was nearly 2 and only nursing at night and naptimes if I was home. He did fine if I was out-babysitters and workdays. It was fine. He did great while I was gone and picked up where he left off when I returned. I had instituted limits while I was pregnant, so I could count to 10 and he had to stop. Weaning him for good just grew out of that…count of 5, then I just started hustling past that part of the routine and for a couple weeks only nursed if he insisted (for the 5 count) and then we were done. I didn’t even know when our last time was, just eventually, weeks had passed and that was that.
    I’d like to wean #2 soon, but unfortunately, winter illness and teething have delayed me. I think I’ll do the same though, start with limiting the time, and then skipping it when possible. Hopefully she’ll cooperate just like her brother.

  18. Chaya Jan 16 at 7:52 am Reply Reply

    I also tried to go with “don’t offer, don’t refuse” both times I weaned. My first kid was 18 months when I weaned him, and I was finishing my first trimester of pregnancy #2 and was done. It didn’t take very long to cut out most of the nursings- the trick was to keep him busy. So instead of heading home after picking him up from daycare, we’d go to the playground for a long time, or do something else to keep him distracted. The last nursing to go was the 5:30 a.m. one, and he eventually just started sleeping through it. He would sleep through it one day, then wake to nurse the next few mornings, until eventually he skipped it 3 days in a row and never asked again.

    With my 2nd it was much more of a struggle- she was 15 months and had a harder time weaning. I was working on it very slowly, and then I had a bike accident and slept for several days, and we were done.

  19. Claire Jan 17 at 2:47 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter weaned around 15 months with the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” strategy.  She was down to the morning nursing.  I hadn’t planned to go much past a year, but she was doing what yours is doing – getting up at 5:30 to nurse and then going back to sleep.  I decided I’d rather keep nursing than get up that early.

    At my mother’s suggestion (I have no idea why I didn’t think of it), we started giving her a night snack a little after she turned a year.  With her early bedtime, this was only an hour or so after dinner, but I’d give her some cheese or avocado or toast (nothing sugary) before we brushed teeth and got ready for bed. That little extra bit of food was enough to take care of the 5:30 wake-up.  Once she dropped the early nursing, it wasn’t long before she just forgot to ask to nurse one morning when she woke up at a normal hour, and she just never asked again (which was a little sad, I must admit!).  Good luck!    

  20. jane Jan 19 at 12:53 pm Reply Reply

    I went to a lactation consultant about exactly the same situation – 15 months, and i needed to stop because was about to do IVF to try for number two. I’d always breatfed Molly when i came home from work. the consultant suggested that i met my nanny somewhere else (it was summer so a small local park was fine). it worked like a dream.

  21. Zoe Dec 11 at 9:16 am Reply Reply

    My son is on the cusp of 7 months and i hoped to keep feeding him breastmilk (exclusively pumping) through 1 year old however; i returned to work just 10 weeks after delivery and it has been a challenge keeping up with pumping.  As a business professional, I am constantly torn about giving my 100% to my son and giving 100% to my work because my work requires travel and countless meetings.  It’s so inconvenient to schedule 3 pumping sessions in between my work day but I’ve managed to do it up until last month.   In order to maintain my job skills, I had to attend required certification training for 6 days/nights at our corporate headquarters in another state.   I knew there was no way I could transport all that milk home and I was not willing to pump and dump since my milk supply has always been on the lower side (24 oz – 27 oz produced per day)  I packed up my entire family and took them on my last business trip so I could keep up with feeding.  I thought I could maintain the amount of milk produced, however; there were longer stretches of time when I couldn’t pump because of the exam I was taking.   So I ended up going longer than 6 hours during the day and not pumping.  It hurt pretty bad but as a result when we all got home from my business trip, my supply dropped to 18 – 20 oz per day.  After 3 weeks of trying to increase it again, I am failing.  To make matters worse, I have to go for another 6 day convention and I can’t skip it.  So I’m packing up the family again, as we speak, as I try to hang on to the 18-20 oz per day that I can still pump.   I now go through the entire night 7 hours without pumping and only get in 5 sessions in every 24 hour period.  I know I won’t make it to 1 year, so I’ve set a goal to make it through until his 9th month then stop pumping.  I have about 2.5 months of frozen milk that will have to carry us through by then.

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