In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (the first week of August), we’re bringing you a week of posts all about – you guessed it – breastfeeding!  From the basics of nursing to identifying common issues and where to get support when needed, this week we’ve got you covered.

Twelve months, two weeks and three days – the length of time I exclusively breastfed our firstborn. 382 days after the birth of our (big) baby boy, he was officially weaned. I had always, always loved nursing him, and was fortunate to have an incredibly easy time with him. But, there came a time I had to wean. My husband had received a huge award at work, with the grand prize being an adults-only trip out of the country, which meant the in-laws were on babysitting duty – and thanks to my entire year of little to no pumping (due to my own laziness), I had zero ounces of milk to leave behind. It helped that our son was rapidly losing interest in nursing – as usually happens as kids get older – and at 23 pounds I knew he wasn’t going to starve without me.

Even though our last feeding was over a year and a half ago now, I still remember that night the first time I put him to bed without our regular nursing ritual. It was weird. It felt surreal. And it didn’t really sink in until the NEXT night that our nursing relationship was well and truly over.

And that’s when I had a nice ugly cry.

Thankfully, he really seemed to have no idea what had happened. Much like I imagine what the first day of kindergarten will be like – me, crying hysterically, him, totally unfazed – weaning was way harder on me than him. Which I guess is really the ideal way to do it. I plan on replicating the same “weaning process” with our second after his first birthday in a few more months, and hope to have the same success (me: crying in the hall, him: blissfully unaware).

Tips for Weaning:

– Go slow.  When it’s possible (I know some mamas have to wean abruptly and suddenly for various reasons), take your time weaning. Take a few weeks to gradually reduce your number of nursing sessions – it helps reduce the likelihood of engorgement, and it’s easier on you and your baby. Instead of dropping a feeding suddenly, reduce to nursing on just one side, then after a few days, eliminate it. Drop the feedings your baby is the least interested in first; for us that was the middle of the night feeding followed by “lunch,” then “first thing in the morning,” with “right before bed” as the last to go.

Weaning is a process: typically it begins before you even realize it, with the introduction of solid foods. Don’t hurry it along – it’ll be over soon enough!

– Provide adequate amounts of food and water. Replace nursing sessions with solid meals and snacks. Instead of nursing before and then offering solid meals, I would feed my son solids and then nurse; the solids filled him up more which meant he gradually ate less at each nursing. Breastmilk is also how babies quench their thirst – be sure to offer water as a replacement regularly, or whole milk if they’re over a year old.

– Switch up your routine.  The hardest feeding for me to drop was the one just before bedtime. For over a year our nightly ritual was bath – nurse – bed. On our first night with no nursing we switched things up: we read books, snuggled, and then went to bed. If possible, bring Dad into the mix to help – the novelty of the situation will distract your baby from the fact he’s not nursing.

– Don’t force it.  If your baby is clearly resisting weaning, don’t force it. Babies find comfort in nursing. To have that comfort suddenly removed can result in some pretty emotional reactions! If you can, stop weaning for a bit. Maintain the level of nursing you’re at until your baby settles back down. Find new comfort items to help ease the transition, be it a blanket or a lovey or even (gasp!) a dreaded pacifier. Weaning isn’t a race and rushing your baby to the finish line results in everyone losing.

Most importantly: Keep it simple.  Breathe. Relax. Weaning isn’t a straight line; sometimes you have to backtrack a little to keep everyone happy. It happens! Just accept it and move forward when and where you can. In the meantime enjoy this special bond that only YOU get to have with your baby. It goes by too quickly!