Weaning: Is it possible to wean quickly for a trip?

I am still nursing my 18-month-old son. Next week I have to fly to Montreal to be with my mother who will be undergoing a serious cancer operation. I can't take my son with me. He will not take a bottle, uses no soothers, and does not suck his thumb. He is very addicted to breastfeeding! He hates cow's milk and won't take breastmilk in a cup or a bottle. He does drink diluted fruit juice out of a cup. I am going to have to wean him this week though it just seems to be the worst time. Is this possible? Also, to add to my concerns he has the flu and is feverish.

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It sounds as if you're going through a very difficult time right now. Weaning at this time is far from ideal -- for either you or your son. It sounds as if neither of you are quite ready to give up nursing yet.

You might want to think of the time away as a nursing break, rather than a weaning. I can't say whether or not your little guy will want to return to your breast once you come home, but you can give it a go. You will need to express your milk regularly while you're away. Hand expression is easy and convenient (and it is not necessary to save your expressed milk unless you choose to.) The number of times you will need to express will depend on how often your son normally nurses each day.

If you do not express your milk, not only will your breasts become uncomfortably full, but your milk supply will begin to diminish. As your supply diminishes, the sodium content will increase. When you return home and your little guy decides to take a sip, he probably won't be too happy if your milk tastes salty.

In your letter you mention that it is impossible to bring your little one along with you. If you brought along someone to care for your son while you are spending time at the hospital with your mother, would it be possible? Or perhaps you could be referred to a sitter in the Toronto area who could help care for your son. I'm certain it would put your mind at ease if you could find a way to make this trip along with your son.

If you do decide it is time to wean now, it is very important that you take care of yourself while you're away. I know this will be challenging, but it is very important. You don't want to end up very ill with a breast infection, far away from home. Wear a supportive bra, such as a sports bra, and express milk as needed for comfort. You can tuck a cold cabbage leaf inside your bra to help reduce any engorgement you are experiencing. Change the cabbage leaves every two hours, or when wilted.

As far as your little guy, he will need lots of TLC while you're away. If your partner will be caring for him in your absence, remind him that your son will need lots of love (and patience) as he makes this adjustment. He may be angry that you are gone, and miss being in your arms, and at your breast. And he may protest by refusing some meals/drinks. It is best not to make mealtimes a fight, so ask your partner to try and allow your toddler to control his feeds. Make mealtimes fun -- a time to enjoy food as well as time with the family. Offer drinks regularly, and allow your little one to "graze" -- snacking on some of his favorite healthy foods throughout the day. (You might want to try Vanilla Rice Dream -- a drink from the health food store. Some children comment that it tastes just like mother's milk. Best wishes to you and your family!

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