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Major Weaning Drama

Major Martino wears a grey flannel button down shirt and tartan bow tie, and sits on the kitchen floor in his Connecticut home

Let me just start this post by saying that having a kid named Major really opens up your world to a lot of great blog post title opportunities.  LOL. But in all seriousness, the drama has been at high levels the past ten days in my house and it has gotten REAL.  Why? My fifteen month old baby decided that he was ready to completely wean himself off of formula, milk of any kind, and bottles in general.  Out of the blue.  And as my last baby I will ever have, this “baby led weaning” has thrown our routine in to a tailspin, turned up my anxiety on full blast, and had me mourning the completion of a major baby milestone without any fair warning. I’m kind of devastated.  When I shared the ordeal in real time on social media, I had so many Moms reach out to me and tell me about their own stressful experiences with weaning their child (off of breastmilk, or formula, or bottles) that I realized it might be a great thing to talk about it depth here on the blog! Today I thought I would share an account of what Major has been going through with this milk and bottle rejection, what we’ve been doing to support him in this decision, and my overall feelings about it (give me all the tissues.)

Major Martino wears a grey flannel button down shirt and tartan bow tie, and sits on the kitchen floor in his Connecticut home

So, this saga all begins with the dreaded step of weaning my formula fed baby off of formula and on to milk after his first birthday.  I wrote a detailed post about my breastfeeding journey with Major, but I ultimately ended up switching him to formula at three months old– and loved the formula we used.  You can read all about that in the breastfeeding post! Because we had to order lots of boxes at a time, I ended up stockpiling it– and after Major turned one we still had about eight boxes left.  Since my pediatrician encouraged us to switch Major to milk at a year, I figured I would just do it once the formula ran out.  I had done it this exact same way with Marlowe– and when she had the last bottle of formula, I filled up her bottle with goat milk, heated it up, and she guzzled it just like she always had.  Easy peasy.  I just figured Major would be the same, and it literally did not even OCCUR to me that anything besides this easy transition could ever happen.  What a mistake.

When his formula was almost out (there were six scoops left), I thankfully had the common sense to “try out” a bottle of goat milk to see how he liked it.  He took one sip, started hysterically crying, and hit it out of my hands.  He was so offended I had tried to give him anything other than formula that he had a full on, tantrum-style meltdown that lasted thirty minutes, and is to this day the most upset I’ve ever seen him.  (Even more than when he was dropped on his head and his skull cracked.  To give you some context. ) I was absolutely shocked, and to be honest, really scared.  I was just so thrown off.  Was he really rejecting goat milk? Why?! He had goat yogurt all the time! I just didn’t get it at all.  I thought maybe I should try again.  So after his nap I tried again– with the same results.  That night I tried with cow milk.  This time he spit it out in my face AND threw the bottle at me.  HE WAS PISSED.  Now I was panicking.  I was so used to Major drinking 20 oz of formula a day, in addition to water from his sippy cup.  It made me nervous that he had gotten so many fewer ounces of liquid that day than he was used to.  As far as I knew, milk was also really important for his nutrition at this stage, what was I going to do if he kept refusing it?  Now, I’ll mention here for context that Major’s diet has been very balanced and robust for a while now.  He eats everything that we eat, in epic amounts (He took down a bowl of pasta the other night that was the same size as Kyle’s bowl of pasta.  This is not an exaggeration. ) He eats a ton of protein, fruits, veggies, grains, and lots of yogurt and cheese.  He definitely isn’t lacking nutritionally when it comes to the food.  But for some reason I was so hung up on the liquids of it all.

Major Martino sits on the hardwood kitchen floor in his Connecticut home and holds toddler feeding spoons

The next morning, I thought I would use my Hail Mary.  I made a bottle of formula as he was used to (using the last of the powder!)– but I added a dash of milk to it.  I figured I could start slowly introducing a bit more milk every few days until the bottle was at least mostly milk.  I heated it the same way I always did.  I went to give it to him– he took one tiny taste, screamed, threw the bottle, pushed away from my body, and lay in the corner of the room with his cheek to the floor, sobbing.  My heart just broke right there.  He was NOT going to drink milk in his bottle. Not even a few drops.  So I went to the kitchen, poured what had been in to the bottle in to a sippy cup, and put it on the counter.  I went over, calmed Major down, put on Sesame Street, and distracted him for about half an hour.  Then I tried again with the formula (with tiny bit of milk) in the sippy cup.  He took one sip and spit it out all over the place.  Then I tried cold milk in the sippy cup.  He refused.  Then I tried mixing cold milk with strawberry kefir.  Then I tried strawberry kefir in bottle.  I even tried mixing it with some organic chocolate milk. By bedtime I was exhausted, depleted, and anxious beyond belief.  I tried another bottle at bedtime and he wouldn’t do it.  He just lay in my arms and sobbed like his heart was broken.  It was the worst I’ve felt as a Mom in long time.  All I wanted was to make him feel comforted, and full, and warm, and it was absolutely killing me that he wasn’t drinking his bottle and that he was so upset.  I had overnighted Toddler formula (by HIPP organic also) and I was holding out hope that once it arrived, he would be fine again.  I would just mix up a bottle of pure formula like he was used to, and all would be OK. I had ordered it on Saturday, and Monday was a holiday, and by the time it came on Tuesday afternoon, Major had been off of bottles for five days.  He had been drinking only water during the day (from a sippy cup), and we had gotten to the point at night where he was a bit restless without the bottle, but no longer upset or sad.  He was staying awake for about twenty minutes (which is abnormal for him) but after tossing and turning a little he was putting himself to sleep without crying.  Aside from the fact that he was drinking no milk at all, things were starting to even out a bit.

Major Martino wears a grey flannel button down shirt and tartan bow tie, and sits on the kitchen floor in his Connecticut home

When he woke up from his nap, I was giddy to give him his “classic” formula bottle.  I mixed it up perfectly.  The new toddler formula looked, smelled, and tasted (yes I tasted it) just exactly like the old one! Problem solved! He was so happy when I got him from his crib.  I brought him down, snuggled up on the couch, and offered him the bottle.  First he held the bottle in his hands and looked at the formula inside.  He slowly put the nipple to his mouth and took a very brief taste.  He took the nipple out of his mouth, looked at me, and handed me the bottle. He shook his head “No”. He climbed down from the couch, and walked over to his toys to start playing.  He was done.  He just didn’t want it anymore.  I put the bottle on the coffee table,  walked around the corner in to the dining room, and sobbed.  I realized I had been putting so much hope on this working that I hadn’t even thought about how I would feel if it didn’t– if he was just over it all.  And I realized that I didn’t feel ready.  I still WANTED to give him a bottle at night, I still wanted to snuggle up on the couch with him in the mornings listening to those little gulps, and I still wanted to smell his milky breath.  I didn’t want that bottle phase to be over before I was ready for it to be over.  But he was.  He also was NOT feeling the milk thing, and no amount of tricking or mixing or cajoling was going to do it.  I just felt so, so sad.  That night I tried again with the formula in a bottle and even tried a backup of the formula (cold and hot) in two different sippy cups.  Nothing worked.  I cried in to my wine once he finally went to bed.

The next morning I called his pediatrician to explain the situation.  I still didn’t know if it was “OK” for Major to be done with milk.  Did I have to give him some kind of vitamin now? Was he getting everything he needed without drinking milk daily? I had so many questions.  The pediatrician asked me some questions about his diet and water intake, but seemed very unconcerned.  He told me to make sure he was eating other dairy products, and to watch his fluid intake.  Otherwise, he said Major didn’t need to be drinking milk at all.  I was relieved to hear this, but still sad.  Knowing Major is our last child, milestones with him have always been really bittersweet.  There was something that felt so heartbreaking about this huge milestone happening without me even having the time to prepare myself.  He’s walking now, interacting with us so much more, speaking lots of different words and coming in to his personality faster and faster.  It’s clear that the baby phase is over– and as I tossed all the baby bottles in to the recycling bin for the last time, that fact stung.  I still feel the same about our family plan– two kids is right for us– but now is the first time that I’m realizing and feeling the true sadness that comes from leaving a phase behind and looking towards the next.

Yesterday, Major actually sucked down an organic smoothie pouch (banana strawberry flavor) and that was an awesome positive– but he still won’t drink milk.  He’s been drinking a ton of water, and eating as much as he ever has, and seems as happy as ever.  I know that this transition is going to be a bigger one for me to process than it is for him.  But last night, I put him to bed and something so special happened.  I turned on his sound machine, shut off the lights, closed the door, and sat with him in his rocker.  He had his lovey, I sang to him and rocked him, he snuggled his head on my shoulder, and the mood felt calm and intentional– not like the absence of what our routine was before.  Suddenly, he lifted his head up and faced me.  He took his two hands and put them on my cheeks.  He looked at my right in the eyes, leaned in so tenderly, and gave me the sweetest little kiss.  Then he lay back down on my shoulder.  My eyes filled with tears as I realized that something like that could never have happened if he was holding his bottle– there are and will be moments of such pure beauty in this next phase of our relationship that I can’t even anticipate.  So I’m finally leaning in to this change, accepting that my son is who he is and wants what he wants, and trusting him to keep communicating to me what he needs going forward.  I’m so overwhelmed by how well this little guy knows himself already!

Did you feel very stressed or emotional when your child showed signs of weaning or not accepting milk? I’d love to hear what helped you process and accept the change!

Major Martino wears a grey button down flannel shirt and a tartan bow tie and walks around the kitchen in his Connecticut home

 

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Photographs by Carter Fish

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33 Comments

  1. Brianne says:

    Lexi is my first, so I didn’t know what to expect when it came to the transition from formula to milk. She had a milk allergy from birth so she wasn’t going to be switching to cows milk. For a while we were able to have her on a prescription toddler formula, right after her first birthday. After a few months, the insurance company stopped approving it, and it was super expensive. So our dr suggested almond milk. She loved it for about a month. And then little by little, she started saying no to a bottle. She didn’t want anything in a bottle. I tried the milk in a sippy cup, or a cup with a straw. She took a sip and then just said no again. So she weaned herself off of bottles and milk at 18 months! I was anxious about weaning from a bottle, but she did it herself. She also is a great eater and drinks plenty of water. But it still seems so strange to me that she doesn’t want milk anymore. Plus I miss cuddling her while she drank her bottle 😢 I feel your pain!

    01.22.18Reply
    • The bottle cuddling is really the worst part. 🙁

      Also isn’t it so frustrating when people are like “have you tried THIS?” and you’re like YES I’m like a NASA employee solving space travel I have tried EVERY DANG THING. LOL.

      ugh. Well, here’s to motherhood!

      01.24.18Reply
  2. Taylor says:

    Is it dusty in here???? Or is that just your last paragraph getting me all misty? My first babe is 7 months old and I can’t imagine giving up his bottle snuggles, but thank you for reminding me to look forward to and embrace each new stage. This post was so sweet and honest – thank you!

    01.22.18Reply
  3. Anne says:

    I nursed both of my girls (who are now almost 6 years old and 18 months) until they were 15 months old. We were very lucky that the transition from nursing/bottle to milk in a sippy cup was pretty easy for both of them. However, that transition from nursing to a sippy cup at bedtime was bittersweet, especially with our youngest because, like Major, she is our last baby! She is now full-on toddler, too and it does make me sad BUT I’ve gotten used to our new bedtime routine. And, also like Major, she gives me goodnight kisses every night before I rock her and it is the sweetest thing ever. I’m going to enjoy these toddler cuddles and rocking her before bed as long as I can because soon she’ll be a big girl, just like her older sister!

    I hope this transition gets easier for you. It’s always so much harder on us as parents than it is on our kiddos. I’m sure that in a few months he’ll be drinking milk like a champ! 🙂

    01.22.18Reply
    • Aww! Isn’t it so sweet the changes that each new phase brings and watching them actively express their affection? It just melts my heart

      01.24.18Reply
  4. Lisa says:

    A beautiful story of the pure love between a mother and her son. The connection you made, with your face in Major’s hands, brought tears to my eyes. 💜

    01.22.18Reply
  5. Fay says:

    My 18 month old daughter was sucking on the bottle and her pacifier with a voracity unlike her older brother. So, my pediatrician (worried about the fate of her teeth growing in), recommended we start trying a sippy cup. Well, my daughter tried it, threw it on the floor & never ever drank milk of any kind ever….. ever again. She is 13 now & I make sure she eats cheese & ice cream to replace any nutrients she’s missing out on. I’m still not over it – lol -devastating!! And btw she needed braces anyway!

    01.22.18Reply
  6. Ali says:

    My second never really drank milk. I nursed him until he was about 13 months old, and he also took a bottle or two of formula a day. He weaned himself off of breastfeeding mostly (so bittersweet, also my last baby) and we tried to transition to milk and he wasn’t having it. No amount of mixing worked. He ate tons of dairy so it wasn’t really an issue!

    01.22.18Reply
    • Yes, I’m starting to see how the food nutrition part of it is really the biggest piece. And we are ALL GOOD there, trust me! LOL. This kid will be sending me to Costco twice a week by fourth grade.

      01.24.18Reply
  7. Julia Perrotta says:

    My Olive was exclusively breastfed until 6 months. You know how they’re supposed to double their birth weight by then? She weighed in 3 pounds less than that goal at her 6 month well visit. And breastfeeding had become far less pleasant, because she would get restless and want to wiggle into positions that made it impossible for me to get nipple to mouth. One morning– and mornings are usually the most thorough feeding because, after a full night, her tummy is empty and my breasts are full– she was just having none of it. I finally went and got one of the formula samples I’d received when I was pregnant and had had the presence of mind not to throw out, and fixed her first ever bottle of formula. She sucked it down like it was her job. I was glad to fill her belly, but I was devastated. Just devastated. The next afternoon found me staring at the overwhelming choice of formulas in the store and trying not to cry.

    By then she was already started on solids anyway. We skipped purees and just give her real whole foods, soft enough to mash in her mouth and large enough to hold in her fist. It’s going great. She loves tasting new foods and likes EVERYTHING. At 7 months, she can bite off a chunk from a slice of ripe pear, separate the skin from the flesh in her mouth, swallow the flesh, and spit out the skin. She can drink water from both sippy and straw cups. She hits milestone after milestone on time or early and is the picture of health. Her doctor assured us not to worry. Olive is amazing. And yet…

    …it still stings. She still takes the breast a little every day, and her doctor said that quality matters, not quantity, and I’m grateful for her formula and how she takes to it just fine. But I had no idea, after saying so often how I looked forward to my body fully becoming my own again, how much my heart would ache when Olive decided for herself that she no longer needed my milk.

    TL;DR: It’s hard to be a mother. But Olive’s well being trumps my own pride.

    01.22.18Reply
    • Transitions with babies are so emotional, no matter if they’re your first, last, whatever!

      Hang in there mama!

      01.24.18Reply
  8. Courtney says:

    Don’t stress too much! We were so excited to get our twins off formula and milk. More so the fact that my husband and I are strongly against dairy. We still give the kids yogurt here and there but try to stay away from the dairy all together.

    01.22.18Reply
    • Alli says:

      Courtney, have you found any good non-dairy alternatives to milk that provide similar nutrients and fat?

      01.22.18Reply
    • We don’t really eat cow dairy either, mainly goat. Because of my own allergy I try to avoid it with the kids too (though thankfully neither of them got my allergy!)

      01.24.18Reply
  9. Martina says:

    Love reading about your kids and want to share my story from the “child” point of view.
    I remember vividly the day that my parents stopped giving me my bottle in the morning. I was around three and I remember waking up in the mornig, still in my bed, yelling “LATTE” and them saying that there was a surprise for me.. a nice cup with the exact same milk I had every morning… I tasted it and hated it.. I still remeber the smell and to this day warm sugary mik still smell awful! I stopped drinking milk at all until my coffee years (14-15).
    Now, don’t worry about this experience with Major. He won’t blame you but will surely appreciate the time and effords you took to make this transition easier for him.

    (Also, unrelated to that. If I may and forgive me saying it, please consider asking someone with exprience the wet hair routine with your girl. From what we see in the videos she goes to bed with her air wet.. my mothers suffers from cervical pains because of this habit. Check it out and let us know. maybe it’s not a real thing but it worries me seeing her with her wet hair.)

    01.22.18Reply
  10. Marisa says:

    Hi Eva! When my third daughter turned 1, I weaned her from the bottle and tried putting cow’s milk in a sippy cup for her which she outright refused to drink from! I tried several different brands and types of cups to get her to drink her milk but she proved more stubborn than her two older sisters and just wouldn’t. She wanted nothing to do with milk and still won’t drink it if it’s not in her cereal. I was worried too about her not getting enough vitamins without it, but she’s totally fine and thriving! Hang in there, Momma! You’re doing a great job!

    01.22.18Reply
  11. Nichole says:

    My youngest was so similar. He’s now a very healthy 2 year old and to this day, very rarely will drink milk. His older sister on the other hand, at 4 years old, still likes to have milk first thing in the morning. He 1st stop taking his night bottle at a year and quickly progressed to no bottles at all. Then within a month, no milk at all, after buying expensive toddler formula :/ He is also my last babe. Whenever you talk about milestones with Major, I am reminded how bittersweet they are when they are your last baby’s milestones. Hang in there Mama! You’re doing an amazing job!

    01.22.18Reply
  12. Michelle says:

    I always enjoy reading your blogs and this one really hit home for me. My second has been completely different from me first, as well. My first took breastmilk or formula. She didn’t care where it was coming from or if it was hot or cold. Transitioning her from different forms of milk was never an issue. With my second, who just turned 1, she never would take a bottle. She barely drinks water out of a sippy cup and I’m trying to wean her off of breastmilk. I’ve given her cows milk to try and she just spits it out. I’m at the point where I want to stop nursing and I feel guilty that I want to wean. I’m still trying to figure it all out. I’m hoping that slowly taking away a feeding she will begin to drink more and more from her sippy cups. We shall see…

    01.22.18Reply
    • Isnt it amazing how completely different two siblings can be? I mean of course it makes perfect sense but in practice sometimes it’s so surprising!

      01.24.18Reply
  13. Alli says:

    I needed this post, not because I’m experiencing this with my son, but because I’m sooo stressed about weaning him. My goal was to make it a year breast feeding and I’m quickly approaching that time frame (in exactly one month to be exact) and he hasn’t really taken to food like I hoped he would have at this point. He has also never had formula and my husband wishes to raise him as a vegan, which I have agreed to so I’m makorlu stressing about proper nutrients, especially in the “milk” dept. I have a few food, high in fat, he will eat (black olives and avacado) but if anyone in this community has any information and suggestions, I would so greatly appreciate them!

    01.22.18Reply
  14. Megan says:

    Eva,

    My heart broke the first time my daughter rejected my breast. We were evacuated (during the Oroville Dam Crisis); we were in a strange place, I was sleeping on an air mattress, she was in her pack-n-play. I was an absolute wreck, and all I wanted was to hold her, and nurture her; it comforted me just as much as it did Avery.

    She grabbed my nipple and started examining it like it like a specimen. She was 8 months old and suddenly she didn’t feel as though she needed me for nourishment anymore. I had always supplemented with formula, but I truly cherished our nursing sessions, especially because I did so much pumping.

    Once she stopped nursing, I was happy to quit pumping. I loathe pumping, and she loves formula.

    I feel I’ve been very lucky with Avery; she is a wonderfully sensitive, sweet, funny girl. She is generally easy-going and has made all of her milestone transitions with relative ease: I’M the one who can’t cope with them!

    By 16 months she was off of formula bottles and onto sippy cups. We tried cow milk, which she tolerates, but is just as happy to have water. Unsweetened coconut milk too.

    Avery has her sippy cup of “milk” and watches “Moving Art” on Netflix before bed. She lets us know she’s ready for bed by grabbing a binky from the binky bowl, and dragging her Linus blanket behind her on the way to her room. We say goodnight to the dogs and Daddy, and I lay her down.

    Lately, there’s been a LOT of push back with bedtime. But I’ll just end on a note of victory with bottle transition.

    My pediatrician put it this way: humans are the only mammals who drink milk after weaning. They do not need milk. The nutrition can be easily taken care of through food diet.

    By my account, you’re doing everything right. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Megan

    01.22.18Reply
    • Oh my gosh, what an ordeal you went through! I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that, and with such emotional drama on top of that. I’m glad you found your new normal (also, isn’t pumping THE WORST)

      xoxo

      01.24.18Reply
  15. Christin says:

    Im feeling with you so much. I totally understand your feelings. When Ava was 10 month old she would not taste any kind of food. She just wanted my breast. Nothing else and I was so worried she didn’t get all the things and vitamins she needed. And my body was so exhausted. I wanted to give her Formular sometimes, to have a break for me. But she didn’t wanted it. She drank 16 hours nothing, really nothing!!!! She screamed and the bottleund wanted my breath. I gave up, crying that I forced her to it… Luckily a few weeks later I tried the bottle again and she just drank it. I stopped breastfeeding her that day because she wouldn’t accept bottle and breast. I’m sad until today about the suddenly stop. Ava began eating when she was 12 month, out meals. No babyglases. Just our food. I learned from that to trust in her; she is ready when she is ready

    01.22.18Reply
  16. Carolin says:

    Mia is my second and last child and i breastfeed her until 6 month and then she stops trinking in this way and weaning her off my breast in just one day. I was so affraid,because i breastfeed my son until he was 9 month old. but my doctor told my to feed formular and start with solids. It was a very emotional time for me, asking a lot of whys. But sometimes this is the way a child goes my midwife told me

    01.23.18Reply
  17. Elle says:

    I definitely needed this post. My 13 month old is still breastfeeding (more obsessed than ever) and I’m trying to get her on to take a sippy cup of milk so that we can work on weaning. She is not having any part of it. And now she is also rejecting pumped milk from the bottle. Since I work full time, she is not getting any milk while I’m gone during the day. We are trying to get her to drink more water but that is going slowly too. Since she is my first babe, I’m constantly questioning whether or not I’m doing it right. I suppose I will keep breastfeeding a bit longer and see where that takes us. But, it is reassuring to hear there are other kids out there who are doing okay without daily milk in their diet. Thank you for this!

    01.29.18Reply
  18. Briana Crist says:

    Ugh. My first (and maybe my last) baby is almost 9 months old and a couple weeks ago he started rejecting the breast completely. Like, he’s been personally victimized by my boobs. He SCREAMS whenever they get near him. He will now only take a bottle, and that made me really sad. What’s even more sad now is that he doesn’t want to be cuddled while taking a bottle anymore. He wants to sit up and drink it. I’m not ready!! It’s so bittersweet to see him grow and evolve. Part of me wants to keep him little forever, but part of me can’t wait for him to be a little more independent.

    01.30.18Reply
  19. Tiffany says:

    Perfect name for Major! He’s embodied both his mom and dad. He’ll drink milk again, give him time, especially if big sister is modeling it. Amazing, to know children come with their own personalities. It shows how we, as parents, must individualize our children and love their individualities. He’s doing just fine!

    02.09.18Reply
  20. Jacqueline says:

    I came across this at the exact moment today when I was trying to figure out what to do about my 15 mo. daughter who just woke up 2 days ago and is refusing her bottle. Exactly how you explained it happened with Major. It was completely out of the blue and I am in total denial! Thanks for your honesty and your post today–its putting things in perspective for me and reminding me to look for the sweet moments in the midst of transition. The milestones are so bittersweet. Thanks again 🙂

    02.19.18Reply