These are some thoughts I had compiled in my files regarding weaning, and thought it might help other mothers.
Some Opening Thoughts Regarding Weaning
- “Ideally the breastfeeding relationship should continue until the baby outgrows the need.” -The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, page 233
- All children wean eventually!
- Once a child has his or her first bite of solid food, the child is weaning!
- “While many people see weaning as the end of something – a taking away or a deprivation- it’s really a positive thing, a beginning, a wider experience. It’s a broadening of a child’s horizons, an expansion of his universe. It’s moving ahead slowly one careful step at a time. It’s full of exciting but sometimes frightening new experiences. It’s another step in growing up.” The Womanly art of Breastfeeding, page 237
- “Every natural weaning is unique so it is impossible to guarantee anything about it except that it will happen.” – Norma Jean Bumgarner in Mothering Your Nursing Toddler.
Be Clear That Weaning is NOT Recommended Due To:
- The mother is feeling overwhelmed taking care of her baby. Please talk to your health care provider regarding the possibility of post-partum depression, anxiety, or other health care needs. Also please contact your local La Leche League Leader to assist you in suggestions or considerations regarding homemaking and care of a baby.
- The baby’s teeth begin to erupt; baby is biting at the breast.
- The mother is planning to return to work
- The mother is prescribed a drug or needs to undergo a diagnostic test – MOST drugs and diagnostic tests ARE compatible with breastfeeding. Check with your health care provider and your local La Leche League leader.
- Mother or baby is ill/hospitalized
- The mother is pregnant and the pregnancy is a normal, singleton pregnancy — if you are in a high-risk pregnancy situation and need to wean, please contact your nearest local La Leche League Leader to assist you.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics receommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months and as long after this point as is mutually desirable,
- The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least two years.
The Natural Age of Weaning, as based upon criteria used to estimate other mammals’ natural weaning age, such as weight gain, relationship to adult body size, relationship to gestational length, and age of eruption of permanent teeth, Dettwyler estimated an appropriate age for human weaning to be between three and seven years. -Katherine A Dettwyler, an anthropologist at Texas A & M University. Please see the post on this blog regarding Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding for further information and resources.
Some Thoughts to Consider About Weaning:
First, check to see how you honestly feel about nursing:
“If a mother feels uncertain or unhappy about encouraging weaning, she is also likely to feel sad when weaning is complete.” (I cannot find where I got this quote from, I suspect The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or Mothering Your Nursing Toddler).
On the other hand, encouraging your older child to wean does not mean your child will be affected negatively. And y while your relationship may change, you don’t need to feel you have lost touch with your child just because you have weaned.
Weaning often takes quite a bit of time, patience, energy, and ability to come up with distractions BEFORE nursing is asked for – are you in a place where you are up to the job??
Second, look for signs that your child is ready for delays in nursing:
- Your child is at least one year old if not older
- Your child is eating a variety of foods
- Your child is very secure in his relationship with you
- Your child has begun to accept other ways of being comforted
- Your child can be reasoned with about not nursing at certain times or in certain places
- Your child can fall asleep and/or go back to sleep without nursing
- Your child shows little anxiety when gently encouraged not to nurse
- Your child, when offered a choice, sometimes prefers to do something else besides nurse- like play with you or read a book!
- The most appropriate guideline to use past one year is do not offer, do not refuse. However, this is rather black and white sounding when you read it in a book. There may be times with an older child that you feel you must refuse or you will go insane. Or there may be times where it is the best thing to offer to nurse. If you nurse begrudgingly, the child may react fearfully and demand more and more nursing. Weaning, like everything else in parenting, takes a lot of time and attention. Be respectful of your own feelings regarding nursing, and your child’s feelings regarding nursing – you are in a partnership!
Weaning happens easily when your child’s need for emotional sustenance through breastfeeding has been fulfilled and he no longer relies solely on breastfeeding to feel calm and secure.
If You Decide You Want To Cut Back On Number of Nursings A Day –(Parent Led Actions)
Weaning is basically done by substituting other kinds of food and loving care at the times you would usually be nursing.
Take your time with weaning and go slowly.
Weaning takes time and care – nursing is not only for food, but also for comfort and closeness and love.
“You’ll need to double up on your cuddling, rocking, hugs, and kisses throughout the day to make up for this.” The WAB, page 238.
Offer lots of drinks of water to quench thirst
Offer lots of foods that are high in protein and nutritious in other ways to compensate for the nutrients no longer received in your milk.
Go out of your way to make the time you are not nursing is happy
Have your partner take over putting the child to sleep and when the child wakes up in the night if that is possible at all.
You may need to avoid the situations in which the child is accustomed to nursing
Other techniques moms have used:
Substitution/Distraction –food and drink, books, involvement in daily chores, being prepared with fun activities prior to them asking to nurse, total, focused attention from the mother, invite other children over to play, get out more vs. staying at home more if child is stressed being out, find new ways to touch your child,
Negotiating Limits/delaying nursing
When children ask to nurse when they are bored – distract before they ask
A weaning child needs a lot of love and support in other ways
Stay on your feet! Literally!
Change your routine
Restrict nursings to certain times or places
Offer a weaning party (this works best with a much older nursling, such as a four or five year old who is already not nursing very frequently).
Be On the Alert for Signs Weaning is not going well:
If child is feeling insecure, anxious, behavioral problems begin to show
Too many changes at once
A child who is not willing to accept substitutes for nursing is telling you she is not ready to wean yet
Engorgement or mastitis
Anger and resentment on part of mother that it is not going fast enough
When weaning becomes a power struggle it is time to step back a bit.
Hope this is helpful to someone; please leave your comments in the comment section so we can all share in community. Thank you!