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!
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Ooooh this is a super helpful list of bullet points, thank you! I don’t really want to “wean” my 15 mo, I just don’t want him on the boobies ALL the time. I will def be trying your tips on distraction and other comforts.
Hi there, I’m new to your blog and trying to get through all the great info. We have had a transition in our family that I thought I’d share with the hopes of getting some fresh insights. So our son is nearly three and I’m six months pregnant. About ten days ago my breasts dried up and so nature spoke and wee Hagan had to be weaned. He has been super understanding and just as long as I’m still there and he can rest his hand on my breast he drifts peacefully off to sleep. I was surprised how smoothly the physical part of it played out. The fascinating part has been the way it’s manifested on other levels. He stopped calling me Mama and now is calling me Mommy. The ‘I’ and the ‘SELF’ have come to the forefront. He’s become really high energy, boisterous and heavy handed. He wants to ‘smash things up’ and has started to slam his hands down to demonstrate as well as smacking us. He is still in great form and is as healthy and amazing as ever.We just observe in awe. Right now we are just trying to let him know verbally that it’s not nice, not acceptable etc to raise his hands to his friends and family (plants, animals, humans!). If it gets out of hand we offer him a choice/consequence for his actions. As far as the slamming is concerned we have been using ‘gentle hands’ and I started using an idea that I found up when we were reading about King Arthur. He was using his wooden sword and dress up costume to play knight and we had a conversation about knights and their protective and gentle roles etc rather than men that went around smashing things up and hitting people. I know you talk about over talking and maybe I’m guilty of that. I have been helping him use his wooden tools or physical body etc to expend energy rather than being rough in other ways. Just wondering what your thought might be here.
Also, prior to weaning he had already begun to not respond when we were calling him and that has just increased. We need to call him three or four times but most of the time we gently guide him back to where we need him to be. Is this repetition enough to create a boundary though? We use consequences but then I just read that maybe he’s to young for that? One particular place that this occurs is at the table. He is very capable of feeding himself and has a good appetite but after the first four or five bites it takes coaxing. If your willing to feed him he’ll eat no problem. I’ve gone back and forth with this, at stages not feeding him and letting him eat what he wants to and yes he will not starve but I don’t want him dropping weight either. Then I think this is just a stage and he will feed himself eventually so maybe it doesn’t need all this energy I’m giving it, maybe I should just feed him like he wants me to.
Hagan is super smart, sensitive (especially to sound) and wonderful. We are sooo lucky. We have unintentionally become attachment parents. It just seemed right!
Thanks so much,
I forgot to mention something. I also noticed a change in his artwork or more specifically his drawing. We usually do different types of crafts from claywork, beading, felting etc and he’s still very enthusiastic about all of those activities but it’s the drawing that has changed. He is the type of kid that wants to know how everything works. He’s obsessed about engines, motors, propellers, blades anything that spins and connects with something else to create movement. He spends a lot of time drawing his inventions and loves to walk you through step by step to teach you how it works, it’s just fascinating. All the cogs, fans, turnikers (not sure what that is but he knows and uses it regularly when building space vehicles!) etc wow! Since the weaning he has stopped and his drawings which are now minimal are just scribbles for the most part. Any thoughts……Oh by the way I’m intrigued to learn more about the art comparison studies you had attached in one of your posts but when I looked on the linked website I didn’t see any there. Any books spring to mind?
Congratulations on your pregnancy and growing family! That is so exciting!
I am glad you are here.
PS There is an entire book regarding children’s drawings and what they mean over at Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore. You can order on-line.
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I believe in child led weening, and nursing up to age 6 or 7, and all that, totally support moms who do that. However, it’s not for me. And I feel extremely alone about this. On one hand, most of the world is shocked and disgusted that my 3 yr old still nurses. And on the other hand, my lactivist family is not supportive of me weaning artificially. But I hate breast feeding. I have for quite some time. No one understands me. That cuddly fuzzy feeling everyone talks about? I don’t have it. I feel like I’m being raped every time I breast feed. I get anxious. I get angry. And my strong willed and needy 3 year old wont stop. I have an 18 month old I’m nursing as well, would like to wean her around age 2. Can anyone help me? Does anyone ‘get’ me? I undertand my older daughter is some how insecure, she grinds her teeth at night, etc. I don’t want to add stress to her or cause her issues, but I some times feel violent about it. I just hate it so much. And she is giving me behavioral problems lately too. I just don’t know what to do.
I suggest you RUN to your phone and call your local La Leche League group. Contrary to some popular perception that LLL is only for women who want to nurse their children forever, the REAL philosophy is to help women nurse as long as they want to – whether that is two months, two weeks, two years, etc. They should be able to help you wean with great tips and what has worked for other mothers. If you hate breastfeeding, then you can change your situation. I am sorry you feel trapped by the perceptions or feelings of others, but you have to do what is right for you and your family. Your needs do count! Your feelings do count! One thing that occurred to me is just what I have talked about before – what kind of structure is there to the day – where is the attention at other times? In other words, being busy with a rhythm and things to do – meaningful work, helping around the house, being outside, playing – avoiding some of the typical things that trigger to nurse such as sitting in that special chair, etc. I think 3 can be a harder age to wean in some ways, but it absolutely can be done! You mention behavioral problems, but this is common around three. I write a lot about that transition around 3 where attached parents wonder what is going on with my child?!! LOL. If you hit the “development” header at the top of this blog, a drop down menu by age will appear – there are MANY posts about the development, behavior and how to live peacefully with your 3 year old! Breastfeeding is wonderful, but now you are on the verge of a relationship that is deepening with your daughter. What a gift of time of breastfeeding you have given her; be proud of that! And now, you can find weaning that works for your family by calling your local La Leche League or the LLL hotline if you are in the United States. 8774 LA LECHE is the number.
Blessings, and please write in and let us know how you are doing!
PS> GLAD TO HAVE YOU HERE!
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