For some moms, weaning their babies gives them a sense of returned freedom, a reconnection with their own body and more time for themselves. For a sentimental fool like me, it symbolized the end of an era of mommy hood that was so special; moments that were only shared by me and my baby. For the most part, I enjoyed the time I dedicated to breastfeeding, even the never ending night feeds, knowing that my resulting fatigue would not last forever. Following my baby’s own comfort level in the weaning process was my chosen route. But how does one wean?
For some mom-baby dyads, it’s a piece of cake. Both parties are ready and comfortable with the process at the same time, and the resulting wean happens with ease. This was my experience with my first. My husband and I were ready to try for a second but first I felt that my body needed some ‘alone time’ so to speak. I pumped for another 3 months so that she would still have her night time mommy milk but it was via a sippy cup. She was 18 months at the time and quickly understood that this change was happening. I made sure to tell her that I loved her and we snuggled a ton! There is no magic method to wean, but it is easiest when it suits both mommy and baby.
Sometimes, when mom is the initiator, there can be feelings of guilt especially if the little one is still wanting status quo. In these circumstances, consistency is especially important, as the baby may be nursing for both nourishment and emotional comfort. If the baby is still under one year of age, it is important to consult their pediatrician or lactation consultant to review alternate nourishment as well as understanding how this will impact your breast health. Bonding in other ways, with extra cuddling, singing, and rocking with help baby to continue to feel secure and happy.
For older babies and toddlers, gradually diminishing breastfeeding sessions over time, while offering other special comfort measures will help both parties feel secure with the change, and your breasts will thank you for it. Making time for extra snuggles, playing, and I Love you’s will reassure your little one that this change in behaviour is not a change in their security or love.
My second daughter and I had an extended breastfeeding relationship! I knew that she was my last, and I didn’t want to rush it. I saw the benefits that my breast milk had on her immune function and I just kept saying, ‘I’ll breastfeed her through one more winter’. My daughter also used breastfeeding for comfort. You wouldn’t know it though. She is lively and excited about life. She has always been secure in herself. I began having comments from family and friends that she was too old to breastfeed. But we weren’t ready to wean yet. I had to be firm with them and say that my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter was between me and her and that we will stop when the time is right for both of us. When my daughter was 2, I was hardly breastfeeding anymore, just at night for a few minutes. Again, it was a source of comfort for her and I didn’t have a problem with it. By this time, I was ready to let go of that part of my life and she seemed ready also. We made it work on our own terms.
Whatever your chosen path is, always remember the time spent breastfeeding your child has been beneficial to both of your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Weaning is a process that may take time in some instances. But consistency is the most important factor. Mixed messages and going back and forth on your decision are confusing and will lead to a longer transition.
Much like many parenting dilemmas, there is no rule book. Listening and understanding your own needs and your child’s wishes is the best policy. When in doubt, asking a lactation consultant for their advice can also help guide you and create a plan that works for everyone.
Melanie Jacobson ND IBCLC is a naturopathic doctor and lactation consultant. She is available on Tuesdays at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre.