Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
I have been breastfeeding for over five years now. I began tandem nursing over three years ago. I have been triandem nursing over a year ago. I have breastfed during four pregnancies.
I feel as though the weaning process has been a natural process, hand in hand with our breastfeeding relationship. We practice baby-led weaning, in which parents watch the cues of their child for signs of interest in solid food. From the newborns, our children have been with us in slings or in arms at the table, sharing in meals with the entire family by observing then transitioning to trying foods we are eating.
I encourage my babies to experiment with the textures and flavors I am eating. They are accustomed to those flavors because they taste them in the breastmilk. As their interest in solid foods increases, they naturally find their own balance between nursing and eating solid foods.
So far, my first 3 children have all begun officially eating solids at around their first birthday. Before that, they tried a few bites here and there, with my encouragement and observation for choking. We haven’t had any choking issues even though they’ve never had pureed foods. They gather food with their fingers themselves and place it in their mouths. I think this long time to practice and watch the rest of us, has taught them how to feed themselves with ease.
Every stage along the way, I have weighed whether to wean or continue breastfeeding. Each of my children has their own needs in our breastfeeding relationship and so do I. I have taken that into account over the years as I decided to continue.
One of the areas of weaning that has been initiated and directed by me has been night weaning. Sleep is an important contributor to my emotional well-being. So, after each child was a year old, and I felt they were developmentally ready, I started gently nightweaning, using Dr Gordon’s method.
Breastmilk has held various importances in each of my children’s diets during the second year of their lives. For my first son, it remained his primary nutrition source. He was a far higher needs baby and toddler than my other children have been. He has been my slowest weaner, so far. It wasn’t until past his second birthday that he was eating solid food as much as breastfeeding.
I enjoyed encouraging my second son as he quickly progressed to eating primarily solid foods before his second birthday. By his third birthday, he was breastfeeding only once or twice a day. My third son, at just under 2 years old, is evenly matched in his diet between solids and breastmilk, and has been so since he was about 16 months old.
As I’ve said before, breastfeeding and weaning are a united relationship in which everyone’s needs are taken into account. It is up to me, as the parent, to monitor these and balance them. With 3 kids asking for me to feed them from my body, I can get pretty touched-out. It can be exhausting. While it is important to me to provide for them, I have to take care of myself in order to meet my needs. I place limits on time, and frequency, as well as deciding when and where I’m comfortable breastfeeding.
I feel that the youngest child gets to latch on first and has the longest time during a feeding session. Obviously, for babies who are solely breastfeeding, they are only limited by my comfort in being available. After solids, I may explain to them that we’ll have mama milk until the end of a song or that we’ll sing a song until I’m ready to start. I’ll redirect with a book, cuddles or a glass of water if I’m feeling too touched out to nurse. This, again, is a part of the natural weaning process.
I have heard the main criticism for gentle parenting, and specifically child-led weaning, is that it is too child-centric. The mother gives everything to the child, in effect, teaching them to be self-centered and demanding. This criticism turns the mother into a passive object that is ruled over by her little tyrants because she is so codependent, that she is afraid to say no. However, in practice, I have found that I am directing our breastfeeding relationship. I place limits and decide when, where, and if we will nurse-and when we will stop.
The difference between directly commanding versus balancing needs during weaning van be a subtle one, when seen from the outside. If you’ve ever managed the moods of a toddler or preschooler, then you’ll know how well a commanding “no!” works for something they want for emotional and physical reasons.
There are positive ways to say no that firmly establish limits for the child while maintaining their sense of being connected to me. Certainly, there are times when I speak a commanding “no!” but most of the time, it is unnecessary. My children have a continuum of experience in trust that I believe their basic needs are worthwhile and will help them meet them, not always in the way they want but in a compromised manner.
That’s not to pretend that my kids haven’t dissolved into tears or screaming tantrums at times when I have put limits on breastfeeding during the weaning process. But, and this is a largely misunderstood point of attachment parenting as a whole, I do not let their cries go unanswered.
I do this not by swooping in and taking away their emotions. I give them enough space to let them go safely while maintaining connection. Sometimes, it means hugging. Sometimes, it means simply being nearby. And so on. There are even times when my best parenting move is to calmly explain that I need a break and to walk away enough to calm down. Obviously, this is all in an environment that is safe for us, as well as respectful of those around us. Again, as the parent, I need to be a good observer of the needs of myself, my children and those around us*.
This is how I’ve managed to breastfeed 1, 2, then 3 children with a minimum of stress and a maximum of nurturing and nourishing. There is less need for breastfeeding as a baby moves into toddlerhood. And they become more able to understand limits and their own needs. Breastfeeding with siblings has helped my children understand from a very early age that there are other human beings who are connected to them and have competing needs.
This balancing act is important as I move through this next part of the weaning journey. This is my last pregnancy and I decided in the first trimester that it was time to wean my oldest two sons, who will be 6 and 4 before I give birth again. Weaning my children at these ages has been easy. They only ask to breastfeed between once or thrice a month. And they’re old enough to understand that it is time to be finished with mama milk. In fact, my second son is actively taking part in weaning because he wants explains that he wants to be free to read to them and teach them all about Star Wars as soon as they’re born. So, my plan was to go from 3 nurslings to 1 during my third trimester, then back up to tandeming my third son and newborn.
Then I found out that we’re having twins and I’m unsure about whether to wean my youngest son, who will be 2 when I give birth. I’ve managed 3 nurslings before, but I had the luxury of two of them being capable of understanding delays and limits. I have been setting limits because of my exhaustion level during this pregnancy and he has been coping well, although fusses sometimes when I say no to breastfeeding. I’m halfway through this pregnancy right now, and he is breastfeeding 3-4 times during the day for about 10 minutes at a time. Nursing a toddler feels easy for me right now-far easier than it would if he were a baby with greater needs. I think the weaning process gets easier, the longer we spend doing it together.
Infants spend a lot of time observing while nursing. They interact with their siblings and with me. Extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning have taught them about compromising and working together, which has led to great independence in their explorations. Their entire approach to the world began at the breast. It’s important that they maintain the ability to define their own needs and observe the needs of others, which has been modeled for them during the co-breastfeeding-weaning process.
*I do want to be clear here that being respectful of those around us does not mean I think women need to cover up or excuse themselves to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is natural and doing it whenever, wherever the breastfeeding pair feel comfortable is what I’m concerned with. Of course, I support mothers to be comfortable, whether this means covering, moving to a quiet place or doing it where they are. I also fully support anyone who isn’t comfortable to move or look away. . I understand that not everyone is comfortable seeing a baby or child breastfeed in some parts of the world. I’m not trying to change opinions with the exception being that I prefer those who disagree to own their opinions and not blame mothers for it.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)
- On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity — Jessica at Natural Parents Network has been nursing one or more of her children since 1993 – breastfeeding is wrapped up in her concept of mothering and herself. She shares her thoughts on weaning.
- two tales of weaning — Aspen at Aspen Mama writes about their countdown to wean.
- Wean Me Gently — Tam at Please Send Parenting Books shares a beautiful weaning ceremony.
- You say potato, I say bleeeuuuuch… — Anelie at Mindcradle had read the books and knew just how to introduce her baby son to solids—unfortunately, he had other ideas.
- A Post Called Weaning — (Not) Maud at Awfully Chipper writes about how weaning her son took longer than she expected.
- On Weaning, Pregnancy and Emotion — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about her mixed emotions as she allows her son, Little Man, to guide her through his weaning process.
- half of her life — Staci at Springpatch Jam looks back on her nursing relationship with her first born.
- Is it just this After Forty Mom or is it harder to wean when its your last? — Amanda of After Forty Mom shares her emotional journey towards the impending self-weaning of her toddler daughter.
- Nursing Limits — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she has weaned her toddler down to minimal nursing and her guilt about the decision to do so.
- Weaning Video Series #1: Preparation for the Weaning Process — Why is weaning such a taboo topic? Dionna at Code Name: Mama got mamas from across the blogosphere to start talking about weaning – on video. Come check out the first video in a series of five that she’ll be posting this week.
- On the weaning of the boy in the middle — Kelly at Witness To Hope shares the lessons of a little one self-weaning at 18 months in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy, after nursing his older sister for three years.
- Weaning due to anxiety — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about how she had to wean to preserve her mental health.
- When Will I Wean? A Guest Post — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a guest post from a mama who contemplates when her breastfeeding relationship will end.
- On His Own Terms — Momeeezen shares her heartbreak from when her son weaned much earlier than she anticipated.
- Our Weaning Story – Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season — Weaning doesn’t always go how we imagine. That Mama Gretchen shares the story of her daughter’s sudden weaning and how she has embraced this new season of motherhood.
- A Tale of Two Weanings — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares the similarities and differences of how her nursing relationships with her now six-year-old and four-year-old daughters came to a close.
- She Doesn’t Remember — Alicia at Lactation Narration finds that her 6 year old no longer remembers nursing, only one year after weaning.
- It’s The End of the World As We Know It — A story about the end of a tandem nursing relationship on Never Mind The Rain: A toddler moves on to a new phase in her life before mom is fully ready.
- A Natural End To Our Breastfeeding Relationship — With two self-weaning children, Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots does not know when the end will come, but that it will be natural and without regrets.
- Child-Led weaning: It’s Not Extreme; It’s Biological — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children explains why child-led weaning is based on biology rather than social constraints.
- 6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps — Jess at miniMum shares how and why she let her first child stop when he was good and ready.
- Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
- Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
- Weaning Aversion’ — Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced ‘feeding aversion’.
- Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma’s evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
- Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
- Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn‘s super power is diminishing.
- Reflections on Weaning – Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
- Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success — MudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
- Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer’s Daughter.
- 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
- Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
- I thought about weaning… — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
- Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
- Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
- Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
- Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn’t have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
- Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
- Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
- Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure… — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it’s time to wean?
- Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.