Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three?

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.

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Holding Hands Tandem Breastfeeding

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.

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*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.



Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

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.)

33 thoughts on “Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three?

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  7. I really appreciate your comments about balancing needs and remaining gentle. And where have I been?! You are pregnant with twins! Oh my goodness congratulations!!
    ~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

  8. I nursed my oldest child through my twin pregnancy and for a few months after the twins were born, before weaning her on her third birthday. (We had gone down to nursing only twice a day before the twins were born, and once a day about a month afterwards.) For me, nursing 2 newborns and a 2-year-old was too much. I finished weaning my twins at age 2.5, during the third trimester of my 3rd pregnancy.

    • Thank you, Becca. I appreciate hearing about the experiences of other breastfeeding moms of multiples. For those of us who are choosing to continue breastfeeding, the experience seems to vary widely. But, I have yet to hear from anyone who regretted taking the leap to try.

  9. This is a wonderfully honest post. Thank you. I appreciate your sharing your approach to setting your own boundaries. I often struggle with this – it can be hard to remember that we need to teach our children by example as well as by words – and knowing our boundaries is a key part of that.

    I recently weaned my second child. It know it was harder on me than him. I’m a little hooked on those moments. Reading this almost makes me want another one. (Almost!)

    All the best with your twins. I know you’ll find the right balance for all of your children – whatever that may be.

    • Thank you, Andrea. The process is incredibly bittersweet. I think it can be difficult to keep in touch with our needs. There’s a lot of judgment towards weaning and breastfeeding, including accusations of selfishness no matter which is chosen. I’m glad you resonated with the feelings of setting boundaries and how that honors both you and your nursling.

  10. “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.” – – – <THIS exactly!

    Thank you for sharing your (continuing) experience navigating your nursing relationships with your children.

    I am incredibly relieved that other mamas also consider mom's feelings and needs to be a PART of the NATURAL weaning process! :)

    Look forward to reading about your nursing experiences when your twins arrive!

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  15. I am glad to find someone else who believes that a mother honoring her own needs is part of natural weaning. I think many times we get lost in the idea that child led weaning is all about the child and not the mother, but this thought takes away from the idea that breastfeeding is a relationship. One that is mutually beneficial. Mama love, sibling love, and twins! I am mostly just floating in awe of your post and want to go read more about your family!

    • Thank you, Jennifer. I agree. We do spend a lot of time writing about the children in the process because it reflects our experience. It can give the impression that we are catering to them, especially when viewed through a traditional authoritarian viewpoint. While I think mothers work hard to carve out their own boundaries, we’ve fallen into the conditioning of leaving ourselves out of the narrative, when it is a relationship…Anyway, this has been expressed by mothers far better at expressing than I am. So, I’ll leave it there.

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  19. You are such a Goddess Mama. I always dreamed I’d be a mama like you… which is just to say that I think the way you are taking care with each child and honoring each relationship and giving them such a magical start is the way I would want to do it.
    And you really have a lot of experience with tandem nursing!
    I like the way you talk about attachment parenting and how we sometimes stay connected just by being nearby. It’s not about indulging. I think that confuses some people.
    And why the heck shouldn’t a child feel like they’re the most important thing for a while!!!?
    I made a bit of a timing error with Melody by not encouraging more seperation when it was appropriate and she suffered a bit during the catch up process. But, that’s also something about our personal karma, hers and mine. We’ve traveled together before I think.
    Your last paragraph describes something I believe is such a gift for all your children. That’s an added bonus for them of having siblings.

    • Thank you for another delicious comment, Tree. I’m constantly humbled by how amazing these little people are. I think that relationship gets lost when we focus harshly on our parenting choices or surrounding controversies. The discussion is good, but it loses a lot of the essence of those things that are experienced in the daytoday.

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  23. Wow, Zoie, I loved this post! I really appreciate the perspective you have about weaning as a mama who has been nursing for so long. I look forward to hearing how nursing twins (and maybe your youngest son, too) plays out in your lives together. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Thank you, Amy. One of the things I’m enjoying so far in the carnival is the shared experience of time going by. It’s a day to day thing. It’s not as though you wake up and suddenly you’re breastfeeding a huge child. It’s gradual and normal, reflecting the growth and maturity of the child and mother together. It’s interesting that to those unused to seeing breastfeeding, it appears shocking when not a teensy newborn… And weaning is a part of this process, again something that someone in passing has no knowledge of.

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