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When your child is ready to wean and you’re not

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Letting go is hard to do

Weaning from the breast is a road that goes both ways, and once a little one is ready to give it up, Mom has to wean, too. These moms share what it was like to wean their babies and toddlers — and how they were able to look forward to new adventures with their children.

Breastfeeding your baby can be an amazing experience, but as she goes past her first birthday and then her second, her interest can wane, and yours might too. Some moms may be ready for weaning, and some moms might not be — but no matter what, breastfeeding does eventually come to an end. Here’s what some moms experienced and how you can cope with the transition.

Too early

Some moms we spoke with had babies who weaned before expected — in some cases, even under a year of age. Melissa’s first baby, Daisy, weaned on her own when she was around a year old. “I was shocked,” she remembered. “She was my first child so I had no idea that she'd do that. I thought I would be the one making those decisions. And no one around me really cared, as breastfeeding was seen as a burden and that I should be grateful weaning had been so 'easy.’” Heather, mom of two, had a similar experience. “Archer was 14 months and went from constant nursing to just done overnight,” she told us. “I couldn't even get him to nurse if I tried. It left me really physically uncomfortable and sad.”

Shana, a mom of two, had a mental goal of 18 months for her first nursing experience. “My older daughter and I had troubles with breastfeeding at the beginning so the fact that we made it through that made me determined to allow her to lead the weaning,” she explained. However, at 13 months, a second pregnancy caused her toddler to lose interest. “I was trying to put on a happy face that she chose to stop but I was sad to lose the connection,” she said. “Some of our closest moments were when she would look up at me while nursing. Then, bam — it was over. I felt left at the altar.”

We were ready

Some moms initiated weaning, or were ready when it naturally ended. “I was early in my second trimester with my son when my daughter weaned because my milk dried up from the pregnancy,” said Stacy, mom of three. “She was 38 months old. It was a beautiful nursing relationship, though, and I will cherish it always." Lisa, from Ohio, felt the same. “I was ready so I initiated the weaning,” she explained.

Easing the transition

Even after weaning, and no matter who initiates it, children are still often comforted by closeness to Mom. As your nursing sessions wind down, make sure you keep (or begin) a solid bedtime routine — something with lots of physical contact and cuddling that you both can look forward to at the end of a long day. Give your child plenty of access to hugs as well as quiet time, whether you’re watching a movie or playing with toys.

"After my third child weaned, we both still enjoyed laying down together at bedtime and talking about our day," remembered Maggie, mom of four. "Instead of nursing during that time, I told her stories, and it became a fun, new tradition for us."

Also, don’t be surprised if your toddler or older child spends time fishing around in your shirt for a boob grab or two, at home or when you’re out and about. If your child nursed in times of stress or pain, he may instinctively turn to your chest for comfort. He also may want to have a tiny hand (or two) on your breast as he drifts off to sleep. This is totally normal, and can really ease the transition from nursing for both of you.

Weaning may be a welcome change, or it may be a tough time. As long as you concentrate on ways that you can remain close to your little one, the transition can be easier than you might think. And you can be comforted that you gave your little one a great start in life.

More on breastfeeding

Why you should breastfeed your preschooler
Breastfeeding a toddler and conquering challenges
Why moms choose to breastfeed

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