The topic of a weaning baby brings up dread, fear, horror, controversy, nostalgia, and confusion. Every mother, every parent has their own weaning story. A personal journey with their own private beliefs, personal experiences, and memories. Weaning can happen early, late, and weaning can mean from breast, bottle, pacifier and more.
My personal weaning baby stories are all pretty tame. My oldest self-weaned himself around 12 months after he discovered he could hold the bottle and run around at the same time. My middle child was abruptly weaned, without any ado after I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. I tried to continue breastfeeding but baby #3 drained me so much that I found myself bursting into tears when I *had* to breastfeed my daughter. She was 11 months old and one day it was simply too much.; I put her to my breast, burst into tears of exhaustion, gave her a sippy cup of whole milk and called it a day. Baby #3 was slowly weaned with regret and indecision on my part.
She was my youngest and my last baby and I couldn’t make up my mind. She was a year old and I waffled on breastfeeding for a month before my milk supply gave out and the decision was made for me. I continued to hold her in the position for months, however, just to continue the closeness that I had loved so much about breastfeeding. Now, years later, she continues to be my biggest snuggler and I still love holding my children close to me. (which, duh, of course I do).
Many women have much more traumatic weaning stories where either they had difficulty with their milk supply or health, or their baby screamed and screamed and would not accept any food. Fortunately, despite these horror stories, most mothers, babies, and families, make the transition from breast to bottle, or sippy cup, without too much drama and very little horror and trauma. As a clinical social worker, I make the following recommendations to the mothers with whom I work when having a weaning baby.
When Having a Weaning Baby
Talk to your doctor, midwife, pediatrician, lactation consultant or other medical professional that you have a relationship with.
They, hopefully, know you and know your baby and will certainly have tips and advice personalized to your needs. If you don’t have a medical professional you have a relationship with, a lactation consultant is always going to be helpful when it comes to weaning. If the first one you meet doesn’t “fit” you or your needs, or their advice doesn’t sit well, try another one. Many times lactation consultants meet free with mothers who delivered at their hospital or can come for free through the county health department.
Do what works for you, on you and your baby’s schedule.
Weaning is a two way street, or three way street if there’s a supportive partner involved. There’s enough pressure to do everything right when it comes to parenting. We have to get them the perfect diapers, swaddlers, BPA free bottles and toys, perfect soothing, perfect sleep schedule … yadayadayada SCREAM. Weaning is intensely personal and no two weaning experiences are going to be alike. Whether you wean at two months due to medical or work issues, at 6
months, 12, 18, 24 months, what matters most is that you and baby are ready. You’ve probably read everything or heard every weaning story out there, but remember that this is your experience and you are the mother now. It is your right and responsibility to do what you know to be best and if you’re not sure what’s best, do what’s going to work for you and your baby. Because that is almost always going to be what’s best.
If one of you is ready, it’s time.
As I said, my oldest self-weaned before I was ready. It came as a shock to me but after fumbling a few times and crying, I had to accept that he was ready to wean. He still needed me, but in a different way. My second, I was ready but she probably would have kept breastfeeding for months. However, I was so drained physically from my pregnancy and going to school and caring for two very young children that I simply couldn’t physically do it any longer. I pulled her off me, again crying (darn hormones), and gave her whole milk, a month before she was “supposed” to get it. Her pediatrician backed up my decision and she never blinked at being weaned. (for the record, she refused formula and bottles, thus the whole milk from a sippy cup). Finally, with baby three she and I were both kind of ready, but the process took about a month before I accepted it. She took a bottle, formula, and baby foods like a champ, but she also was a great eater for me. She was my last and emotionally, it was a hurdle.
My advice on timing, much like the doing what works, is do it on your and baby’s schedule. One of you will let the other know when it’s time to wean. Embrace the process of your weaning baby, accept the tears, and know that your child will always need you and you two will always have a special bond. No matter when or how weaning happens.
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