Here at Natural Parenting Tips we are big advocates of extended breastfeeding and consider it to be the normal way to feed a child. We recognise that the natural weaning age for children can be anywhere up to 4 years of age..
That being said, as mothers and family people ourselves we also recognise the angst that can be associated with breastfeeding and weaning. In our modern society, there sometimes comes a point where a mom will cry “Enough!” and babe will look imploringly up and say “More booby please”
We have conflict, and perhaps it’s conflict of the most emotional sort – the type of conflict fraught with guilt and emotions.
Guilty because we all know that breastmilk is the most nutritious and comforting food for our toddler, guilty because we never want to do anything to hurt the feelings of our most precious little people.
Well, I say ditch the guilt!
When it comes to weaning, there are gentle ways to do it, and a slowly but surely approach is the best for both mama and wee one.
Communication Is Essential
Before you even begin the journey of weaning, open the conversation with your little one. Reassure them that mommy loves them very much, and there are lots of ways that mommy and them can have loving time together.
Perhaps make a list of special things that you and your little one do together, and really be present to doing them.
You can chat about how eventually we all stop breastfeeding, and we call this weaning. It’s a very special time when we wean, as it means that we’re entering into a new part of our lives.
Chat about all of the wonderful things you do together that don’t involve breastfeeding, and really affirm that breastfeeding isn’t the only source of comfort and love. This is a time for lots of cuddles!
Chat about how many more feeds are left until weaning time, and make an agreement with your little one. (You can be flexible in the agreement!!)
Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse
This is a weaning strategy – if your little one isn’t asking for breastmilk, don’t offer it. If they are asking, don’t refuse it.
Eventually as their lives become busier and the world becomes more interesting, your little one may go entire days without even realising they haven’t had a breastfeed.
A strategy that I employed when weaning my eldest was to count while he was at the breast. We’d agree that he’d have a 30 breastfeed, or a 10 breastfeed, and I’d count out loud while he had his feed.
Once I reached our agreed number, we’d have a big cuddle, a kiss, and we’d call it over. Eventually the feeds got shorter and shorter, and he stopped altogether.
Breastfeeding has been such a big part of your little one’s life thus far, it’s ingrained into their routine. You can gently distract them with a cup of water, an activity, or something else that they love.
Celebrate Growing Up
I never like to encourage parents to facilitate weaning with “you’re a big boy now” but the weaning time is a wonderful rite of passage.
Creating a little ritual as your little one gently separates from you, and weans can help ease the transition for both of you.
If You’re Co-Sleeping
Maybe try a side-along bed, or sleeping alongside the other partner. Our middle child weaned himself overnight when he had his own space in the family bed. Without having the constant booby next to him, he was less inclined to wake, and began to have deeper, more restful sleeps.
Slowly but surely is the key – slow weaning gives your child the chance to adjust to their new day to day routine without breastfeeds, and it give your body the chance to adjust too. You may find your breasts become engorged and very full on the first day or so after your child has had no feeds.
Cabbage leaves are a GREAT comfort to this!!
Be kind to yourself and patient to your little one.
We’d love to hear your comments!! Please feel free to weigh in!
I’ve actually created my own guide to baby led weaning to bust some myths, and provide a no-nonsense guide to introducing solids. You can check it out here: www.babybookofweaning.com
Photo Credit: stockerre