Weaning Your Wee One: Is It Time?
Breastfeeding. There are few words in the entire realm of parenthood that are likely to garner the same kind of reaction as this simple little word. Some people are all in, do or die, unapologetic, no-cover nursing mamas. Others love nursing, but like to cover for a little more modestly.
Whatever type of breastfeeding mama you may be, the sad reality is that eventually, your nursing relationship must come to an end. The difficult part is knowing when that time is, and trusting that your decision to end breastfeeding is the right choice for both you and your baby, no matter what other people may have to say on the subject.
The Nosy Reality
There is an unfortunate reality that manifests when you first become a parent. By now, you have probably already experienced it at least once, and unfortunate parents may have dealt with it countless times. For some reason, practically everyone you know – yes EVERYONE – seems to think they have the right to an opinion on how you take care of your baby.
Your grandmother nursed all eight of her babies until they were three. Your neighbor Jane read that breastfeeding past 6 months leads to allergies. Your kid’s school crossing guard says you must give up chocolate, spicy food, gluten, corn and milk products (at which point you may also give up your will to live) to have a successful long-term nursing relationship.
Unfortunately, the nosy people are the reality. No matter what you do, there are always those who will try to tell you how wrong you are, or to try this or that. To figure out when your breastfeeding relationship should end, you need to accept the nosy reality and decide that you won’t let other people’s opinions, which are oh so plentiful, dictate your choice.
The Self-Weaning Baby
Your baby will have a big role in when you decide to stop breastfeeding. Self-weaning babies often wait until after their first birthday to decide to give up the breast. They may simply stop nursing as often, nurse for shorter periods or even refuse to nurse at all. When a baby is ready to wean, a mama usually has little say in the matter.
The important thing to remember in this situation is that your baby is physically ready to stop nursing at the one year mark if she is getting three full meals a day and nutritious snacks. If this is the case, don’t feel bad following your baby’s lead. She’s got it under control, mama! She’s ready for a new stage in her life, and you can explore all the fun new tastes and textures of a world of foods together.
The Baby Who Won’t Quit
On the other end of the spectrum is the baby who thinks your boobs are his, and he has no intention of giving them back in the foreseeable future. In this situation, you must ask a few questions:
- Am I ok with extended breastfeeding?
- Is there a pressing reason for the baby to wean?
- Is the baby getting enough exposure to regular food?
- Is the baby learning to use a cup?
- Is nursing causing any problems in my home?
If you and baby are happy with continuing to nurse even though baby has hit the year mark, that’s fantastic! Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Nursing often impacts much more than just the mother and baby. There may be other kids that need tending, work or school that can no longer be put off, and appointments or lessons for other children.
If your life is bogged down with the need to be 100 places at once and you have no idea how to continue nursing (or no desire) its ok! It may take a little time to wean the baby, especially if he’d rather nurse until he’s 20, but it will happen.
The Easy Baby
In some cases, little baby Jonny is happy to keep nursing, but would be equally happy with a sippy cup and pb&j. In these situations, it’s your call as to whether nursing continues or not. If you have a chill baby (other moms may hate you a little) and he is fine either way, do what feels best in your mind and heart. There is nothing wrong with ending the nursing relationship and moving on to new, exciting experiences. There is also nothing wrong with continuing to treasure those quiet moments together. Cherish those times where it’s just you and your little one for a few more minutes, because they won’t last forever.
When It’s Too Much
There are times when a mama and baby just aren’t doing well in their breastfeeding relationship. Tongue and lip ties, sore nipples, insufficient milk transfer and a host of other issues can make nursing a nightmare. You may see a million serene, almost spiritual pictures of breastfeeding and wonder why you are experiencing the exact opposite.
If this is you, please know that you don’t have to continue torturing one another. Your baby will be just fine, no matter what age they are, if you decide to get feeds in another way. Bottles and sippy cups for older babies are an ideal solution and can help you and your baby discover that you do actually enjoy one another. Remember this above all: fed is best.
The Real Answer
Ultimately, the real answer to this important question is that it is time to stop breastfeeding when you and your baby decide. Some babies may make the permanent switch to sippy cups earlier, while some may prefer the comfort of nursing for a little longer. Both are perfectly fine, and as long as you and baby are happy, that is what matters most.
Make your decision and be firm with the nosy people, because it really is none of their business what you choose to do. And remember that whatever your choice may be, your baby will be just fine! Babies are resilient, and despite our clumsy parenting, they usually turn out to be wonderful people. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more tips and tricks about this crazy thing called parenthood.