Mama-Led Weaning, Sometimes It’s The Best Choice

Natural Parents Network: Mama-Led Weaning, Sometimes It's The Best Choice

I nursed my first son for 14 months, and am in the 13 month of nursing my second. And I’m finished, mamas. I’m just finished. I’ve had mastitis more times than I can count (I stopped counting at 12 the first time around and 6 this time), I’ve got systemic thrush, and I seem to be allergic to all of the treatments available to me. So I’ve decided it’s time to wean.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved nursing. I love the snuggles and the knowledge that I was doing the best I could for my sons before I was able to expose them to the wide and luscious variety of “Big People Food.” I loved the convenience and the oxytocin surge. I loved the immune boost. I loved the magical sleeping effects it seemed to have. I even loved vaguely scandalizing people as I nursed my sons on demand. (Honestly, though, I live in San Jose and I never got so much as a side-eye for nursing in public. I love that bubble I live in, too.)

Natural Parents Network: Mama-Led Weaning, Sometimes It's The Best Choice

Only one of us is enjoying this.

But now — chronic mastitis and even more plugged ducts, thrush, cracks, teeth, diminishing supply, and an insatiable baby…I could try more approaches, I could eat more lactation cookies (or bacon cheddar lactation muffins), I could do any number of things, but Walter eats more People food than my 3.5-year-old, and I’m pretty sure that, aside from the midnight session, nursing now is mostly for comfort.

So here’s what we’re doing: Night weaning happens first. Our approach this time (as last time) is pretty straightforward: I’m nursing Walter at bedtime, and then he goes to sleep on his floor bed in his room. He does not get boob again until at least midnight. Before that, he gets love and snuggles and water if he wakes up, but he doesn’t get boob. After the single night feeding, the same is true until 5:30 or later. Then he gets breakfast — whatever we’re eating plus yogurt (if he’s interested). He gets frequent snacks during the day and I never offer boob. If he asks (either by signing milk or trying to access it directly), I either comply or redirect him toward a cup or snack, depending on the time and reason. Right now we’re down to nursing 3-4 times in a 24-hour period, with lots of filling meals and snacks in between. Luckily, he really loves food and is interested in trying everything he can get his hands on, so I can make sure he gets plenty of the nutrients he’s not getting from my breastmilk anymore.

Natural Parents Network: Mama-Led Weaning, Sometimes It's The Best Choice

Cherry Love

It’s not easy — emotionally — on either of us. He doesn’t understand or appreciate it when I refuse to let him nurse at will. He doesn’t always like my explanation and on more than one occasion I’ve offered him solid food only to have him throw it back at me. But every day it’s a little easier, and he’s eating more Big People Food and relying less on Mommy. It helps even more on the weekends when Daddy can step in and offer alternatives. They’re bonding, and I’m healing. It feels like a win for everyone involved.

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About The Author: Emily Bartnikowski

Emily B emmieb My NPN Posts

Emily is a wife, mother, photographer, and aspiring novelist. She blogs about parenting and life at Embrita Blogging.

5 Responses to Mama-Led Weaning, Sometimes It’s The Best Choice

  1. Bianca  

    Hugs to you. I’ve started doing the same for my 19 month old, as I am 20 weeks pregnant and no longer have supply. She needs it for the comfort…but it’s become too uncomfortable for me. We’re down to nap and night night.

    • Emily Bartnikowski  

      Hugs right back at you. I found, with Baz, that cradling him as though he were nursing while he was drinking from his sippy cup filled his need for comfort. We spent much of my second pregnancy in that position. Good luck and congratulations on your new baby!

  2. Amy  

    Thank you for this, Emily. I’ve long thought that the idea of solely child-led weaning leads some moms to resent breastfeeding. A nursing pair involves two people and the needs of both are important to honor. I appreciate your sensitive approach to transition the forms in which you share your love with Walter.

  3. Mamacook  

    This was almost exactly what we did, I didn’t know it had a name. I fed for 13 months. Although it felt hard to stop, it was also a tiring 13 months.

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