When Should I Wean?

when should i weanSometimes it’s hard to know when to wean your baby. It’s a big decision and labor of love to begin breastfeeding. For many, this journey comes with challenges. Poor latching, breast infections, clogged ducts, or even disapproving family can cause bumps in the road. When you finally get the breastfeeding thing down pat, it can be time to start solids. For me, breastfeeding the second time around has been a breeze. I have loved every minute of it. Now, my baby is 1. So, when should I wean?

The term weaning refers to when your baby is getting all of his or her nutrition from other sources than the breast. Some moms wean because they need to return to a job, as well. Remember to be patient. You have been the source of nutrition and comfort for your baby, and you don’t want to just take that away.

Weaning can be bittersweet. Mother-led weaning is the approach I chose with Johanna. I was ready to have another baby, and my fertility had not returned. We weaned at 13 months. She stopped nursing and started walking in the same day. Hello tears! I was a mess. It can be emotional to stop nursing.

So when should you wean? The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breastfeeding for a year and longer if you are able to do so. The WHO suggests two years, or as along as comfortable for both mom and baby. There can be pressure from family and friends to wean. I will admit, I am feeling a little pressure. With Levi turning one, people have started asking me how much longer will I nurse. Do I have an answer? No, I don’t.

Many moms choose to do baby-led weaning. This is where the baby gives you the signs that he or she is ready to slow down or stop nursing. Solids being introduced and babies becoming more mobile and distracted can cause babies to lose interest.

Many moms who decide to wean after a year go about it by using these methods:

  • Offer a Distraction. Offer a toy or do something different instead of your usual routine. For my daughter, she had a hard time letting go of the morning nursing session. For a week, we got up, jumped in the car, and went to Starbucks for coffee to try to remove the association of morning nursing.
  • Shorten the Feeding. Allow your baby to nurse for shorter periods of time and offer snacks or something else to drink afterwards. Remember you are still taking care of your little one.
  • Offer Substitutions. After you introduce cow’s milk, almond milk, coconut milk, hemp milk or another milk alternative, use this time to cut out one feeding at a time. Be careful because you want to avoid mastitis or clogged ducts.
  • Don’t offer, don’t refuse. Every breastfeeding mom is used to watching the clock to know when it’s time to nurse. With this method, if baby doesn’t indicate they want to nurse, then you let the moment pass. However, if baby wants to, then by all means nurse.

I don’t have the answer on when you should wean your baby. I am honestly struggling with that right now. Part of me wants my little Levi to nurse as long as he wants, regardless of age. I am fine with being his comfort and for him to need mommy a little longer. I will be honest, though. There is a part of me that would like my body back.

My best advice, which I need to take, is just go a day at a time. Be thankful each day you can breastfeed. I am thankful that Levi needed mommy for comfort nursing. (Silly one-year molars!) I am thankful my body can nourish my baby. For those things, I am thankful today.

Karyn Meyerhoff lives, writes, and nurses in Northeast Indiana. She loves the bond of breastfeeding and will really miss it one day. 

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