When To Wean

Breastfeeding just seemed so disgusting to me before I became a mother. Friends would ask me if I planned to nurse my child, to which I would typically respond, “Yuck! That’s gross!” and then change the subject to something more pleasant. As my pregnancy drew to a close and the birth of my daughter became more inevitable – and thus, more real in my mind – I started reading up on the benefits and mechanics of breastfeeding.

Granted, all the talk of engorgement, drippage, and intimacy with child scared the bejeezus out of me – but it was the comparisons between breast milk and formula that really made me decide to give my daughter the best start in life. I have never, and will never, regret the decision to nurse my child, even when I can tuck my boobs into the waist of my pants and my spine becomes so twisted up that I need corrective surgery to sit up in a chair.

The only thing I have to consider now is: when do I wean?

At what point does a child become too old to nurse? Is it when she can use a complete, complex sentence to ask for milk or when I simply cannot take the rude comments from family/friends any longer? How long do kids actually “need” milk in their diets?

As my girl turns two years old this weekend, this question and others are floating around in my mind. For the record, I am not planning on weaning her right now. I don’t personally believe that I should wean simply because she has been alive outside of my body for a certain amount of time. I am planning on letting her self-wean when she’s ready. Many of my friends and family have differing views than mine, and I have learned a lot from the personal experiences and convictions of other parents while on this journey of parenting my firstborn.

I am very curious as to what your thoughts are on when to wean. 6 months? 1 year? 4 years? Why?

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About Classic Mommy | Atlanta Mom Blogger

Atlanta Mom Blogger | Enjoys sweet tea and a good challenge | Dislikes dirty fingernails and whining | Mom to Danger | Wife to Dre | Family Travel Blogger
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4 Responses to When To Wean

  1. Thanks for popping over and leaving a comment on my older post.

    When to wean is a tough and personnal decision. I nursed each of my children about 18 months. I believe my son just didn’t want to anymore and my daughter I swear if I hadn’t cut her off she would still be doing it. She’s 6 now. Many people think that if your child is eating table foods then they don’t need breast milk. I even think doctor’s are saying it isn’t necessary and they are fine with whole milk.

    You need to go with your gut and if you feel she still wants it then go for it. When they start asking for it and grabbing your shirt in public that’s when I had to stop.

    Good luck to you!

    • Big hugs to you for choosing to breastfeed for 18 months! It isn’t the easiest thing to do, but can be very rewarding. I’m thinking we might start weaning a little once her eating habits are more predictable. She still goes through times where she doesn’t want to eat much table food, or will binge at other times. We’re not giving her cow’s milk, as she is being raised vegan {which is very difficult for this meat-loving mama to do!} I’ll be sure to check back with you once we do start weaning – I’ll need some tips! I don’t know if I can do it! πŸ™‚

  2. I agree with you, the child knows. She knows when she is socially, emotionally and physically ready. This isn’t to say a mother’s needs and timing should not be taken into consideration, they absolutely should but I think it is important to be honest about that, too. There is also a lot of minsinformation out there… or you could say there is just too much information, contradictory information that leads women astray and/or provides convinient ‘scientifically backed’ excuses.

    I have heard many women in my native country, Portugal, saying their milk ‘dried up’ or even that their milk was bad. I find that shocking. Clearly their bodies are the same as the bodies everywhere else but the culture supports women weaning early and their mothers and doctors will commiserate with them while handing over the formula, you know? Don’t get me wrong, in some small percentage of cases (about 3%) women don’t have enough milk but in the US 30% blame weaning early on lack of milk and I am sure the number is much higher in places like Portugal where the information circulating and old wives tales are just not supportive of breastfeeding. I digress, I know, but my point is that people disagree about weaning age, doctors disagree and even babies vary widely in a natural weaning age.

    The World Health Organization (often quoted in these circumstances) says to breastfeed for a minimum of two years when the immune and digestive system become mature. You have done this already. Well done you. They also tell us the world average weaning age is four… uh, what?!

    Here is the most sensible thing I have heard, from an experienced lactation consultant: babies decrease their interest in breastfeeding, usually, a couple of times, once around 10 months and then again around 15. These are two times the baby is going outward, preoccupied with other things and other developmental ‘goals’. Those are natural and relatively easier times to wean. She said that if you miss those windows of opportunity, weaning at two when the baby is commonly beginning to assert their individuality and independence (ie ‘terrible twos’) is not the easiest time to negotiate weaning with an increasingly verbal (but not yet ‘logical’) baby. Her observation is that though it is *possible* to wean a baby at any time, if the baby doesn’t wean him/herself naturally before then (perhaps with the mother’s help at one of those propicious times) then the next *easiest* time to do it is around three, when they begin to understand negotiation a bit better and you can talk with them about it. I know my mum weaned me at three, following my cues and giving me just a little extra ‘push’.

    Good luck with whatever works for you and your little one, unique souls (and bodies and minds) that you are and congrats getting this far (two years is certainly a victory)!!! Sorry I got carried away with writing here but this is a subject I have been thinking a lot about two. Still searching for my own answers so will watch and learn from your experience, too, if that is okay πŸ™‚

    • Oh, man! I missed the windows to wean! I just did not feel that she was ‘ready’ at the time. She is a very sporadic eater (of table foods). She has hypothyroidism, and this has been responsible for her unpredictable eating habits. I imagine we will start weaning more – in a natural way – in a few months, when her eating habits have stabilized with her thyroid levels.
      Thanks for all of the information! I do try to turn to the World Health Organization, as I don’t believe that the U.S.A. has the healthiest habits for babies. My daughter was always on a different growth chart than the formula-fed babies that dominate the US health charts, so it’s always good to remember the W.H.O. as a good resource!
      Although I don’t see myself nursing my child until she’s three, I also didn’t see myself nursing past one year, then 18 months, and now age two, so I might be weaning her around the same time that you were weaned πŸ™‚

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