One of the most difficult decisions every breastfeeding mother makes is choosing when to wean. We all have that strong biological urge to provide the best of everything for our babies. We agonize over bottle choices, our diets, formula or breast milk quality, and baby soap. Deciding when to wean is no different. Personally, I thought about it on a monthly basis starting at 3 months. I would read the statistics on babies breastfed through my current milestone, pat myself on the back, and daydream about the freedom I would have if I just weaned him already!
Inevitably, I would create a mental pros and cons list and realize it wasn’t time. It was saving us money. It was the best nutrition I could offer him. And Jackson had a strong emotional attachment to nursing, which was actually a real life saver. While it felt time-consuming and draining on some days, breastfeeding simplified our lives in so many ways. The truth is, I wasn’t really ready to give it up. But maybe you are.
We all know that “breast is best” for a whole host of health reasons, but whether your baby is 3 months old or 3 years old, there are two very important things to consider before you wean:
- Their emotional needs.
Is your baby or child a comfort nurser? Some babies rely heavily on nursing for comfort during times of physical or emotional distress, and let me tell you, that is perfectly okay. Despite how it may feel, it will not last forever. One day they may wake up and have zero interest in breastfeeding ever again. Or you may wake up and realize that over the past week, you have only breastfed them a handful of times. Some babies are pretty blasé about the whole thing. My daughter could take it or leave it once she turned 6 months old. Sometimes, I felt like I was inconveniencing her by even offering the breast. I swear, she looked at me and sighed in annoyance one time. So, take your child’s emotions into consideration. They are little individuals after all. If you are lucky, they fall somewhere in the middle and the weaning process will come easily for both of you.
- Your emotional needs.
How are you feeling? If just the thought of breastfeeding one more time causes you distress, you resent your child for nursing, or the only reason you still breastfeed is out of mom-guilt, it may be time to wean. Don’t get me wrong. I have experienced ALL of those feelings. But they should be fleeting, not all-consuming. If these kinds of feelings plague you consistently, I encourage you to take a moment and consider your own needs. Put yourself first for a moment. I know what you are thinking. Yeah, right. Is that even possible? Think of it this way though. Your emotional well being directly affects your child. So, you are really putting your baby first by taking care of yourself. You may decide this is just a rough patch you can get through, and if so, that is great. But if you decide these feelings have gone on for too long and you simply can’t do it anymore, don’t be afraid to wean. Go for a slow and gradual approach. It will make the transition emotionally easier for your child and physically easier for you.
Whatever you do, don’t let the opinions of others dictate your decision. Maybe your three-year-old needs to comfort nurse, and you enjoy the bonding time. Maybe you just genuinely dislike the act of breastfeeding your 6-month-old, and you need to stop. It is your baby and your body. Not your mom’s, your father-in-law’s, the neighbor’s, or the grocery store cashier’s baby. Do what you need to do mamas.