To Wean or Not; What is Right?

 

It’s 4 AM and I am wide awake. I shouldn’t be awake, I hardly get any time to begin with. Why is this happening? Reason? I have a 16 month old toddler cluster nursing through the night. I am going to have to get up in an hour anyway, so I can get a workout in, I need sleep…I need energy. My tiredness and frustration is telling me over and over again, “I can’t do this” anymore, I need to wean my child NOW.

The scenario described above is one I remember too vividly. Somewhere around when my child was a year and half, I hit the same point. I couldn’t stand even her tiny fingers touching my breasts. The question of weaning constantly played on my mind. I kept coming back to the statement that breastfeeding has to work for both the mom and baby, societal/family or any external pressures come second.

As a breastfeeding mother and as a lactation consultant, I have got numerous queries on weaning a child from breastfeeding. While some wanted to wean because they want to sleep better, others want to do so because breastfeeding was not working well for the family. I have heard stories where women feel that they feel like they got their bodies back after weaning to them feeling a huge emotional gap. I would say weaning is quite a controversial topic because there are so many aspects to it, a huge one being that society “expects” us to wean early and not breastfeed a toddler because the perception is that it will lead to a bad habit.  On the other hand, weaning is a huge emotional decision as well. This blog touches over some of the different facets associated with weaning.

 

 

  1. Breastfeeding a toddler past a year or two does not cause a bad habit. On the contrary, research shows that when a child is allowed to self wean, which happens anywhere between 2.5 years to 7 years, they develop as more confident and independent individuals.  It is hard to constantly hear from family members, friends, or random strangers that breastfeeding an older child must stop, please remember that it is not necessary. Breastfeeding a toddler is a saving grace when your child goes through a sickness or appetite drop, most of which happen past the one year mark.
  2. Weaning from breastfeeding does not guarantee uninterrupted sleep. Many women get tired from the constant night waking’s, which is natural in breastfeeding, and want to wean thinking it will lead to better sleep. This is not true. Sleep is a developmental and children will eventually learn to sleep through the night at their own time.
  3. A step by step and gradual approach to weaning is always the best for both you and your child. Stopping all feeds at the same time can lead to severe engorgement or infections like mastitis . Applying bitter substances like neem juice or medicines to your nipples is also not a great idea because breastfeeding is never ever about nutrition alone. Babies and toddlers find breastfeeding comforting and nurturing. Abruptly turning what used to be a comforting feed to something that is unpleasant by applying bitter substances can be psychologically traumatic to a child.
  4. While W.H.O recommends breastfeeding on demand till 2 years, breastfeeding has to work for you and your family’s circumstances. There is lot guilt, self inflicted or societal, when it comes to weaning. Always, remember that it has to work for you and your family; and weaning does not mean all or nothing. If your child is over one year old, Sometimes, just reducing the number of feedings in a day can make a huge difference. Since each mother-baby pair has different needs, talking to a lactation counselor can help you to design specific weaning plans that work for you AND your baby
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  • Jessica
    December 5, 2017 at 5:16 am

    There is no surefire approach to weaning a baby but there are certain rules you can follow to make sure the transition goes smooth for […] Read MoreThere is no surefire approach to weaning a baby but there are certain rules you can follow to make sure the transition goes smooth for you as well as your little one. https://www.parentcircle.com/article/8-easy-ways-to-start-weaning-your-baby/ Read Less

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