Breastfeeding Challenges: Extended Breastfeeding and Weaning

Image by agastecheg

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Breastfeeding Mini Series. I took last Friday off and decided to post today instead. 

It’s hard to believe this is our final post in this series! 

I thought it would be appropriate to tie up the series with a final breastfeeding challenge–weaning.

I have to admit, weaning makes me a little weepy.

No, I don’t want my daughters to nurse forever, but just like sleeping through the night, getting their first teeth and learning how to crawl or walk, weaning signifies that our babies really won’t be babies forever!

My second baby–who will turn 1 in a few weeks!

As your baby grows, less feedings are needed. Babies quickly learn how to nurse more efficiently. So, 12 feedings per day may turn into 10 feedings per day pretty fast.

Any time a feeding is dropped, weaning has begun.

By the time your baby is 6 months, he or she may only be nursing 4 to 6 times per day, depending on whether or not you’ve introduced solids.

Can’t believe this little one is already 3!

By the time your baby is ready to wean (and he or she will usually let you know), nursing may be down to only one time every other day or so–really–at least that’s how it was for me and Baby Girl #1.

Now, some moms just wean their babies cold turkey. 

Even though my goal was to breastfeed for a year (then I backed it up to 2 weeks!), as my oldest neared her first birthday, I just couldn’t imagine she (nor I) were ready to stop nursing.

I think she had latched onto my chin here!

At that point, she was already pretty verbal and would ask for it.

I know this may sound strange for some. I never, ever imagined I would breastfeed a child who could talk–but I did!

I think our culture has put a stigma on breastfeeding longer than one year. But all over the world, women nurse their babies for much longer, and the health benefits cannot be denied.

The World Health Organization actually recommends mothers nurse their infants for up to two years.

I decided that I wouldn’t wean just because my daughter had turned a year old. The only reason to do so at that point would have been cultural pressure. 

And I think child-led weaning really made our weaning experience all that much easier.

By a year old, my daughter nursed around 3-4 times per day (usually with breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime).

Over the course of the next 10 months, she gradually dropped feedings herself. Since she could talk, I left it up to her and only nursed her if she asked for it.

By the time she dropped her morning nap (around 18 months), she was only nursing about 3 times per day (breakfast, before nap and at bedtime).

Image by CathyK

A couple months later, she dropped her bedtime feeding and only nursed first thing in the morning.

By the time she was 22 months old (and I was 3 months pregnant with Baby Girl #2), she only nursed every other day or so. 

I never became engorged or got clogged ducts or anything during the weaning process.

Now emotionally? It was hard. Because it did signify she was growing up.

Me and my girls–Baby Girl is still nursing!

But it was mutual. And we still had (and still have!) plenty of cuddle time without nursing.

Now, I believe everyone’s situation is unique. Perhaps you are a working mom who really needs to wean. Everyone has a different experience.

My sister recently weaned her two-year-old cold turkey. She told him a few days before his second birthday: “Two-year-old little boys don’t get nurse-y time anymore.”

He seemed to understand. She nursed him the night before, and she hasn’t nursed him since.

And he’s been fine.

Little Girl & my nephew on his 2nd birthday. He weaned the day before!

That may sound cruel to some, but my sister is 7 months pregnant with twins–and she has type 1 diabetes (which makes her high risk).

And, under the guidance of her doctors, I think she made a wise decision.

How about you? If you breastfed, how did you wean your children? At what age did they wean? What do you think about breastfeeding beyond one year?

This officially concludes the breastfeeding series, although, breastfeeding is a subject I am sure I will re-visit again and again!

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Comments

  1. Sarah says

    Currently tandem nursing my 30mo and 5 mo. Right now, my toddler nurses more than my baby. If I refuse to nurse or ask her to wait, she gets mad and acts out. Yet, I am so touched out…I need some options…

    • J. says

      Do you think you may be experiencing nursing aversion with your oldest? La Leche League has a good forum you can join that has a tandem breastfeeding section. They might be able to help, or at least offer encouragement… Maybe even some personal stories. :) llli.org

    • Sierra says

      I’m currently nursing my 21 month old son. He nurses about 5 times during the day and throughout the night because we co-sleep. When I was pregnant with him my goal was at least a year, I wasn’t able to nurse his sister who is now 6. I get constant comments especially from relatives such as ” when are you going to stop doing that?” ” your spoiling him” “he’s STILL breastfeeding? ! Don’t you think he is too old for that!?” One day a complete stranger walked up to me and said ” you should be ashamed of yourself! Your baby is obviously overweight and will no doubt be diabetic later in life. You obviously have no knowledge of nutrition and I feel it’s my duty to inform you.” I was awestruck by her rudeness.

      It’s very draining to be bombarded by so much negativity. Thankfully my boyfriend is fully supportive of us and we are on the same page in regards to our son will wean when he is ready. It poses no health risks to either of us and like you stated the benefits for him are enough reason for me.

      My pediatrician is a whole different story. My son was born 10 lbs 2 oz by the time he was 6 months old he was 30 lbs. He plautead there for 6 months and sprouted up. He is currently 40 lbs. At our last check up his dr said she was concerned with his weight and asked about his diet. My kids both love fruits, vegetables and meats. We drink water, juice, and almond milk. They have an occasional sweet but we don’t eat fast food and don’t buy anything processed. When I told her this she was surprised and asked how often he nurses, I told her 5-6 times during the day and throughout the night. Her first comment was that all his extra calories (i.e. weight) must be from the breastmilk and I need to cut him back or stop all together.

      I was taken back by her orders and the lack of thought concerning the benefits of continued breastfeeding.

      I’m looking for a new pediatrician. My boyfriend was also a big baby (11 lbs 4 ozs) so a lot of our sons build is genetic. My boyfriend is 6′ and a healthy muscular build. We are not concerned about our sons weight, he has plautead again at 40 lbs and gets taller every week he is over 3 feet tall. He is active, happy, and very intelligent and affectionate.

      It’s very sad to me that our society is so negative towards breastfeeding, especially when you are not at your home.

  2. Alexandria says

    My son will be 2 next month and just recently dropped his last nursing session. He just stopped asking for it. Like you said I am a little sad about it because it makes me realize he really is no longer a baby. On the other hand I am ready to be done (I have the worst nursing aversion lately), and am hoping for another baby soon. Thanks for this post and normalizing extended breastfeeding. It really does, sadly, have a very negative view here.

    • says

      Thanks for sharing your story, Alexandria! My 3rd–28 months–just weaned this week! It’s a little bittersweet because she may be our last, but it was time. I had a great 6 1/2 years (between all 3 girls!) of nursing!

  3. Lucy says

    Breastfeeding was a tiring experience for me when I first nursed my child, but I got use to that. He was very much attached. He is now going on 7 years, and he weaned himself from feeding at 5 years. It was so hard for me, I didn’t really want him to quit, but he is getting too big to keep nursing.
    Now I am feeding again, was tiring like it was in the beginning of my first feeder, but I’m getting use to it and I don’t want her to stop either, until she is ready to stop on her own.

  4. Katie says

    I nursed my oldest 2 for 18 months and became pregnant as soon as I stopped nursing. We would like to try for #4, but my 32 month old has no interest in giving up the boob. I am so torn! We would like to try for another child before I get too much older!

  5. Kayla says

    i still breastfeed my daughter who is 17 months and I get a lot of negative comments about it. I do not nurse in public. We co-sleep and she only nurses at nap time, bedtime and if she gets hurt. I think it’s mostly a comfort thing but she is definately healthier and less sick than my 7 and 9 year old when they were small. I wasn’t able to nurse either of them because my milk never came in. I’ve been wondering when and how to wean.

    • says

      I think it is wonderful that you are still nursing your 17-month-old! My 28-month-old, my youngest of 3, just weaned, and she has been my healthiest of babies! I am a firm believer in the slow approach to weaning and letting them self wean. All 3 of my girls did this, and I never got engorged or uncomfortable in the weaning process! As they ate more and more food, they slowly dropped nursing times themselves. At the end, my youngest was only nursing about once every other day, and the milk just very gradually dried up on its own.

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