Before I had a baby one of the biggest parts of motherhood I craved was breastfeeding. The look on a contented mother’s face while feeding was always so inspiring to me and I couldn’t wait to experience it on my own. When I gave birth, my daughter was put on my belly and she made her way up to my chest where we had our first experience of breastfeeding minutes after she was born. With blood still in her hair and her body covered in vernix that I slowly massaged into her skin, we started our external relationship as mother and daughter.
I am really glad I had such affection for breastfeeding because my daughter was a trooper. She fed all the time. Really. Many of my photos of her in the first year of her life are of me feeding her or are audio clips of the sounds she made while sucking. I loved it so much and had made the decision early on that I wouldn’t stop breastfeeding until she was ready. As she got older we decided we would do “baby-led weaning” (as it is called in the UK, child led weaning in the USA). For us this meant that her first means of nutrition would be from breast milk and she would be allowed to eat any food she wanted. No purees, no jars. She would shift into eating solids when she was ready and subsequently she would shift where she would get her main source of nutrition from as well.
Shortly after she was 6 months old she picked up a slice of apple and sucked on it. Slowly she ate more and more solids, exploring textures and flavors with vigour. Something we have found is that she still goes through phases that children who are puree weaned go through. For example, right now she doesn’t eat any vegetables but carrots. I am not worried, though, because we trust that she will crave what she needs. That concept, trusting, is what made her weaning such a graceful transition for us all. Once she was able to walk and talk, breastfeeding became a new adventure of independence. The first sign of weaning was that she stopped asking for milk. She still wanted it whenever offered, but she didn’t ask. I would say “milk time” and she would pick up the breastfeeding pillow and run over to me with it. I would put it on my lap and she would giggle with delight as I got her into the appropriate position. Then something shifted. I would say “milk time” and she would bring her pillow then run away. A game, I thought. Dan would pick her up and put her on the pillow and she would giggle and eat happily. Then I would say “milk time” with the pillow on my lap already. Dan would bring her over and she would be very unhappy about it. Finally she said “no”. And that was it. She had one more feed after that. Because the feeds and the transition was so gradual, I have had no aches or pains due to weaning. My daughter wants to stay a bit closer to me in the middle of the night but otherwise you would have never guessed such a huge transition has taken place for us all.
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7 thoughts on “On Breastfeeding and Weaning…”
You're so lucky she weaned herself! My daughter is 18 months and she still demands (basically rips my shirt off in public) She is down to about one daytime feeding, but she sleeps with me, and I'm afraid I've become her pacifier. My daughter never took a bottle or pacifier. I breastfed only from the start with no pumping, and fed on demand. I realize now that I also depend on it to get her to sleep. My husband says he wants me to wean, but promptly sends me to give her a "top-up" when she gets cranky. I don't know what to do without letting her cry all night. It's her comfort.
My daughter is 20 months now… and was the same as you until a few weeks ago when I wrote this article. She still sleeps with us. I shifted feeding her to sleep to feeding her downstairs then taking her to sleep. My husband had to stay with her the first few nights but it was actually at that point that she started sleeping through the night. That was 4 months ago. Feel free to contact me and I can tell you in more detail the steps we took. We NEVER let her cry it out. In fact, she never cried at all through the transition.
Great job mama, both in listening to her and to yourself. My daughter weaned herself too, and my two sons was a joint weaning effort, all three very low stress and easy for us all. I still sometimes miss it, but the closeness we had is now in the form of snuggling and sharing thoughts, so it's a happy trade.
My daughter is 32 mths old and hasn't self-weaned nor do I think she will anytime soon. That being said she does seem to cycle through periods of more intense need and attachment and other periods of time she only asks after it has been stated that it is nap or bedtime. These two daytime nurses are relatively short and pleasant. She does go to sleep in her own bed but moves into our bed between 2 and 4am, and her request to nurse seem neverending.
We did seperate nursing from sleeping quite some time ago as she was getting dental decay, we changed our routine to nursing downstairs then up to brush teeth and then to bed with one of us holding her hand or walking with her until she fell asleep. This transition happened immediately following a trip to the dentist and went smoothly and had the added benefit of more frequent requests for daddy to put her too bed.
I had stopped nursing her to sleep sometime prior to that probably around 18 mths of age. At that time I had been reading to her and singing lullabies while she nurses and I switched to just sitting while she nursed and telling her when she was all done she would get a story etc.. that change went well too
It's interesting to hear other women's experiences… My daughter was breastfed until 22 months… she was somewhat interested in carrots, zuccini, pear, and oats… and I'd make them fresh for her but it was good practice to use a spoon and she had fun. She mainly only wanted milk, and was super healthy. She was talking a lot, and understood so much of what I told her, and the transition was led by her but I made it smooth by explaining things to her, and we talked a lot about it. She never wanted a bottle until a few months after she was weaned. She just liked it once in a while to soothe her. I thought our experience went pretty well. I did have some discomfort from the weaning, but mostly because I'd have a let down whenever she'd come close and we'd snuggle. I drank sage in a tincher, and it helped A LOT. I'm looking forward to giving birth to my second child (a boy) this July… it's been 2 years since I nursed my daughter, and I'm ready for that intimate part of parenting again, it's so beautiful.
p.s. it was around 6 months when my daughter wanted foods as well… but like I said it was mainly fun for her, and interesting to feel the food, and taste it… she liked spoons too…
I nursed both of my children. Those days sadly seem long gone. I was really surprised at how easy the weaning went. I guess I never obsessed about having them weaned by a certain time and it helped me and the children. My son liked it as a bed time routine but gave it up around 19 months. My daughter weaned herself when I had to leave for an emergency trip. She was 15 months old. I guess I was lucky thing went so smoothly.
It just naturally happened.
I didn't feed my children any solids until they started growing teeth. My sister in Germany, who nursed her 6 babies, had lots of good advice for me. Why give a child solid food if they don't even have teeth? To me it appears that many US kids get solid food too early. I am always surprised when people tell me all what they feed their infants…I think there is a reason why nature has us grow teeth at a certain time.