Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success

Welcome to the Carnival of Weaning: Weaning – Your Stories

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

Breastfeeding is a special time for both moms and babies. Often when mothers talk about weaning, they compare notes on the crying, the engorgement, the hassle and the confusion that it caused. The good news is that weaning can be a gentle and positive experience full of joy both for mom and child.  In deciding when the right time to wean is, I encourage mothers to find the timing that works best for them and their child.

This particular post is intended for moms that are interested, contemplating or committed to gently supporting their child towards self-weaning while keeping attachment practices in mind.

weaning and breastfeeding

Children that are given the chance to self-wean usually do so sometime well after their first birthday and before their sixth birthday.  My two oldest children weaned near to their second birthday’s,  my youngest daughter just turned two and is now only nursing three times in any given day.My children’s self-weaning was very sweet and special and a process that unfolded over several months, each when they were ready.

These are three special ways to gently work towards weaning:

Make meals matter

One component of breastfeeding is nutrition. Breast milk is rich in nutrients that are vital to babies development in the first year and continues to have fantastic benefits well beyond the first twelve months. In order to make the transition from breast to solid foods positive, I tried to offered really tasty and fun snacks and meals to my nurslings in between nursing sessions.

 

Snack and meal times were treated with the same kind of gentle attention that was given to breastfeeding. Paying attention to my children, watching them investigate their food, allowing them to explore the contents of their plate (much like a nursling enjoys patting an arm or back, twirling hair or examining a necklace) allowing my children to fully become acquainted with what they were eating was important for both of us.

Respecting tastes that did not sit well with them and also allowing my children to set the pace and accept when they no longer wanted to eat their food was important too.  When breastfeeding, if my child was full they could latch off, they set the pace,  so with a plate of food, if they said “all done” and pushed food away or started throwing the food down, I respected that it was the equivalent of a latch off and did not force them to have “just another bite” or to “clean their plate.”

The more enjoyable meal and snack time was the more interesting it became and so just breastfeeding when they could explore rich textures and flavors, the more food became their primary interest and thus primary source of nutrition.

Make time to connect

Another component of breastfeeding is nurturing. Babies naturally calm and love being snuggled and breastfed. For my children, the time spent breastfeeding was mostly also a lot of time spent cuddling, holding each other’s hands, enjoying each other’s company.  While I did spend time nursing at the keyboard, nursing while baby wearing and on the go, mostly, breastfeeding my children has been not only been about nutrition but also about connection.

 

Naturally, as my children grew from baby to toddler, we spent plenty of time doing things other than breastfeeding; playing, tummy time, reading, taking walks, singing and so on…Making sure to keep these opportunities to create connection when not breastfeeding was really important. I noticed that as my children were self-weaning, they would for example bring a book, ask to breastfeed but the time spent breastfeeding would get shorter and shorter as reading, playing, singing was becoming more interesting, until eventually the only nursing sessions were early morning and evening as they didn’t ask to breastfeed the rest of the day. But, if they did ask to be nursed, they did.

 

Add something special into the regular routine

In the evenings, after breastfeeding but before sleeping we have always had a tradition of telling stories that I make up.  As my children got older and were able to participate in the creative process of storytelling, I started asking them questions about the characters and plot, inviting the children to participate in the story-telling. By this point, when they could participate in the telling process they were toddlers and they were probably breastfeeding mostly just in the morning and in the evening.  The more involved they became in the storytelling, the more exciting it was to just get to “lights out” to start story telling time so they wanted to breastfeed less and less.  Adding something special to the routine can be as simple as a cool new handshake or a stuffed animal singing a song, and while there are no guarantees that it will be more interesting than a warm loving nursing session, it’s still something special to share so I highly recommend it! You can read a little bit about one of my boys very last nursing session here.

Where are you in your breastfeeding journey? Just starting, somewhere in the middle, leaning towards weaning? Do share below in the comments!

Peace & Be Well,

Ariadne

Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):

  • Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
  • Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened and yet equally gentle in its approach.
  • Weaning Aversion’Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced ‘feeding aversion’.
  • Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughts On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma’s evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
  • Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
  • Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn‘s super power is diminishing.
  • Reflections on Weaning – Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
  • Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for SuccessMudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
  • Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer’s Daughter.
  • 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
  • Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
  • I thought about weaning… — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
  • Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
  • Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
  • Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
  • Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn’t have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
  • Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
  • Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
  • Breastfeeding: If there’s one thing I know for sure… — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it’s time to wean?
  • Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.
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Ariadne is a happy and busy mama to three children. She practices peaceful, playful, responsive parenting and is passionate about all things parenting and chocolate. Ariadne has a B.S. in Communication, is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator, and has completed several graduate courses in child development, psychology and family counseling. She lives on top of a beautiful mountain with her family, one cuddly dog and "bluey" the fish.

27 thoughts on “Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success

  1. These are lovely, gentle suggestions for helping to transition away from breastfeeding with a little one. I particularly like the idea of adding something special during the times when nursing used to be the main focus. Thank you!

  2. It’s lovely to see such positive suggestions for helping kids wean, thank you for sharing them – and you make an excellent point that if we’re happy for kids to unlatch when they’ve finished nursing, we should also respect their sensation of being full/finished when they’re eating solids.

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  11. Ariadne- I love your unique take on these three important ideas. I know moms are oriented toward getting kids to “fill up” on food instead of nursing, but how often do we focus on really attending to our child as she eats? And on making food that she can’t resist? And on giving her “control” of her eating, rather than pushing her to eat one more bite? Such brilliant suggestions. And I had never thought of your idea of adding something new to the bedtime routine. I can just imagine your children rushing to get ready for bed because Mudpie Mama is going to tell a story! I wish I could join them to listen!

    • Dr. Laura, Thank you so much for stopping by and your wonderful feedback! Do come by for story time any day :)

  12. What a warm positive article to read on weaning!

    It’s so lovely to be focusing on how to make your children comfortable with the process.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  13. Oh, I so love the idea of storytelling or adding something special AFTER nursing that they look forward to! I am going to have to think about that! My girls are really close but I think they will miss the special cuddles and I’d like to put something in place to replace it before we say goodbye to nursing. Great post, thank you!

    • Kristin, yes for us the challenge was that nursing was always the last stop before sleeping and of course falling asleep nursing happened all the time! Finding something just as special made the transition much easier. Good luck to you, i hope you find something that works well :)

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  20. What a wonderful write up!! Positive,encouraging,warm nd kind..this is d first weaning article dat i absolutely love! The ideas r grt, wont lead to crying on baby’s part nd frustration on mother’s part..it makes u realise that getting angry,upset or fed up never helps..instead put urself in d baby’s shoes nd think frm their perspective,respect nd treat dem as individuals! I just hope i can manage to let my dd drift off to sleep without nursing..i just want to break that sleep association nd not wean her as of now(she is 20months)

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