A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Wean That Toddler

I’ve noticed that anytime I speak about hardships in breastfeeding the first thing some people say is “it looks like it’s time to wean!” This demonstrates to me a gross misunderstanding of weaning.

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Weaning is a process. Usually, when done gently, you don’t just wake up one day, decide to wean, tell him no more boobie and solve all of your problems. Weaning is done over a period of time, taking into consideration your own feelings as well as the child’s. Weaning can be traumatic for a child. For many children breastfeeding is everything. Weaning is a choice to shift a child’s entire world.

Weaning is also a decision. A big decision. A final decision. Many children wean on their own with no intervention from the parent. Some parents decide before this happens that they want to intervene as a result of their own feelings. This is a decision that can only be made by the parent. Weaning can be traumatic for both mother and child. Because this decision is based on personal feelings it is impossible for anyone to recommend it to another person. It’s actually harmful and inappropriate to suggest to another person that they wean their nursling. This breastfeeding relationship is unique to each set of mother and child.

You see, no matter the issues a mother is disclosing to you it is impossible for you to know if this is the right decision for her and her child. She is possibly struggling quite a bit, but weaning may open another door to more intense struggles if done before a mother and child are ready.

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This comes up quite a lot when discussing nursing aversion. I hear that it must be my body telling me it’s time to “wean that toddler.” In fact, nursing aversion is more likely linked to hormonal changes that happen anytime in a mother’s life due to countless factors if not pregnancy and postpartum. The reality is we don’t know what causes it. It’s an intense struggle to manage. Actually, it’s such an intense struggle to manage that making a decision to wean at the wrong time could cause even more undue stress on a mother and nursling.

We must stop slinging this word around. Saying “just wean!” is like saying “just breastfeed!” If only it were that easy. If only the decision and process had anything to do with you. It’s easy to say when you are not the one making it happen.

Weaning is not a joke. It is not an answer to anything. It is not a quick fix. It is a personal decision made by mother and child at a time when they feel they can do so successfully and positively without trauma. We want people to respect our rights to breastfeed, breastfeed in public, breastfeed beyond infancy, co-sleep, etc. We, in turn, must be willing to respect the rights of a mother to make the decision for herself and her child about if and when weaning is right for them.

In short, quit telling people what to do.

Abby Theuring, MSW

*Photos by Maggie Cuprisin Photography. Please visit her website and Facebook page.