When and how you decide to wean your breastfeeding child depends on whether you would like to follow a child-led weaning approach or a mother-led weaning approach. It is extremely rare that a child will self wean prior to the age of approximately 2.5 years old. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between weaning and a nursing strike. Know that real weaning is a gradual process and rarely happens abruptly.
Breastfeeding does not have to be an all or nothing thing. Consider the reasons you are wanting to wean. If you are going back to work, it is definitely possible for you to continue nursing during the times you are home. Breastfeeding is a powerful tool for reconnecting with your child after a long day of separation.
Weaning is a very personal decision. My only recommendation is that if you are going to follow a mother-led weaning approach, please do so gently and gradually. The following tips, meant for weaning children over 12 months of age, may help to make the transition a smooth one for you and your child:
- Flexibility – Be prepared for weaning to be a gradual process and go into it knowing that you will need to be flexible while your child adapts.
- Extra affection – Offer your child extra hugs, cuddles, and other forms of physical affection during the day and night. Your breastfeeding provides so much more to a developing child then just breast milk.
- “Don’t offer – Don’t refuse” – Employ a “don’t offer don’t refuse” approach to weaning when you begin. If your child would like to nurse then by all means let him; but don’t offer when he is happily doing something else.
- Drop one feeding – Start by dropping only one feeding at a time. Be prepared for nighttime and nap nursing sessions to be the last to go.
- Avoid nursing spots – Avoid sitting in locations where your child is used to nursing, such as your favorite rocking chair.
- Keep busy – Keeping your child distracted throughout the day will probably naturally limit nursing sessions.