Dealing with Weaning Guilt

As a child grows from infant to toddler, then from toddler to pre-school age, most mothers experience periods of remorse, depression and guilt. Their guilt might be from feeling like they pushed the child too fast or did not provide the child with enough nurturing time. These feelings are natural and, with some very simple techniques, the guilty feeling from your child moving onto another stage of their lives, whether it is from weaning or entering their first school, can be abated very easily.

Of all the different stages, however, weaning guilt is often the most prevalent. This is particularly true when a child is weaned because Mom is re-entering the workforce. All mothers, however, are haunted by nagging questions of whether they weaned too early and whether they made the right decision for the child.

The easiest way to avoid weaning guilt is to give the child the time they need to begin choosing solid foods without first opting for breast milk. This will not only ensure they develop at their own pace, but will give them the extra nourishment breast milk provides. By allowing the child to dictate their own terms in regards to weaning, the mother is absolved of almost all guilt as it is the child making the decision.

In many situations, however, that simply is not possible and in those instances, different approaches for dealing with weaning guilt are in order. Usually, these situations are dictated by outside reality, such as a mother has to return to work to support the family and in these cases, some very basic techniques can help ease any guilt or depression that a mother might feel.

The first step is to analytically examine the decision, separating reality from emotion. Is the child still getting the nourishment they need? Are they still being given the time to bond with Mom on a daily basis and have the opportunity to hug, cling and be held? If the answer is “yes,” and chances are it is, the process of guilt becomes easily recognizable as unnecessary and thus easier to ignore.

Another approach is to talk with other mothers. All moms have periods in their child’s development where they feel they let the child down. Commiserating with other moms will show you are not alone and far from an abnormal or poor mother.  Additionally, you will probably be able to pick up new approaches to deal with guilt or depression associated with your decision.

Finally, realize that as long as your child is being cared for adequately, they are not suffering from lack of breastfeeding. Children are remarkably adaptable beings and quickly assimilate into almost any situation they are thrust. Even if your child was weaned early, they will grow up healthy and well developed, provided they have good role models and instructors in their parents.

If, however, your guilt is over-riding all other feelings or rational thought, or if it is leading to depression, seeking a doctor’s help is not a bad idea. This is particularly true if you have had a period or periods of post-partum depression. At that point, the guilt you feel could be an indicator of something mentally much more serious, although almost always treatable.