Updated June 24th 2023
If you haven’t had the chance to read part 1 of my journey yet, read it here.
When I weaned my son, I didn’t tell anyone I weaned him. Here I am, a lactation expert, helping people solve breastfeeding challenges, encouraging natural term weaning and I was feeling guilty for weaning my child. I felt guilty for doing it even though I know all breastfeeding journey’s come to an end for different reasons.
Some would consider weaning a 17 month old extended breastfeeding. The World Health Organization currently recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months at which point solids are introduced and breastfeeding should continue alongside the solid foods until 2 years of age or the child decides to wean.
The global average age of weaning is 4. Many children in other parts of the world breastfeeding until this age or later. Here in North America, there is societal pressure to wean by age 1. Somewhere along the lines, the recommendation of at least 12 months, became “end at 12 months”. So by some standards, my son breastfed for a long time and by others, he was weaned early.
The days after he weaned, I went through an entirely new experience. Post weaning depression is feelings of sadness, irritability, feeling tearful or depressed after weaning. It’s thought it’s due to the shift in hormones and the reduction in prolactin and oxytocin after weaning. The more gradual the weaning process, the less likely you are to experience these emotions.
Even though my weaning process was slow, I did experience bouts of sadness, grief and some tearful moments. It’s a big change in your feeding relationship. Breastfeeding is truly that, a relationship. It’s so much more than just nutrition. So when this relationship comes to an end, it’s still a very difficult time
Weaning isn’t a linear process either. Because breastfeeding is a relationship, there will be times when your infant is upset, in pain, or needing closeness and they’ll want to breastfeed.
Here are a few suggestions if you’re feeling like you are ready to wean
Weaning suggestions for a toddler over the age of 12 months:
- Start by dropping one feeding per week – e.g. you drop only the morning feeding for an entire week and see how that goes for you
- Set boundaries – for example: we only breastfed in this chair, while mommy sings this song etc
- Offer a distraction – snack, drink, toy, game, change of scenery etc
- Hold space for big emotions – expect them to be upset and provide that connect with lots of cuddles, hugs, kisses and 1:1 time
- Layer in new things before sleep – an extra book, a drink of water, a new game, a new song, an extra song, bouncing, rocking etc
- Expect it to take time; the gradual weaning process can take months
- It’s not a linear process. If they are teething, sick, upset, hurt – breastfeeding provides comfort, they may want to go back to the breast
If you’re needing to wean from a pump or wanting to just wean during the day and breastfeed in the mornings and at night and are needing some guidance, my on-demand class, Weaning With Love, has the answers to gently guide you along the way. You can click the link above and read more about the class to decide if it’s the right fit for you.
Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 13th). Weaning techniques. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/weaning-techniques/
Bonyata, Kelly. (2018, January 15th). Sadness and depression during (and after) weaning. Kellymom.com. https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/depression-and-weaning/
Pearson-Glaze, Philippa. (2021, February 25th). How to stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding.Support. https://breastfeeding.support/how-to-stop-breastfeeding/
World Health Organization. (2020, August 24). Infant and young child feeding. World Health Organization. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding#:~:text=WHO%20and%20UNICEF%20recommend%3A,years%20of%20age%20or%20beyond