Baby Self Weaning Signs, Weaning Ages & Maternal Emotions
At 14 months old, my baby self weaned from breastfeeding. The following questions ran through my mind; is this normal at this age? What are baby self weaning signs? Is it really self weaning, or could it just be a nursing strike?
Nursing Strike Vs Baby Self Weaning
The first couple of days that my 14 month old refused to breastfeed, I was certain it was a nursing strike related to teething pain. What to Expect explains that teething can make sucking painful for sore gums. Or, possibly a strike for some other reason. He had gone on nursing strikes a couple of times when he was younger, and I never knew the reason behind them, but they eventually passed.
Possible Reasons For a Nursing Strike
Since the idea that my son was possibly self weaning wasn’t even on my radar initially, I wondered if I could pinpoint a reason he might be on a nursing strike. Here is a list from Babycenter of possible reasons for baby nursing strikes;
- An ear infection
- Illness (eg a cold or thrush)
- Reduced milk supply
- A change in the taste of breast milk
- A change in schedule
Signs of Baby Self Weaning
As day after day passed and my son continued to refuse to breastfeed though, and after coming across several articles about baby self weaning signs, I realized my breastfeeding days were over. And in hindsight, I realized that my son had been slowly self weaning over the course of the last month.
- He had been dropping a feed most days, or having shorter breastfeeding sessions.
- He was eating more and more solid foods during snack and mealtimes.
- He was very excited about exploring the world around him (he just started walking too). Oftentimes he would somersault off of my lap as soon as he was done feeding so that he could go explore or play with something.
- My breasts were feeling less full, likely adjusting to his shorter feeds and fewer sessions.
- He had completely stopped night feeds as he was starting to sleep through the night more, or only briefly waking for a diaper change.
Maternal Feelings About Baby Self Weaning
I had a lot of conflicting feelings when I realized my baby had self weaned. It was bittersweet.
While I had a difficult time breastfeeding the first couple months of my son’s life (I talk about this in my post on Painful Breastfeeding), I eventually got the hang of it and ended up getting attached to nurturing my baby in this way.
So I was planning on breastfeeding my son until he was at least 2 years old. The CDC recommends breastfeeding for 1 year or more, and the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for 2 years or more. I always figured I would be the one to decide when we stopped breastfeeding.
But there I was, confronted with my son becoming his own little independent agent. It was both something to celebrate on his developmental journey, as well as something to feel sad about. I was feeling the pangs of how fast time goes by with a baby.
The Joys of Baby Weaning Off Breastfeeding
There were some perks to no longer be breastfeeding though. Without having to be available to breastfeed multiple times throughout a day, I felt a renewed sense of independence. I hadn’t felt such bodily autonomy since before my son was born. Or maybe even before being pregnant. And there was less to think about logistically as far as timing feeds and trying to schedule activities outside of the home.
Feeling Sad About Stopping Breastfeeding
Thinking about the benefits of no longer breastfeeding helped balance out the loss I was feeling; from that literal and figurative attachment I had with my child through breastfeeding. I liked that I could offer him comfort when he would wake up crying in the night. And I liked that during a busy day, we could sit quietly, and I could just be there for him and with him in those moments. He no longer needed me in this way though, and that was hard for me to navigate.
Is it Normal that my Child is Self Weaning? What is the Natural Weaning Age?
Although I came to peace with my conflicting feelings over my baby self weaning, I still did not understand why my son had self weaned at 14 months. Had I done something wrong? Why do some toddlers breastfeed so much longer? What are those mothers who have to rip their child from their breast at 4 years old doing differently? Was this normal?
At this point, I should know that the term “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean all that much when it comes to babies and toddlers. There are general timelines and milestones of child development, but ultimately the babies do what the babies want. And they do it in their own time and in their own way.
Weaning Age is Variable: Different Weaning Experiences From Real Life Mamas
The first couple of articles I came across when I searched for “normal self weaning age” seemed to suggest that it is not normal for children to self-wean before 18-24 months. Furthermore, these articles stated that if children do wean before then, it isn’t true self weaning.
I continued searching for more information though, and ended up coming across several sources telling a different story. I also asked friends what their experiences were, and what I realized, is that everyone has a different story and timeline. And there is nothing wrong with this.
I have some friends who chose to wean their babies at 1 year old, some at 17 and 18 months, and one who had babies who self weaned between 13-18 months. In addition, my son’s pediatrician discussed how some women will breastfeed until their children are 3 or 4. And I’m sure there are women who do it for even longer. And some of them let their children self wean, and some wean their child by their own choice.
I loved an article by the HuffPost, What The Emotional Journey Of Weaning A Baby Is Really Like. This article shares a collection of short writings from women about their weaning experiences. These shared experiences vary widely, from child led weaning, to mothers actively making the choice to wean their child. And from relief and happiness about weaning, to sadness and physical discomfort.
Furthermore, Alphamom explains that it is certainly possible for babies to self wean before a year old, and she shares her personal experience with the process. There is a long string of comments at the end of her post, with women all sharing their individual and varying experiences that I recommend mothers read if they are feeling insecure about their weaning experiences.
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