Weaning is something that has a lot of contention in the natural parenting community. Everyone has an opinion as to when and how you should do it. I will tell you right now, there is no one way to do it. Throughout history, weaning has been something that has changed. A lot of when we wean these days is determined by societal pressures and communal culture. With understanding of nutrition and the ready availability of food, it is not as dangerous to wean a child younger than in the past. La Leche League defines weaning as the introduction of solid foods, not the removal of the breast milk.
I don’t. I just want that to be clear before we continue. You may choose to define it how you wish. But the purpose of this article is the eventual removal of the boob. I have already talked about finger foods- and really, most people call the introduction of finger foods and the baby’s self-feeding to be Baby Led Weaning. Call it whatever you want. The name doesn’t matter. For me, it was just the introduction of finger foods to a hunger fuss face boy. For another mother it may be Baby Led Weaning.
Weaning: to teach the sucking child to feed otherwise than from the breast
I do believe that weaning is a gradual change, but the end result is that the child is no longer suckling at the breast. When you choose to do this, is up to you. Yes, the introduction of solid foods is a step to getting your child off the boob. I have to be honest though, I have not started the process of removing my son from the breast or actively trying to. He eats solid food, but I still offer him the breast first when I know he is hungry and I am home to do so. He is also only 9 months old and I don’t plan on even starting to try until he is a year old.
It is recommended by most that you should continue breastfeeding (or giving formula) for at least the first year of life. Even when you have introduced solid foods into the diet of the child, the infant receives most of their nutrition from the breast or the bottle. At around 6 months of age, the infant begins to develop the “chewing” reflex and will bite instead of suck food from a spoon. They start to lose the sucking pads from the inside of their cheeks and they are getting manually dexterous with the pincher motion.
Now, many people say that so long as baby is sitting upright, you can give them as many foods as they want and they won’t choke if they feed themselves. If they had ever seen my son eat, they would know this is a dirty, dirty lie. I tried this with my son, putting his food bits on the tray in front of him while we sat and ate. He promptly stuffed as many as would go into his mouth and choked. After the split second freak out I had, I promptly scooped food out of his mouth and gave him the squeeze and he was fine. This is why you should never leave your baby unattended with food.
Since then, we worked on this issue. I started by only giving him a couple of food bites in front of him and then slowly increased the number. We have been working on giving him more until he doesn’t overstuff his mouth. We are pretty much able to give him all his food at once now, but that took a month of working on it.
So, we have been introducing solid foods to him. If you want to work toward removing the bottle or the boob from your baby, you would make sure that you have several meals together a day, removing the bottle or breast feedings as you introduce them. I would suggest starting slowly with one meal replacing a bottle or breast. I think those people who use formula are more likely to want to wean faster. Formula is expensive and sort of a pain in the rump. So, introducing solids to a child to get them off the bottle sooner is an eventual goal for most formula fed babies.
When you are ready to remove your child from the breast, instead of giving them the breast first, give them the breast after some solid food. Then, slowly stop giving them a breast at all after the solid food. If you baby fusses for the boob, go ahead and give it to them. You don’t want to cause them stress over it and if they are really fussing for the boob, they probably aren’t ready to go off of it. Eventually, you can wean your child down to less milk. This will be nice for both your baby and for you. As you produce less milk, the milk itself changes and adjusts to your child’s needs. It becomes fattier and the enzymes change, preparing your child for their new diet.
Soon, you may find that your child only wants an evening feeding. If you feel you are ready to break them of that, change their night time routine. Instead of giving them the breast to help them sleep, maybe give them a bath or a cup of water. Have your partner start getting them ready for bed instead. Or just stop offering your breast. If they ask, give it to them, but don’t go out of your way to give them the breast. The key here is to be comfortable in your choice and to make your child comfortable with your choice.
Don’t let anyone dictate to you what to do or how you should feel. If you and your child want to continue breast feeding, then by all mean, go for it.
I can already see my future. My son has started to take the breast less and doesn’t seem overly interested in it unless he happens to be both tired and hungry- then the only thing he wants is the boobies. I suspect he will wean himself off the breast at around 18 months the way he is going. He prefers solid food. He likes to play with it and feed himself. He enjoys the independence of it.
Allow your child to set the pace. The real key to natural parenting is to do what is natural for you and your baby. Not what any book or any one person says is natural or normal. Each mother/baby duo (or trio or whatever as the case may be) is different and has a different need and want. Do what makes you happy and what feels right for you and your child. Don’t force them off the breast, but at the same time, don’t force them to stay on it either.
[[I shall share with you my dirty little secret as a natural mama- I am not fond of the LLL. Every person I have spoken to in the group has been either condescending with a superiority complex or has been overly militant about the issue of breastfeeding. And this is not based on a sampling of 1 or 2 people. I am talking more like a sampling of 20-30 people from 4 different groups. If I want to nurse with a cover for my personal comfort, I shall do so. If I want to give my baby puree peas on a spoon before finger foods, I will. If I have to go back to work and pump instead of being a full time mom, I am going to do that. If my husband is going to be our child's primary caregiver, there is nothing unnatural about that. End Frothy Rage Rant. (Feel free to criticize me over this, I don't care, I wear big girl panties and can take it.)]]