Friday, June 15, 2012

When To Wean

I originally wrote this on my previous blog, but I "killed" that blog to start anew. This has been a reoccurring topic in my life recently, so I thought it would be appropriate to re-post it here.

Okay, so when I started breastfeeding I thought anything over 1.5 years was too old. I've been reading and researching about natural weaning and such since she was about 5 months old. In primates (which we all know are the closest related to humans) they wean anywhere from whats equivalent to human years 4-7 depending on the species of monkey.

In the USA babies tend to wean between 1-2 years. Is that because of how humans have evolved? Or just how society views it? I don't know. I haven't gotten that far into my research. It could just be the cultural normal, so somehow subconsciously that's when we make it happen. I tend to wonder if going about introducing solids is done "wrong". (Not really wrong, but I'm at lack of a better term..)

In the Baby Led Weaning [BLW] book it's advised to nurse/bottle feed within an hour of feeding solids, so that the milk or formula stays the main for source, and solids are used to fill in the space, or like a dessert type of deal. I've been wondering, during our own solid journey, that if a lot of early weaning (whether before a year, or compared to primates) is because we're so excited to share "real food" with them that we fill them up on solids first, then use milk/formula as dessert. I've been wondering when I'm supposed to stop offering milk before solids, after a year? Why the sudden switch then? I don't know. What I do know is that I find myself wondering about it more and more as we approach my daughter's first birthday.

I was talking to my husband, a few weeks ago, about everything I've been reading, and my thoughts on long term breastfeeding. I told him at the time 'I'm thinking of 2, maybe 2.5, unless she weans herself earlier." He then proceeded to tell me, that anything past 2 years old is weird. That really bothered me. Partially it was the social stigma he has to extended breastfeeding, and partially because, well, as far as I'm concerned he doesn't really get a say in my daughter's (and mine) breastfeeding journey. That's our thing.

A friend of mine posted the link to a blog post about extended breastfeeding, Why I'm still nursing my child at 48 months. That mom is only nursing when her daughter wakes up, and when she goes to bed. Is that going to be me and my daughter? I don't know. There are a lot of variables that could occur between now and then. She could wean on her own, I may get pregnant and then breastfeeding becomes harder to maintain, so she'll probably wean than if it even happens, who knows what could/will impact it. What I do know is that if my baby girl still wants to nurse to sleep when she's four years old I'm okay with it. If she wants to nurse in public.. that I'm not okay with. Not because it would bother me (it wouldn't bother me at all) but because I don't want her to have to deal with the weird looks adults, and other kids would give her. Or the teasing that may be associated with it.

My conclusion on this matter is that my daughter will wean whenever she's good and ready. Whether that's within the next 6 months, or 4 years from now.

8 comments:

  1. This is good! Doing the research and going with your gut instincts. You do what works for you and your child.

    In my experience, when it came to solid foods, we started introducing them in correlation to the appearance of teeth. So for my youngest, she started solids at 3 months, my middle at 6 months and my youngest at 8 months.

    My doctors always told me that babies start needing solids at around 6 months because breastmilk and formula can't provide complete nutrition at that point. But, I really think the childrens' bodies and their actions tell us what they need. Teeth mean they are ready to chomp and cries of hunger mean, obviously, that they are hungry!

    Good luck on your breastfeeding journey!

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    1. I definitely agree that momma's need to trust their gut instincts. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I completely love nursing so very very much. I nursed my first, Emily, until she was 15 months (and I was 4 months pregnant with my second), and the reason I quit was because I just felt that she didn't really need it anymore. (my boys were both around 9 months - they weren't as into it as she was). She didn't stop nursing on her own, but the first night that I just didn't nurse her before bed, she went right to sleep on her own no problem. At first I felt guilty for stopping, but when she didn't even seem to notice, I realized that my instincts were right... we were done. I think she just still nursed at that point because I put it in front of her. I felt good about our decision!

    It's sad that women are feeling that they need to pick their length of nursing time based on social opinions these days, especially since society seems to be getting weirder. Ha! I hope you and little bean nurse until you are both just good and ready to stop!

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    1. Once again, I agree with everything you've typed Cassie :)

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  3. My girl is 16 months and she is not giving any sighns of stoping any time soon.I am nursing her every time she goes to bed,napp time and night time.I will stop maybe around 2...if she is ready.:)

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I often wonder when she'll stop.. We're planning a big trip for our 5th anniversary next year, if she's still nursing she's coming with! If not, she'll stay with Gramma and Grampa. (I'm not so secretly hoping she's still nursing so she can come with us!)

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  4. I don't have a baby yet, so I can't comment on actually nursing but I did read once (I have no idea where so I can't give you a source) that women in America and other developed countries wean their children early while women in lesser developed countries wean around the same age as primates like you said in your post mostly out of necessity due to there being less food available in those countries.

    Not sure if you'd find that interesting, but I thought I'd comment anyway!

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    1. That definitely makes sense! Thanks for sharing! Breastmilk is a great way to provide continued nutrition, lack of food will definitely keep the breastfeeding relationship going stronger for longer. But I don't think that's the only, or even in the top 3 reasons on why breastfeeding stops very short of the natural weaning age, in the US at least.

      But it's definitely something I want to look into more now :)

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