When and Why I Weaned: 10 Mothers Share Their Stories

Written by Sara Langer
9:00 am
03/06/17

Breastfeeding is so many things to so many mothers—beautiful, challenging, rewarding, painful, natural, traumatic, and for some women, not even possible. And just like breastfeeding itself, the reason of when (and why) to wean your baby is different for every mother. When breastfeeding comes to an end, it can range from an extremely bittersweet experience to a welcome relief. No matter how it’s done, breastfeeding and weaning your babe can be a journey in itself. Which is why we asked ten mothers to share their personal experiences of weaning, all at a variety of ages and for a variety of reasons. Read ‘em below and feel free to share your own experience in the comments.

Jennine, weaned son Jasper at nearly 3 years old:
“I wanted to wean him around 18 months, but he didn’t show any interest. When I tried to ‘not offer’ like some of my friends who successfully weaned their kids, Jasper would freak out. I waited until he could understand (around 2 years old) and talk to him about weaning. I told him, ‘Big boys don’t drink from the boob.’ And he would reply, ‘Yes they do!’ I would periodically try to have the talk with him, for almost a year. He would occasionally say, ‘Okay!’ Then come back crying saying he was still a baby. He just wasn’t ready, I guess. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, though I was not-so-secretly worrying that he would be that Game of Thrones kid and nurse until his mother got thrown down that hole in the middle of their palace. About a month before he turned three, we were hanging out in the bed, and he said, ‘No more drinking boob. Only cuddling.’ I was shocked, but said, ‘Okay!’ and went with it. Since it was a sudden stop, it was a bit uncomfortable. I did suddenly gain 10 pounds, but was able to lose the first 5 pretty quickly. He is totally happy and not traumatized.”

Mika, weaned her daughter Keiko at 3 weeks old:
“At 32 weeks pregnant Keiko was in breech position. I did everything possible to try and get her to turn, but she wasn’t moving, and I ended up having a scheduled c-section. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, but of course, I wanted to do whatever was best for my baby’s safe arrival. Because I didn’t labor, by body wasn’t prepared to produce breastmilk, so it didn’t come in for almost a week after Keiko was born. We are so lucky to have access to things like La Leche League, so Keiko was still able to receive breast milk in the early days of her life. Once my milk finally did come in, she had trouble latching and there wasn’t much coming out. My body really struggled to produce what Keiko needed. It just three short weeks, we were on formula 100%. Honestly, I felt like a failure. Between having a c-section and not being able to breastfeed, I felt like I had failed at what my body was made to do. The first few months postpartum were a dark time for me. After speaking with a friend who had a similar experience, she recommended I speak with someone and referred me to a therapist who specializes in traumatic birth experiences and PPD (postpartum depression). Through my sessions I was able to work through my birth and breastfeeding experience and realize I am still a good mother and I did the best thing for my baby, making sure she had a safe arrival and was well nourished. Before I had a baby I didn’t think I believed there was one ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to be a mother, but once I became a mom I was so hard on myself. I think all mothers are that way, no matter what their experience, but we’re all doing the best we can, and that is all that counts!”

Rachel, weaned her son at 10 months old:
“My little guy was an early crawler. He was on the move by 6 months old and I was spending my days chasing after him, while working from home. During the early stages of his mobility I was able to get him to take a significant pause to sit and nurse, but as he got more mobile that became a challenge. He would try to climb me while breastfeeding and let me tell you, that put some stress on my nipples! Sometimes I couldn’t even get him to slowdown long enough to nurse. Giving him a bottle was a little easier, because he could hold it himself and allowed him the freedom to move a bit while still getting his milk. At first I gave him pumped milk, but soon I couldn’t take the time to pump and keep up with him! So, we made the switch to formula at 10 months old and never looked back.”

Kelsey, weaned her first daughter at 3 months and her second at 6 months:
“Breastfeeding my first daughter was a major challenge. She didn’t latch and after 10-plus lactation consultations and many tears, I decided to try and exclusively pump. It worked great for a while but I wasn’t able to keep up with her demand. I was supplementing with more and more formula and finally threw in the towel at three months. It was such sweet relief. I think I still have nightmares of the sounds of the pump. Looking back, I probably would have felt more sane had I stopped sooner, but such is life. When my second was born I was actually pretty calm about the whole breastfeeding thing. I’d already failed at it once, so if it worked, great, if not, formula was great, too. Thankfully, she hopped right on the boob and was a natural. When I eased back to work when she was 3 months old, I decided to breastfeed when I was with her and give her formula when I wasn’t, as I couldn’t bear to be attached to a pump again after my first experience. Also, my work schedule doesn’t always allow for the best pumping circumstances. This worked great and she weaned just shy of six months after I was gone for a work trip and probably didn’t pump enough to keep up my supply. I was totally fine with this and considered our six month run a huge success.”

Kasey, weaned her daughter at 6 weeks and her twins at 3 months old:
“I have a nearly 4 year old daughter and 1 year old boy-girl twins. With my oldest, breastfeeding was a horribly traumatic experience. Like all mothers, I had hoped and planned to breastfeed as long as I could, but things didn’t go according to plan. My stress levels were through the roof, she wasn’t gaining weight, and no lactation consultant could figure out our latch. After a bout with mastitis, an infinite amount of fenugreek, and lots of tears, we switched to formula 100% at 6 weeks. I wish I didn’t beat myself up about it as much as I did because we were both better for it in the end and now, I hardly even think about it. With my twins, things were easier in some ways. I didn’t guilt trip myself over how long we’d nurse because come on, twins, but neither of the babies latched well or had strong sucks. I met with a lactation specialist weekly and pumped nearly around the clock. We supplemented the entire time, but in the end, I am proud that I made it three months until we weaned completely. I felt like my body had done this incredible work, but I also learned that as mothers, we need to support each other’s choices because sometimes, they don’t feel like choices, but just the actions we have to take to nourish our children and to survive ourselves.”

Julia, weaned both daughters at 1 year old:
“With my first baby, I went back to work after she was 3 months old. I was really committed to providing breastmilk when I was away, so I pumped at work. It was nice to take that pause every few hours. I had some challenges getting pregnant and we wanted another baby. We started trying when our daughter was one year old and I stopped breastfeeding to help increase the chances of conceiving. I quit my job when I was pregnant with my second and I was able to stay home with her. I thought I would breastfeed for at least a year, but she was a biter! As soon as she got teeth (around 8 months old) she became pretty aggressive and I just couldn’t it take it anymore, it was super painful. I tried everything and couldn’t get her to stop biting, so I switched over to the bottle, pumping for the first few months, then adding formula and gradually less breastmilk until she was completely weaned at a year old.”

Besse, weaned son Bo at 6 months old:
“I would say it was more like Bo weaned me, not the other way around. I expected to breastfeed for at least a year. That was always my ‘plan’. But this would be one of the (many) times I learned from my infant. Around 5 1/2 months I was struggling to keep up with the morning and night feed. A combination of my supply going down, some crazy travel, prepping to go back to work, and Bo caring less and less, I came to the realization that this wonderful experience was coming to an end! Despite valiant efforts, shoving my boob in his face didn’t work—he’d push me away! How quickly I forgot the pain and adjustment of learning how to breastfeed in the first place when just six short months later, I was missing that kind of time together. I certainly had a bout of guilt, but it was largely self-imposed. Surprisingly, it was not a huge expectation (to breastfeed) in London, where we lived. In hindsight, the timing was really ideal. I didn’t have to pump at work, I could stop the vicious cycle of boiling bottles for sterilization, the endless bottle cleaning nightmare, ruined manicures, and my husband could play even more of an equal role in milk time. It also reinforced that, once again, it’s not about me and that this parenting thing is all about teaching each other.”

Surya, weaned son Mikio at 2 1/2 years old:
“Nursing was one of the things that I had looked forward to the most when I was pregnant. I think because it was an actual physical connection. I struggled through latch issues, it was so painful but luckily Mikio was getting enough milk. Then I had over-supply issues and got mastitis five times. It was horrible. I was determined not to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, so I would get so sick and but managed to fight it off on my own. Hot showers, diapers filled with almost-boiling water; cabbage leaves, soy lecithin—I tried it all. By that point I felt like a warrior mama and was committed to make it work. Mikio really relied on nursing for comfort and so I often found a little hand pulling down my shirt and there were cries for ‘Mama miiiiillllk’ on the regular. When he was 18 months old, we went to Japan and I spent the entire trip on-demand nursing a giant toddler, often in public, knowing that was really not the most socially acceptable thing to do but that it was what we were doing to survive the jet lag at that point. The plan was to go until 2 years old. But 2 came and went and I didn’t push it. I sort of felt like he would never stop on his own. By then it was usually just around napping and nighttime. At 2 1/2, I was done. I was ready to have my body back. One morning when we were on vacation, I said, ‘Babes, I think it’s time to say goodbye to mama milk’ and held my breath. To my genuine surprise, he said, ‘Okay! Bye mama milk!’ He gave each of my boobs a kiss and that was that. We probably could have weened earlier, but the ease of that interaction made me so happy that I waited. I was ready, he was ready.”

Jess, weaned daughter Charlotte at 8 months old:
“I had every intention of breastfeeding for at least a year. My supply was strong and Charlotte latched very easily from day one. I was lucky to be able to take six months off of work for my maternity leave, so we developed a very strong ‘nursing bond’ in those months together at home. When I went back to work, my schedule was pretty flexible at first and I was able to work from home a couple of days a week, allowing me to nurse during some work days. When I had to be at the office for the day, I would pump a few times throughout the day. During my maternity leave I pumped so I could build up a stash of frozen milk. I had a pretty significant freezer supply by the time I went back to work. My body had no problem pumping, about once a day during maternity leave. But after a month back at work, my schedule became more demanding and I was having to pump more than nurse. I’m not sure if it was stress or just the fact that my body was pumping more frequently than it had been and wasn’t used to it, but my supply began to dwindle. By 8 months old, my milk had pretty much dried up. Because I had a good freezer stash, we were able to introduce formula gradually, in combination with breast milk for the next few weeks until Charlotte was exclusively drinking formula. But it was a little bit heartbreaking to see my baby trying to nurse and becoming upset when I wasn’t able to. While I had hope to breastfeed longer, I will always cherish the time I had nursing my baby.”

Adriana, weaned her daughter Luna at 18 months old and son Mateo at 1 year old:
“I have many friends and family members who struggled with breastfeeding. For me, breastfeeding came so easily and naturally, I almost felt guilty for not struggling more! I was so lucky to get to stay home with Luna, which I think made it easier. The only reason we chose to stop breastfeeding is because I became pregnant with our second baby (breastfeeding is not birth control!). At 18 months old, a new baby in mommy’s tummy was still very abstract and difficult to understand for Luna. She was pretty upset with the decision, I don’t think she was ready, and that made me feel a little guilty and sad. But, between morning sickness and the extreme fatigue of the first trimester, I just couldn’t physically nurse anymore. With my son, we had a beautiful year of breastfeeding. I chose to start weaning when I went back to the working world after a 3-plus year hiatus. Mateo loved solid foods from an early age and was a great eater, so weaning him was pretty simple as he was more interested in eating food rather than drinking milk. My breasts were pretty engorged and painful for a while though. Luckily, I had a very mom-friendly work environment, so my co-workers weren’t weirded out by me wearing ice packs in my shirt for a couple of weeks.”

Leave a Comment

15 comments

Whitney

It’s nice to read about why/when mom’s weaned and have such a variety of answers! I think this is a topic mom’s either feel guilty about for doing “too early” or weird about for doing “too long”. I started feeding less and less at about a year but still did a nightly feeding until 18 months. It was totally for me though. I think my son only got about two sips by the end. He was just more interested in playing than eating.

Samantha

Reading about moms weening their kids at an older age is such a relief to me. I get horrified reactions when I say that I am still nursing my 18 mo son to nap/sleep. I feel this huge pressure to stop nursing. Its a comfort to hear stories of moms who chose to breastfeed until their kids were ready.

    Jeanine

    Samantha, I’m in the same boat as you. There are people who ask if she’s still nursing and sound so concerned. I am happy we’ve made it this far and it’s such a beautiful bond. Great job mama!

    Katie

    Same here. My son just turned 15 months old and i work from home. My son and I had the flu this past week and all he’s wanted to do is nurse (not that he’s too interested in food really anyway at this point, even though we keep trying.) I had my boss call me today and tell me that I really should think about weaning him already because [she thinks] that he’s too old to still be bf’ing. No one asked for her opinion, she just asked how he was doing/feeling and was his appetite finally back (since I’m guessing she assumed that he lost it when he got sick?) Don’t let ANYONE make you feel bad for continuing to breastfeed YOUR baby. There’s no such thing as “extended” breastfeeding, it’s continuing to feed to natural term. However long that term is, is different for every woman. No one should be judged for how they choose to mother.

    Taylor

    Samantha, same here! I weaned my daughter off of nursing to sleep (and nursing entirely) very gradually, at 20 months, because I got pregnant and we were preparing to travel out of the country. Nursing past a year is primarily relational and can be so fulfilling for you and your child, therefore it’s really no one else’s business! Nursing helped me lose pregnancy weight and helped my daughter to sleep so much more deeply that those benefits alone were enough to keep us going. It’s a gift. Ignore the haters.

Malwina

I love all of these stories but I wanted to clarify that there is no scientific proof that if you don’t labour and have a scheduled c-section, as was the case with Mika, that your milk won’t come in the same as if you delivered vaginally.

I am so sorry she had such a tough experience but the way her story is told, it makes it sound that it’s because of the c-section that her milk didn’t come in. I laboured and had a vaginal birth with my first son and my milk took ages to come in as well, to the point where he became dangerously dehydrated. Luckily we caught it in time and began combination feeding for eight weeks for medical reasons because of the dehydration, until I was then able to finally switch to just breast until he weaned himself at eight months. (I loved combination feeding and was lucky my son took breast, bottle and both breastmilk and formula no problem.)

I am having a scheduled c-section with my second in a few days and I have been worrying about this but have been told by many experts and have done a lot of research that says there is no correlation between c-sections and breastmilk production. It’s just another thing that scares women and makes them feel inadequate about not birthing vaginally.

Just as I believe “fed is best” no matter which method or milk you choose, I think it’s incredibly important for women to know that having a c-sections still means you “birthed” your baby and there is nothing inferior about that way of giving birth. And it won’t mean your milk will take longer to come in necessarily either!

    kirstin Bokor

    Hi Malwina,
    You raised such a great point and I just wanted to share my experience to back it up. My son’s birth was very traumatic and his labour was long and complicated (posterior and then my body went into distress with blood pressure peaking and dropping to extreme levels and requiring interventions), and as he was descending the birth canal he actually stopped breathing completely and was born by emergency csection. I was given a lot of local anaesthteic immediately as we rushed into the emergency room and it took something like 4 hours for me to be able to move my arms or legs after my son was cut out of me… I just say this so that everyone can see that there were drugs involved, and significant time between his birth and when I fed him. I should add that as soon as he was born he was laid upon my naked body for some time before I needed to be taken away and seen to. My husband held him against his naked chest until I was allowed to leave recovery – so some 4-5 hours later my beautiful baby (born by emergency c-section with significant respitory problems as he’d been strangled by my fallopian cord) crawled up my stomach and latched onto my boob. My calm birth mid-wife told me this could only happen if you have a drug free natural birth – (well obviously that is a load of bullshit! ) I breast fed for 2 1/4 years – I had so much milk that when he was very young I had to express and dump 100ml out of each boob before I fed him (and he fed every hour – he was the fattest kid! – a very round baby)…. Also – fennel tea is amazing for bringing on milk. The only thing that matters is that you get to bring a live baby into this world – good luck to all of us – this is one crazy crazy journey. Good luck Malwina.

      Malwina

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Kirstin. I am so glad everything was OK and what a beautiful image of your son latching after such a traumatic birth. I think there are so many myths out there and I feel like all we need to do is support one another as women and mothers in whatever happens, and whatever choices one makes in regards to her child.

      Steph

      Love this. Thanks for sharing!

    JAM1983

    thank you for this! after i read this story my mind was racing should TBD baby #2 also be a c-section like my first was. i had no issues with supply but i also labored for 24 hrs and then had the surgery. good luck with everything and yes, “fed is best”!

Brianna

Per usual, thank you mothermag for spitting the truth and showing us all the ways you can be a great mom. Weaning is in my near future, and its is good to know that there are lots of ways to accomplish that goal. xoxo

Adrienne

Thank you for sharing all these stories. It would have been nice to know all these different experiences before nursing. Nursed both of mine about a year. I had mastitis with the second, had trouble latching with the first and now have a deformed nipple but it was worth it. I’m always happy when moms give it a shot. It’s a beautiful, unique experience, even with the troubles.

Caitlin

Thanks so much for shedding light on breastfeeding experiences that don’t always go as planned. My only “goal” of motherhood was breastfeeding and when it didn’t work out I was crushed. My daughter had a tongue/lip tie that wasn’t discovered until she was 6wo and by then my supply had dwindled. I pumped every 2 hours for 2 weeks and by the end I was burnt out and beating myself up. I believe 100% it contributed to my PPD. Fed is best and I think people in the birthing community (doulas,midwives,etc) are finally starting to realize that pushing breastfeeding is giving women a complex when it doesn’t work out.

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