Have you ever heard those mothers who talk about their babies weaning themselves from breastfeeding? “Oh, yes, she just wasn’t interested anymore!” they will say, shaking their heads slightly. I was never one of them — until two weeks ago.
babies can really decide to wean themselves
I was firmly convinced that my baby — who had refused any type of bottle or formula since he was weeks old — would be nursing until we dropped him off at the kindergarten doors. At almost 11 months old, he was still nursing between 4 to 6 times a day, even with eating me out of house and home in the solid food department. After struggling to wean my previous two children off of breastfeeding, I fully believed that all of those "Oh, my baby weaned himself!" stories were complete fabrications.
So you can imagine my surprise when suddenly, a few weeks shy of his first birthday, my son decided to quit nursing completely — cold turkey.
The night started like any other. While I cleaned up dinner and did the dishes (aka hosed down the entire kitchen and dining room within an 18-foot radius of the highchair), my husband did bath duty. He settled the big kids down with a book and handed the baby off to me for his nightly nursing.
Except he screamed.
And pushed me away, turning his head as far as he could.
And wanted nothing to do with me.
I was shocked, and in all honesty, a little devastated. I realized the hard fact was that I wasn't ready to let breastfeeding go just yet.
He was done!
Over the next couple of days, I tried everything I could think of to try to make sure that it wasn't a fluke earache or a stomach bug causing my son to refuse to nurse, but after several days, it was pretty obvious.
He was done.
And then came problem number two. After flat-out refusing to nurse anymore, he also flat-out refused a bottle of any kind, formula of any kind or milk of any kind. And believe me, I tried everything I could think of — new sippy cups, bottles, regular cups, cups with a straw, formula, cow's milk, almond milk and even chocolate milk at one point.
But he spit out everything.
I watched as my cute, roly-poly, chubby, bouncing baby boy lost weight and slimmed down as he simultaneously started to run around the house. I had no idea what to do, so I talked to a new pediatrician and did some research.
How can I tell if my baby is really weaning?
If your baby quits nursing cold-turkey and shows signs of fussiness, or tugging on his ear, do take him to the doctor's for a check-up. He may have an earache or be teething, which could make nursing painful for him. Other times, babies simply are becoming more active and curious and don't want to stay on the breast as long for nursing.
Is there an average age for weaning?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that, "Some infants begin to turn gradually away from breastfeeding and toward other forms of nutrition and comfort at around one year of age... others wean themselves during the toddler years as they become more physically active and less willing to sit still to nurse." Usually, weaning is a gradual progression as the child ages.
What do I do about my milk supply? Should I pump & dump?
I received some really great advice on this one. An experienced fellow mother told me not to fear pumping. Your body works to replenish milk because your baby is drinking it, but once she stops nursing, your supply will dwindle too. I waited a few days, until I couldn't stand it any longer, and then pumped. My milk supply instantly dried up. Just be cautious to watch for clogged ducts — you don't want to end up with mastitis, so gradually decrease pumping sessions if you have to.
What if my baby won't take formula or milk?
This was definitely the case with us — my little man refused any other type of milk and I was worried he would lose weight. According to his pediatrician, however, as long as he was taking in other types of dairy and calcium, like yogurt and cheese, it was fine to not force milk on him. If your little one has the same issue, be sure to keep an eye on her weight and maintain other sources of calcium in her diet.