Breastfeeding is as beautiful as it is beneficial for both babies and their mothers. Like all good things, however, even the breastfeeding relationship must come to an end. Regardless of your baby’s age, how long you’ve been nursing, or how well it has gone, knowing the signs you're ready to begin the weaning process is just as important as knowing the signs your baby is also ready. Although, ideally, your "weaning timelines" will be somewhat aligned, your body will show its own signs of readiness to wean just like your baby's body will.
Of course, because breastfeeding is mainly done for your baby, it's best to fully consider your baby's readiness before you begin the weaning process. According to La Leche League International (LLLI), weaning should be just that — a process — not an abrupt, overnight change. If you're hoping for a successful and smooth transition from breastfeeding to solids starting slowly is usually the best option for both your own body and your baby's.
Whether you're excited to wean or dreading the process (or maybe a mixture of both), knowing the signs you're both ready to begin is vital for a successful transition from one phase to the next.
1. Your Baby Is Ready
Considering whether or not your baby is ready to wean should be first thing on your mind. Pay attention to signs like increased interest in solid food (they'll probably try to steal if right off of your plate), ability to sleep through the night, sit up fully on their own, and a decreased interest in nursing, according to Baby Center.
2. Your Milk Supply Has Steadily Decreased
According to the Mayo Clinic (and in my own weaning experiences with my daughters), your milk supply will slowly decrease as your baby grows older and starts to nurse less and less, because there is less demand. Although this isn't always the case, waiting until your own milk supply starts to diminish is a simple way to know you're ready to wean.
3. You Have A Change In Schedule Coming Up
Many moms must wean due to a change in schedule, going back to work, or something that requires them to spend time away from their baby. In cases like these, another piece from LLLI noted that planning as far in advance as you can is usually best. You can replace nursing sessions with other special activities like baths, stories, or a new snack for them to try.
4. You're Dealing With Postpartum Depression Or Anxiety
Although many moms experience postpartum depression (PPD) after weaning and not before, others deal with it severely throughout the duration of their nursing experience. According to Breastfeeding Basics, although breastfeeding moms usually experience less anxiety and depression overall, sometimes when things aren't going well, you struggle with milk supply, or painful engorgement, depression can set in and be very hard to nurse through.
In cases like these, mother-led weaning is often in the best interest of the mother's mental health, and is a sign you shouldn't ignore.
5. You Want To Stop Breastfeeding
If you simply dislike breastfeeding, you should never be made to feel like a bad mom or a failure, instead, know that you did the best you could for your baby and that wanting to wean isn't something to be ashamed of.