If you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding with breast milk, at some point either you or your baby will decide it's time to wean. There is no set age that this needs to happen (although society norms attempt to tell moms otherwise). There are no set circumstances in which you should wean. All moms and babies do what's best for their situation. For some mothers, weaning can feel like a relief. For others it's quite emotional. However you feel about it, there are definitely some amazing things that'll happen between you and your baby when you wean.
I weaned my baby when she was 3 months old because my supply wasn't adequate. Not to mention, I really hated breastfeeding to the point that it caused me frustration and a lot of tears. My weaning journey was relatively easy (sans engorged breasts), because my baby was already being supplemented with breast milk filled bottles and formula. Even though we weren't nursing anymore, I was still able to bond with my baby during bottle feedings. And I was still able to soothe her in other ways when she cried.
Breastfeeding and weaning are personal choices that no one should judge or shame another mother for. Mothers are doing the best they can, and what's best for themselves and their babies. Regardless of how feel about your weaning journey, here are seven things to look forward to with your baby.
1. You Will Both Gain More Freedom From Each Other
A little independence can be a good thing between you and your baby or toddler. A weaning mother gets more opportunity to pursue the interests that pique her curiosity and make her happy, and so does her child.
According to Parents, if you're weaning during the first year, you will still most likely be bottle feeding your child during those nursing times. But if you're weaning during the one to two year mark and beyond, the time spent nursing can be used doing something separate from each other. The amount of independence will likely be determined by age and comfort level, but exploring the world separately is beneficial to both mom and baby. Is letting your baby or toddler go a bit going to feel weird in the beginning? Maybe. But according to Dr. Sears's website a connected child takes their mother's comfort with them while they explore. So that's kind of awesome, right?
2. You'll Find Out What Your Child Likes (And What You Like Too)
Your child might not have shown interest in certain areas because they haven't had the opportunity to seek it out yet. Which is fine — everyone explores and seeks adventure at their own pace. But the great benefit of weaning a nursing toddler (who presumably isn't using breast milk as their sole nutrition) is that they have a little more time to check things out when they're not at the boob. During this time you'll be able to observe what your child might be drawn to. You'll also have a little more time to discover what you like. Perhaps reading a magazine is what you like to do with a few extra minutes in your day. Maybe you want to work more. Whatever you decide, you can do a lot with that extra time.
3. You Benefit Emotionally
Most experts agree that weaning is the ideal way to stop breastfeeding, not going cold turkey. According to the parenting website Kelly Mom, there is little research-based evidence to prove that oxytocin, the love hormone produced when you're breastfeeding, decreases when you wean. But, it is possible that an abrupt end to breastfeeding, or going cold turkey, could cause oxytocin to tank furiously and make the emotional recovery from weaning more difficult for the mother. Going cold turkey can also make it a very anxiety-ridden process for the baby. Le Leche League International's (LLLI) motto is "gradually with love" for mom and baby's sake.
4. You Find Other Ways To Connect With Each Other
Many mothers think they'll miss bonding and connecting to their child when nursing is complete. Yes, they might. But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to be close to your kid. I was still able to cuddle my baby during bottle-feedings. We bonded when we read books together (we still bond through books and she's six-years old). Just because you're not nursing as often, or at all, doesn't mean you're not connecting. It means you and your child are connecting in new and different ways.
5. You Find Other Coping Mechanisms For Tantrums And Meltdowns
For nursing moms, the go-to soother might be throwing the kid on the boob. But when that option is gone, it opens the doors for other calming techniques. Parents suggested several techniques for managing temper tantrums such as giving the child some space, ignoring them a bit, and distracting them with other things. Moms and children might like using a pacifier, singing, breathing techniques, hell, maybe even baby yoga. Either way, breaking the habit of using nursing as a calming force helps both you and your child find other ways to cope and manage emotionally challenging times that might help later on in life.
6. Change Is Good For Adults And Children
Establishing a routine is good and helps develop security, according to the Aha! Parenting website. But, life doesn't always float along without disruptions. Going through a change, like weaning, helps both mom and baby develop adapting skills. Routines get uprooted for factors outside of our control. Weaning helps both mom and baby cope with change, and helps them find the best ways to navigate change in their own lives.
7. It Will Help You Get More Sleep (Eventually)
According to the Baby Sleep website, "weaning from breastfeeding can cause an otherwise great sleeper to wake and fuss more often, and if your baby already struggles with sleep, weaning can make your nights even more sleepless." The site also noted, "On the other hand, if your baby is breastfeeding to sleep, weaning can improve sleep, in some cases."
If your child is relying on the soothing nature of breastfeeding to go to sleep it may be hard in the beginning. But, once they find others ways to calm down and relax, it might result in better sleep for your baby and for you.
Whatever way you choose to feed your baby is perfectly OK, so is however you do it. You are the parent, which means you get to choose whatever way weaning or not weaning, works best for you and your situation.