There are boundless, varying, vastly different ways that weaning can play out between a mom and her baby (or toddler, or young kid). Which is why, of course, you probably aren’t going to know how weaning will go until you actually give it a try (unless you possess the magic powers of reading the future, in which case teach me your ways or at least tell me my future). Seriously though, there were a lot of things about weaning that I didn’t know, or things that I didn’t have to do while weaning, even though I thought I did and even though other people told me I did. Like many aspects of parenthood, and of breastfeeding in general, so much can vary from mom to mom or baby to baby, it’s hard to make predictions.
So, of course, everyone’s experience will be different, and I don’t assume that mine is textbook or some benchmark for any other breastfeeding and subsequent weaning experience. However, there were a few things I learned about the whole breastfeeding process, including how it ends. Now that I’m on the other side of it, though, I see how, in some ways, my process did match with some of the stories and explanations I saw, and in some ways it didn’t. In the end, with breastfeeding, ending breastfeeding and every other parenting experience in general, I could only take bits and pieces of information, put them together, and form my own way of dealing with whatever motherhood threw my way.
So, with that in mind, here’s what I realized I didn't have to do, even though I was pretty convinced otherwise, when it came to weaning:
You Have To Follow A Specific Timeline
I mean, depending on how you define it, I was technically in the process of weaning for almost two years and from the time my son started eating solid food to when I stopped breastfeeding completely. However, for those last few months, it was very slow, and very gradual, and didn’t fit with some of the suggested timelines I was constantly read about it. It worked well for my family, though, and the final transition was relatively smooth and (gasp!) tear-free.
You Should Automatically Wean Because Breastfeeding Gets Hard...
Almost every breastfeeding mom I’ve ever encountered has acknowledged that there are challenges to breastfeeding. While moms have a green light to stop breastfeeding whenever and wherever they need to, they also have a green light to continue through challenges (if they’re willing and able).
...Or Stick With Breastfeeding When It's Hard
Speaking of challenges, schedule changes that occur, when, oh perhaps a new mom returns to work, can throw multiple wrenches into a breastfeeding routine. And by “wrench” I mean “blocked duct” or “low supply” or “any other of many uncomfortable, inconvenient hurdles. If a mom doesn't feel like dealing with those challenges (or simply wants to stop breastfeeding) she should feel comfortable weaning whenever she chooses. After all, it's her body. It must be her decision.
You Have To Wean When People Say You Should Wean
Breastfeeding past one, or even two, is hardly common in the United States, so I don’t blame others for assuming I’d be stopping soon or that I’d already stopped. But I do blame others for making assumptions or for weighing in on something that really isn’t any of their business.
You Should Feel Sad About It
Admittedly, I was a little sad about weaning. However, I could also see that there were plenty of positives, and that sadness didn’t have to be the only feeling I felt when it was time to tell breastfeeding, "goodbye."
You Have To Feel Happy About It
And of course, the opposite is true, too. You're allowed to be excited about the newfound freedom or about your kid’s, and your, independence.
You Should Explain Why You're Weaning
The mantra in our house and towards the end of my breastfeeding experience was pretty much, “It’s time.” My partner understood (as much as I could expect him to) that connection I once felt with my kid while feeding was slowly changing, and that the process felt more perfunctory and uncomfortable than before. Had he asked me to explain more in depth, I probably could have, but he didn’t because it’s not necessary.
You Have To Go Straight Back To Wearing Tight Bras. Immediately.
Full disclosure: I was more excited than I ever thought I would be to get out of nursing tank tops. It’s kinda like how wearing heels or dressy clothes all the time for work, or for any other reason where you have to, gets old, but putting them on for a date night or a wedding or any other occasion that warrants some dressing-up, can be awesome. It’s like that.