For breastfeeding moms and babies, the journey often begins with a few brief periods of adjustment and challenges. Once you get the hang of it, however, it can become a journey filled with bonding and emotion. Not only are you giving your baby plenty of nutrients, but you're also developing a closeness with your little one. So when your child is old enough to give up breastfeeding, you might wonder, "How does weaning affect my kid later?"
Romper spoke with International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) Tori Sproat of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services, who says the effects of weaning really depend on how you weaned your child. So for moms and babies who are able to self-wean amicably, Sproat says the reaction will be calm and positive.
Ideally, Sproat says you'd want your baby to self wean. “Forced weaning on a certain time table can have negative effects on the relationship as both parent and child deal with the physiological and emotional process of it," she says, adding that she weaned her children gently and naturally, so she never even knew when the last latch was for either of her children. Sproat says that weaning gradually gave her body time to adapt, too, and for her children, the process was truly on their time, where they slowly went from once a day, to once a week, to once every few weeks.
“I think ideally, weaning is a natural, gradual, mutually desired process," says IBCLC Angie Mann Natero to Romper. From her own personal experience, she says that while she nursed all three of her children, ages 6, 12, and 15, none of them really remember breastfeeding.
But all kids are different, so the effects of weaning will be different, too. “Every child is an individual and will react differently," IBCLC Tania Archbold tells Romper. She notes that as a mom, she had different experiences with all three of her kids. She weaned her first child at 12 months, but she says he lost interest quickly and never looked back. “My second I weaned at 3 years 4 months,” notes Archbold, “but he wasn't ready and was very clingy and attached to my breasts for more than a year afterwards.” She weaned her third child very gently at 3 years 6 months, and although she was ready to wean, she still talked about “nursies” for a while afterwards. Her older two children are teenagers now, and she says they have no memory of breastfeeding or weaning, and seem none the worse for wear with their journey. Her youngest, however, who is two years past weaning, still remembers and talks about when she used to breastfeed.
I breastfed both of my girls until the age of 2. I also weaned very gradually to reduce any stress on the kids or my body. Neither of my kids, now ages 9 and 12, remember or mention breastfeeding, nor did they ever show any anxiety over weaning. But again, all kids handle things differently, so as long as you try to reduce the stress around weaning by doing it gently over time, you should be able to lessen any negative effects it may have.