Babies are known for being a lot of things, but self-sufficient? Not so much. But as your children get older, they'll begin to do a few things on their own, like eating applesauce with their fingers instead of you spooning it into their mouth and giving up nursing sessions in favor of a sippy cup full of milk. But what if your baby doesn't self-wean? Does it mean they'll be breastfeeding until they're 30? Will you have to buy more nursing bras? (The horrors of it all.)
There are a couple of things to consider if you're worried your baby isn't self-weaning. According to Kelly Mom, a baby who is self-weaning is typically over a year old (often closer to 2 years old), getting most of their nutrition from solids, drinking well from a cup, and cutting down gradually on nursing sessions. So if you find that your 13-month-old is still nursing frequently and shows no signs of quitting, you can probably figure out that your baby isn't ready to self-wean.
But what if you are? How are you supposed to move away from nursing if your baby's not self-weaning?
Don't panic yet. La Leche League International noted that if you are totally done with breastfeeding, your child will pick up on your feelings. They may have noticed that you are agitated or irritated when nursing or that you don't want to do it anymore and that's not good for either one of you. If your baby's under a year old, they most likely aren't going to self-wean, so you'll have to start replacing their feedings with a bottle of formula or pumped breast milk.
If your child's over a year old and you're ready to wean, La Leche League International suggested that the "don't offer, don't refuse" method may be best for both of you. You can distract your little one with toys or games, offer snacks in place of nursing sessions, and give them milk in a cup to make up for it.
Parents also recommended letting your baby take the lead in the weaning process. Weaning can be difficult and require a lot of patience, so giving your child the reins may make it easier on both of you. Instead of initiating any nursing sessions, listen to your baby's needs. Do they want to nurse? You can attempt to comfort them in a different way or offer them some other sustenance. But if they are insistent, it might help to give them the nursing sessions they need until they are fully ready to give it up. This way, you're going through the weaning process, but you're still teaching your little one how to self-wean.
If your baby doesn't self-wean, the important thing to remember is that it doesn't mean your baby will breastfeeding until they're an adult. You can make some changes in your current breastfeeding routine to get them on track to wean and you can rest easy knowing that those nursing sessions are just one of the ways your baby is telling you they need you. If you're struggling, reach out to a lactation consultant for some one-on-one, specialized help.