Yes, Early Self-Weaning Is a Thing!
I came across your blog post on self-weaning at ten months and boy, did it sound just like what I am currently going through. My baby girl is 9 months and 2 weeks. She was always a fussy feeder and every feeding session was stressful for me. But after seven months it got easier and she used to feed without too much of a fuss and I somehow managed to make it till 9 months. The day she turned 9 months old she suddenly decided to stop. Totally out of the blue. I thought it was a nursing strike, growth spurt. So I kept trying and nothing. I was totally frustrated. After three days we visited the doc who said she’ll get back to it. But it’s been two weeks and she still isn’t feeding. I pump whatever I can, and give her that.
And like you mentioned, all the websites tell me that no baby self weans before 1 yr. So I kept trying. Each time she would cry and pull back, breaking my heart into a thousand pieces. I haven’t stopped crying. I know this seems like a silly thing to cry over but I am just not able to control it. I am so angry with her at times. I couldn’t even imagine one could be angry with a baby. But turns out it’s possible.
Sorry for rambling on, but your post struck a cord with me and the only one I found relatable.
A from India
Oh you poor thing. My heart broke right along with yours while reading this, because 1) ohhhhh yes, been there, done that, and 2) SOME BABIES SELF WEAN BEFORE 12 MONTHS FOR NO PARTICULARLY OBVIOUS REASON AND YOU DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG AND IT’S OKAY TO STOP WHEN YOUR BABY IS READY TO STOP AND ASDSHSOFpfgogjsofvoposf924y3r4oyqr3AAHHH!!!!
I cannot believe that here in 2019, mothers are still getting told that “no baby does this.” Come on. It’s a baby. It’s primary directive in life is to confuse and baffle us and do things on its own schedule and at develop at its own pace.
I know lots of nursing and resources sites will add the caveat that early self-weaning can technically happen, but it’s usually because of some actual reason. And those reasons are (SURPRISE) usually something the mother “did” that she should really try to “fix” (traveling for work, a change in diet, etc.) before actually letting the self-weaning baby to wean. Or — like you’ve been told — the mother is simply mistaking a nursing strike for weaning and should just keep trying and trying. And trying. Her emotional health be damned, along with the quality of her entire breastfeeding relationship with her baby! YOU MUST KEEP TRYYYYYYING.
Please don’t be angry with yourself. PLEASE don’t be angry with your baby! This happens, it is normal, and I wish more people would just up and admit that “yeah, my baby lost interest in nursing before the magical one-year mark.”
So I’ll start: My baby lost interest in nursing before the magical one-year mark. He’d always been a terrific nurser, so I never imagined that we’d stop nursing before one year, or even two! His one weird breastfeeding quirk, however, was a refusal to drink pumped breastmilk from a bottle (and yes, I tried different temperatures, storage options, bottles, the scalding trick, etc.), so once he lost interest in the boob that was that. It was confusing and frustrating and I couldn’t figured out where we’d gone wrong. Where I’d gone wrong, because obviously, it was my fault.
He was 10 months old. Two months before a year. I was turning myself inside out because of TWO MONTHS.
My next baby self-weaned several months after the magical one-year mark, and you know what? It was ALSO confusing and frustrating because I kept second-guessing the process, and the signals my baby was (very clearly) sending. Weaning? Nursing strike? Should I pump some more? I kinda don’t want to pump anymore? Is that okay? Are we done here? Are we cool?
If it makes you feel better to pump what you can, then continue to pump what you can! But since this trying and trying to offer her the boob is absolutely NOT making you feel better (and is instead making everything awful and garbage for you), please rest assured it’s okay to stop offering. The number-one rule of weaning (at whatever age it happens) is “don’t offer, don’t refuse.” Accept it. Embrace it.
If this IS some kind of super-long nursing strike, you can keep your supply up with pumping but can still stop torturing yourself with her “rejection.” (Which is not a refection of YOU, by the way. She’s just telling you she’s ready to move on to a different source of food! You are and will always be just as much of her beloved mama once the breastfeeding days are done.) If she starts to root around and show interest, great! Give it another try as long as you have the milk.
But if she doesn’t ever show interest again, or if you find that pumping is keeping you in the bad emotional space of crying and anger, let it go. It’s really, really okay. You nursed your wonderful, beautiful baby for the same amount of time that you kept her safe and growing inside of your body. I think there’s some beautiful symmetry to be found in that. And it’s still an amazing accomplishment that you can and should be proud of.
Breastfeeding can be wonderful, but it’s really just one small, fleeting phase of motherhood. She’s ready to move on to what comes next, and I promise you that it’s every bit as important and awesome as the last nine months have been.
(Editor: please see the thoughtful and additive comments by readers below)
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