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Yes, Early Self-Weaning Is a Thing!

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

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)

Find more blog posts on Weaning here:

Photo source: Depositphotos/LenaMiloSlavskaya

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If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice[at]gmail[dot]com.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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April
Guest
April

When my first child weaned, I went through some major hormone/mood swings and was really down for awhile. Some of what you are feeling might be related to hormones and your body adjusting to less breastfeeding. Just something to be aware of, and worth a discussion with a doctor or other medical professional if you are feeling depressed.

Christine
Guest
Christine

Ha, I’d read Amy’s wonderful weaning post and STILL beat myself up (and was furious at my baby and husband) when my 11-month old wanted to self-wean years ago. I succeeded in occasionally forcing him on for a month to make it to the magical 1-year mark, but mostly we were just fighting each other and miserable (So Much Biting). And once he finally refused to latch at all I continued pumping many times a day for months because I was terrified about the Kelly mom nursing strike story (you know the one). I now acknowledge that this was ridiculous,… Read more »

Caro
Guest
Caro

The grass is always greener but I had to wean my kid at age 3 and it was hard! I got to the point that I wouldn’t tell my people was still nursing because I was embarrassed. I wish it was easier to enjoy our particular parenting journey without worrying about others. Babies are all very different from each other, as different as adults, so no one-size-fits-all rules!

Liz
Guest
Liz

My son was NEVER (no, not ever) interested in nursing, because he wanted to face OUT and see the world. I felt like a total failure. Pumped for nine months. But it’s now 17 years later, and my son still snuggles with me at night, asks to sit on my lap at times, and is still interested in looking outward at the world.

You are a wonderful mother. Take your baby as they are.

Kristi
Guest
Kristi

Oh, how I wish I could give you a hug right now! My first daughter abruptly self-weaned at 7 months (my letter and Amalah’s response and a lot of lovely “this happened to me too” comments are at https://alphamom.com/your-life/postpartum/babies-on-nursing-strike/) and IT FELT SO AWFUL and all the internet judging and disbelief in weaning before a year (From elsewhere, not from this site) made everything so much worse. Also, I seriously underestimated the horror show that is weaning-related hormone shifts (WHY DOES NO ONE WARN US ABOUT THIS??). So mostly, I’m so sorry you feel like this and I’m so sorry… Read more »

Smithy Shone
Guest
Smithy Shone

So much what Amy said. And also the amazing reminder Kristi shared – I look at our now 7 year old and can’t believe what a little person he is. It’s thrilling all the things that happen after you wean, and wonderful to know that your kiddo’s world and life grows in complexity every day. How you feed in that first year or two is such a small little piece of your relationship, and while it sucks for it to end, there is also a release there too. You get your body back, your baby tries more and more foods,… Read more »