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Five Things I Wish Somebody Told Me About Weaning

By Amalah

Yes, weaning. Whether it happens at two months or two years, it can be a really weird time. Maybe you feel relieved, like somebody finally gave back your freedom and your body. Maybe you feel guilty, like you did something wrong or didn’t try hard enough. Maybe you even feel a distinct loss of identity, like you aren’t sure how to be a mom without the “nursing” adjective. Maybe it’s a mix of all three, plus some other conflicting emotions I forgot to mention.

My baby weaned for good last week, right at the 10 month mark. I still, sometimes, can’t believe it. I keep waiting for him to change his mind and for everything to go back to “normal.” My husband goes on morning auto-pilot and brings him to bed and hands him off, before stopping and thinking about it, like…Oh. Right. We’ve begun taking turns putting each boy to bed, and while I really missed regular bedtime stories with my firstborn, Noah, I still really, REALLY miss my nighttime routine with Ezra, my baby, my boob man.

On the other hand, I don’t miss being bitten, or pinched, or slapped with a poundy little palm, or having my hair pulled. I like being able to wear THAT shirt or THAT dress, the ones without buttons or elastic. I like cocktails and another glass of wine and all the tuna sashimi I can eat.

Weaning Noah (my firstborn) was easier, in a way, since we never had an exclusive nursing relationship to begin with. Going back to work full-time was a blow that my low supply and his poor suck and flow preference could not recover from, but that’s just how it went. Nothing more to be done. I tried to nurse him one morning and he pulled off and screamed until I gave him a bottle. I tried upping my pumping schedule that day, produced nothing, and couldn’t even get him to latch again that night. The end. Okay. My mom told me I did the exact same thing at the exact same age. Huh. Moving on.

So I was a little unprepared for the weaning this time, since it wasn’t so clear cut. I could, usually, convince and cajole Ezra into latching — even after a refusal earlier in the day. Was he done? No, he can’t be done. I better try again, keep going, keep offering. Turns out that I, philosophical advocate of “child-led weaning,” had absolutely no real idea what that meant in real life.

Things I wish I had known about weaning:

1) Babies DO self-wean before a year, I don’t care what anyone says, SO THERE.

When I first suspected that Ezra’s “distracted phase” was quite possibly something more than a phase, I consulted all my favorite books and websites for information about weaning, and how to tell if your baby was weaning. And was told over and over again that, essentially, it was all in my head, that babies don’t typically wean before 12 months, that it’s usually the mother misinterpreting a developmental stage. So…PHASE. Just a phase. And I’ll tell you what, that information made breastfeeding somewhat miserable, there at the end. How long was this phase going to LAST? Why was my baby being so DIFFICULT? What’s with the biting, the twisting, the boob strikes when he was clearly hungry? Snap out of it, baby! I was fighting a losing battle that I didn’t even know I was fighting; but I thought I was just being a diligent and informed nursing mom.

2) Your baby probably understands the process better than you do.

Another thing that kept me soldiering on was the thought that I was WRONG about it, that I would stop and let my milk dry up and then OH THE HORRORS, Ezra would start rooting around and I would have nothing for him. Oh, God. Never happened. It’s eerie, almost like he has already forgotten that he ever nursed at all, or what my boobs were for. The last few times I tried nursing he regarded them as a curiosity — something to grab and poke rather than baby-bird dive-bomb at, like all those months before. If your baby is ready, he’s ready. Trust him, and your instincts.

3) You may continue to make milk for longer than you think.

My supply was pathetic, by the end. I could not pump a drop, Ezra rarely nursed for more than a few minutes…so I assumed I would simply stop producing any milk rather quickly. A day, probably! And while I never had issues with leaking or engorgement, like many weaning moms, I did continue to have milk for more than a few days. It wasn’t a big deal physically, but oh, emotionally it tore me up. It kept tempting me to try ONE LAST TIME, to try to pump it, save it, something.

4) Phantom letdown!

I KNOW there’s no more milk in there now, but…still. Like a phantom limb, I get these fake sensations of my milk letting down ALL THE TIME. Like, more than I did on a regular day of nursing. Does this ever…stop, do you know? It’s weird.

5) Any and all breastfeeding is successful breastfeeding.

Okay, I actually already knew this one, but it’s important. I don’t care if you only nursed in the hospital, once or twice, or for a couple weeks, or months, or years. It doesn’t matter if always had to supplement with formula or pumped exclusively, or if nursed until your baby weaned or until you were ready and made the conscious decision to stop. You did it, and you rock. Be proud of what you accomplished, whatever that was, and don’t let anyone else’s breastfeeding yardstick make you feel like you fell short.

More articles on weaning from our archives:

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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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Meghan
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Meghan

Thanks for this post. I read your column as well so i had the background on Ezra’s self-weaning, but this makes me feel better about when I stopped nursing my son Jack. we stopped for good at the 9 month mark. I would have called it until recently called it mom-lead weaning, but reading about this I can now refer to it as a mutual decision. Jack started doing everything you decribed with Ezra. I was okay continuing with AM feeds before work, but they lasted all of 3 minutes before I was bitten, HARD. Plus the slapping, pulling off,… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

#5 really struck home. It’s so true. I’m not sure at which point we all felt we had to reach some magical milestone to have considered our children “breast-fed” and “job well done.” My son was about 4 months old when I quit breastfeeding. I had a more than adequate supply of milk, and no problem pumping at work at all. BUT– between my many food allergies and his food allergies, there was hardly anything left for me to eat and the milk had so little fat it just went through him. His stomach was always upset and he was… Read more »

George
Guest

I decided to wean my first baby when after a morning out she still wanted to feed while standing on one leg and stretching the other leg over her head. Sometimes you can really tell that they have other things they’d rather do. By 13 months we ended up with just one feed a day. The books I had all reckoned that the last feed to be dropped would be the snuggly night feed. Hah! The last feed we dropped was the snuggly, let mummy lie in bed for an extra half hour, morning feed. I thought we would have… Read more »

gizella
Guest
gizella

My daughter is 20 months old, and we weaned at 13 months, and I STILL HAVE MILK (didn’t mean to yell there).

Quinn
Guest

Thanks for that last one, Amalah. I saw five different lactation people and still couldn’t ever get Griffin withdrawing milk. I pumped and supplemented for months, but around five months he had had enough of hanging out while I pumped during the day–he had places to go and things to do! I finally stopped pumping a few weeks ago (Griffin’s seven months now), when my nightly pump dwindled to half a bottle’s worth of milk. I still have milk in my breasts, one in particular, and I’m lately going through the whole “I never managed to be a nursing mother”… Read more »

Maria
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Maria

Thanks for #5, by the way… I’ve had a nightmare with nursing so far, and at almost 8 weeks now Jakob is getting pretty much all of his meals pumped into a bottle, with a nightly comfort suck from an empty boob (thanks, raging oversupply). I needed to hear (read) #5!

Anyabeth
Guest

Uh, my daughter weaned almost a year ago? And I still have phantom letdown. It’s really freaky.

George
Guest

I decided to wean my first baby when after a morning out she still wanted to feed while standing on one leg and stretching the other leg over her head. Sometimes you can really tell that they have other things they’d rather do. By 13 months we ended up with just one feed a day. The books I had all reckoned that the last feed to be dropped would be the snuggly night feed. Hah! The last feed we dropped was the snuggly, let mummy lie in bed for an extra half hour, morning feed. I thought we would have… Read more »

Torrie
Guest

This is a great post.
My daughter quit breastfeeding cold turkey when she was 13 months. I had a lot of mixed emotions about it. More than a year later, I still have some milk in my breasts.

Salome Ellen
Guest
Salome Ellen

Although all of my six kids weaned at about 16 months, ALL of my neighbor’s five quit at 10 or 11 months. It made her sad, too.
And, um my “baby” is 16 1/2 and I can STILL feel phantom let-down. (I did while reading this post.) But it changes from wistful to funny after a while — how can I still feel that when I’m menopausal?!!!

Sally
Guest
Sally

My son finally stopped of his own volition at four years old – he is now 13 years old and I still remember “the breast-feeding years” with huge joy and warmth. I’m not a “feeding nazi” – my daughter stopped at about a year old – it just goes to show that they will just stop when they want to if you want to/can leave it to them!

Marnie
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Marnie

I wish someone had told me I might stop making milk, even if both the baby and I still want to nurse. At about 7 1/2 months, my daughter bit me hard enough to break the skin. It became horribly infected a few days later while we were on a trip. The pain was so bad that I cried every time I realized it was close to her feeding time. She wasn’t exclusively nursing, but I had a limited supply of formula, so I nursed through it, and got on some antibiotics as soon as we got home. Within a… Read more »

obabe
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obabe

A, who turns 1 on the 3rd (ZOMG, sob!) stopped nursing after I landed in the hospital with a kidney infection for five days when he was 8 months old. I pumped and dumped for 15 days (b/c of meds) and then the morning when i could finally nurse him he looked at me like i was crazy and wtf is my bottle!. waaaah. I pumped for another few weeks but then my supply just took a hit. and that was that. im still slightly sad about it, since we were going strong till i went to the ER (literally… Read more »

K
Guest
K

I never imagined how sad, empty and depressed I felt when my daughter weaned at 18 months. I felt like my best friend died. I did research and learned that it’s the hormone withdrawal – similar to heroin.

Liz
Guest

Thank you for #1. My son stopped nursing during the day at 8 months old. I was so very emotional over it, convinced that it was me, all me! Everything I read, everyone I talked to said there was no way an 8-month old would self-wean. I pumped myself silly, hoping he would eventually want to go back to more than just his late-night feeding. I tried every trick in the book for two weeks, and nothing worked. And then, at 9 months old, he gave up the night feeding, too. It was hard. Really hard. But in the end,… Read more »

Sarah
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Sarah

I stopped nursing my son, who is 3 now, almost a year ago. He knows what they are for and what he did. He still asks from time to time, but at least he is ok with “no they’re empty”. but I don’t think it matters how long … I still feel guilty that I weaned him too early (2 months after he turned 2) … its been a year and I still have the phantom let down and/or an engorged feeling even when they are obviously not. I enjoy his new freedom (and mine) sometimes I have to force… Read more »

Jessica
Guest

I’m at the point where I don’t know if my son will wean himself, ever. He’s almost one, but the amount of solid food he eats is laughable. I’m ok with it, I love nursing. But I’m seeing many more months of nursing, long past the 18 month mark.

miriam
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miriam

what does that mean, “still have milk”?
And what’s with this phantom letdown? I don’t like my letdown! (like menstrual cramps of the boobs)

Heather
Guest
Heather

Thanks for posting on this topic…timely given Ezra’s self-weaning. My son is 10-almost-11 months old and I’m wondering if we are getting near that time (to wean). I have a couple of questions though: 1. If we drop the morning and night nursing (I nurse him to sleep), do I give a bottle, or should I transition him to a cup? 2. Is biting a sure sign of weaning? I thought that was also due to teething. So how do I know it’s weaning/not teething? (My son has 4 teeth and is working on 5/6 now) After reading this post… Read more »

Laura
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Laura

I really needed to read that…My 10 month old lost all interest in nursing about a week ago, and like mentioned above, I feel like my friend has died. Not only that, but I feel like the LaLeche League will come pounding down my door demanding I try harder to get him back on there.
Thanks for putting something out there that validated my feelings!

Kari Weber
Guest
Kari Weber

I quit cold turkey on my first son at 7 months because I felt overwhelmed, and couldn’t ever pump enough for him when I was gone or at work- let alone able to DO anything for myself. I don’t know why I never supplemented with formula. I just thought that was failure. Then I quit on him one morning in a mess of tears and guilt and bought formula… and he was fine. I was not. I felt like a total failure, and regretted it for every day of the last 3 1/2 years. Now with number two who is… Read more »

Amy
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Amy

I was vaguely aware there would be a hormone shift, but I was totally thrown when I had a huge hormone crash and was completely depressed for days after. It was awful. My daughter chose to wean on her third birthday. Also, I had never heard of hair falling out post-weaning like it does post-partum, but wow. It only lasted a couple days, but handfuls of hair came out. It was crazy.

may
Guest
may

man I needed this. julian has the self wean going on during the day, I still try though in my ten hour workday the pump does nothing. I have my night feedings and morning feesings. but I desperately wanted to go to a year. I’m having a hard time with it.

Karen
Guest

Why do we do this to ourselves? I nursed my son for 11.5 months. (see – still trying to prove my boob worth) It became so horrible pumping that I had looked down one day and it was pink – from blood! Crazy nursing expectations! I woke up one day with an insane upper respiratory infection. I need shots and heavy meds and the doctor told me it was over with the nursing. I went home – crying like a moron. He never noticed. No fussing, he couldn’t care less! I think society somehow brainwashes us to think we have… Read more »

Mary
Guest
Mary

Well, #1 nursed until 28 months, mostly because I was uncomfortable because I was pregnant. She would have continued for quite a while. Our last to go was our morning “mommy drink”. And she still asked a few times after we were finished. I can still remember sitting on the floor and holding her while she cried that there was no more mommy drink. We’ll see where #2 goes to (6 mo so far), though she nurses much less and I’m beginning to suspect that my cycles will resume much earlier…(not until 13 mo after #1)

wan-nabe
Guest

i am going through this right now with my almost two-year-old bean. i never thought it would be so hard to wean – but she’s ready and if i dig down deep and admit it, so am i.
i just blogged about my own experience – today is day two. hand me the cabbage, please.

stacy
Guest
stacy

Thanks for this post — it’s something that has been on my mind a lot lately. I have a 7.5 month old little girl, and for us – breastfeeding has always just been the easier, more economical way to feed. We had a spot of trouble in the very very beginning which resulted in a 5 day old baby taking expressed milk from a bottle for 3 days until I could get a consultant over to help me with the latching — and we always continued to give her a bottle of pumped milk a couple times a week to… Read more »

amanda
Guest
amanda

I really loved this article. Very informative. The last paragraph touched me very much. I have nursed two other babies and have mentally beaten myself up for not nursing an entire year! With my last I avoidedbottles like the plague and regret that now due to my lo needing me constantly not taking a bottle and not really bonding with anyone else, dh especially. Oh the things we mothers worry ourselves with!!!

Laura
Guest
Laura

So, so, so needed to hear this. I needed the positive reinforcement even if this is just a strike or phase.

Batika
Guest
Batika

YES! My baby weaned right at the end of 8 months and I was devastated! I called my La Leche leaders and they were more unhelpful than I expected: they said it was a nursing strike and that I should not give a bottle or a cup. When I asked about nutritional needs or when I should see a doctor, they provided a vague and evasive answer, simply repeating their previous statements (spoke with two of them). I then went to see a Lactation Consultant who said he is likely weaning and then, when I saw my doctor, whom I… Read more »

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Wonderful. Thank you.

Melissa
Guest

This resonates with me so much: “I am really angry that the bulk of information available about breastfeeding online is not written by professionals but by mothers who judge mothers who can’t or choose not to breastfeed.”

Sandy
Guest
Sandy

I am surprised so many people liked this post. I don’t think the OP really knows much about breastfeeding at all. Babies need breastmilk until they are at least 2 years old. There were probably other factors that caused the weaning, especially separation from the mom, even if that just meant sleeping in a crib in the other room. What do you think cave women did? Do you think babies had their own separate cave room? Did they have children wean onto cows milk when they stopped nursing at 1 year? They stated with their mammas and were carried all… Read more »

A
Guest
A

I am not here to engage you in a debate about your substantive points. I just wish that you would be more supportive and less judhmental in your response. This is rude and uncalled-for, no matter what your option.

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

I understand that you are entitled to your opinion, and you were very specific about the age of weaning that you suggested. This age corresponds to recommended guidelines by the World Health Organization. However, you appealed to unspecific anthropological evidence to further support your evidence. I am a nursing mother, and a social scientist, and Sandy, your information is simply not accurate. You see, in hunter gatherer societies (or “cave women’s” societies as you seem to infer), cosleeping practices (which by the way were frequently also coupled with allo parenting practices in which the whole village took turns holding and… Read more »

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

I looked over my post and noticed a few grammatical errors, including a sentence fragment. Please chalk that up to a tired, nursing mama eager to post a response before her napping baby wakes up. I hope readers can see my contribution for content over form. Thank you for understanding.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

Sandy, it’s women like you who make women who have to stop nursing/pumping sooner than they would have liked feel like failures. You can FRO. I breastfed my twins until they were almost 9 months old. By then I was nursing twice a day due to work. My daughter started to lose interest when her first tooth came in and a stomach virus they both caught reduced their appetites and they dropped their night feeding. My son nursing once a day wasn’t enough to keep up my supply. I did everything I could and it still wasn’t enough. It broke… Read more »

Diane
Guest
Diane

Stumbled upon this article while googling “ten month old weaning”. My second child, now ten months, has been doing exactly as you described your son. Biting, playing, complete refusal. It wasn’t until one night at 4 in the morning where I couldn’t stop him crying after 2 hours and finally gave him a bottle and was saddened to see that was what he wanted. I breastfed my first son for a year and was in it for at least that long with number two and I am so sad to see it end. And I have felt really guilty because,… Read more »

amy
Guest
amy

Thank you!!!! 

I just weaned my one-year-old son and I’m feeling guilty about it. Not to mention worried about his nutrition and development. And of course my boobs are killing me! My supply went way down near the end so I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with engorgement but nooooope. 

This post made me feel better. So again, thank you!!

Jan
Guest

Actually felt tearful reading this, thanks for the post, I identify with it so much right now. Another weird thing is I feel a tiny bit of jealousy when I see my 9 month old on the bottle. Especially during that lovely morning breast feed. I really wish I could have fed her till she was at least 12 months and had totally pictured this in my mind. I had no idea they could just refuse you!! My first child was always keen for a feed! You never know…

Bella
Guest

Thank you soo much for posting this! I wish I had found it sooner, but it is still a comfort knowing that self weaning does happen to other babies and that is has a big affect on their mothers. My daughter weaned herself at 8.5 months and did it rather suddenly and never looked back. The day she decided this, she looked at my breast and tried in various ways to use it like a bottle. After some time she decided that a bottle was superior and what she wanted. I swear I could literally see her making this decision… Read more »

Tricia
Guest
Tricia

Thank you so very much for this! I am currently going on hour 50 of a total “nursing strike” or whatever it may be with my 11 month old. She’s always been a great nurser but started fussing more last week which I associated with teething pain. Then started the biting to the point that she drew blood when I tried to latch her (she did this for short period before but then stopped). Now she refuses completely and shows zero interest no matter what I try. To top it off, I’m only nursing her on one breast as the… Read more »

mila
Guest
mila

Thanks for your post and to those who wrote of their personal experience!
My 13 month old daughter weaned cold turkey theother night.she had never had formula, never had pumped milk, I work from home, all the “correct” circumstances according to the nursing nazis. I didn’t expect it, I was sad by the thought that this chapter of my life is done (she is my fourth and last child).
But I should be happy for the good nutrition she did have.
Again thanks for your post!

Ida
Guest
Ida

Thank you for this post. I’ve been weaning my daughter slowly for months. We’ve been down to a morning and an evening before-bed nurse for 2 months.Then, the other day, she bit me several times and smiled. I told my husband to get a bottle of formula. She drank it down, burped, and went to bed. Today, she didn’t even try to get at my breasts. I gave her a bottle (there was a 5 min wait while her father made it and she didn’t even root). We cuddled, I sang. I kissed her forehead dozens of times. We did… Read more »

Ida
Guest
Ida

Just FYI-Yesterday was not the first time she bit me. For several months, I’ve said, “Do not bite mommy” in a strong tone. I tried pushing her away for several minutes.

We do have our schedule but even outside of it, she doesn’t look around for them. Except…when we are in the middle of Whole Foods and then, without fail, she checks to see that they’re still in there.:)

Kristina
Guest
Kristina

Thanks for sharing! I’m going through this right now with my 10 month old — and the biting, oh the biting! Ouch! So at 10 months old do you start them on formula, or can you go to cow’s milk? My other dude went to 18 months, so this is new to me.

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I know this has been a few years, but thank you. I keep reading and coming back to this. For the last month, my now 8 month old has slowly but surely decided the boob is no longer for her. We are down to a morning and early evening feed, and pumping has dwindled to all of a cumulative ounce a day. It was tough for us from the get go (bad birth, poor latch, severe tongue tie, weak suck) but we made it work for seven months without supplementing. And I know rationally its ok to let breastfeeding run… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

For three weeks I had been having issues getting my daughter to nurse. Thought it was just a phase but on Friday she refused to nurse at all and hasn’t since. 4 days short of 10 months she self weaned. Or 10 months from her due date!

Carly
Guest
Carly

Fantastic , my baby did the exact thing at 8 months but she was exclusively BF, which made it even harder to understand 🙁 I’ve been so upset & have tried everything to get her back. Not happening.

Lv
Guest
Lv

Reading this really helped me w my inner struggle. Thankyou. My 8 m old seems to be self-weaning, and reading your words made it possible, ok, and even something to be proud of that i have bf him this long. I began to doubt myself about my son self-weaning when i read everywhere that babies below a yr dont self-wean, but i am going to trust my intuition and stop thinking i am a bad mommy

Ree
Guest
Ree

Can I just thank you from the bottom of my sad sad bosom for this piece!!! Breastfeeding started for me as a battle… poor latch and supply issues and I fought tooth and nail to get things on track. So many tears and now with my little girl self weaning starting at 10 months I have continued to fight to keep our breastfeeding relationship and until reading this piece felt like an absolute failure. Every kellymom LLL and ABA information page and forum thread tells me this weaning is mother led.. after 6 weeks of fighting and now 3 weeks… Read more »

D
Guest
D

I know you have now heard it a million times, but after searching google for “10 month old weaning” I felt like I was getting yelled at! I was so relieved to find that I wasn’t alone or doing something wrong. Thank you!

Carol
Guest
Carol

Thank you for this post. My 11 month old stopped nursing. She is my lAst baby and I wanted to nurse until she was 2 or more BUT here she is refusing to nurse and screaming if I try. My other kids nursed longer and I had to wean them when I became pregnant which they didnt want to do, they loved nursing. but this little girl is stopping herself! Makes me sooooooo sad that I’m done. I so blame myself, Too stressed out, working too hard, not cosleeping with her… Crying as I type this.

Carol
Guest
Carol

One more thought too, for the poster that said babies have to have breastmilk until they are 2, comparing this to cave man days. First, not sure there is any historical record of breastfeeding habits or time frames from those days! But Today we have access to healthy foods daily, fresh fruits, veggies, eggs and meats. Babies may wean bc they r getting very healthy amounts of solids that cavemen didn’t have so they stop needing breastmilk for nutritional needs, especially if your baby is a good eater. Also WHO reccomends 2 years of breastfeeding, why – bc in poorer… Read more »

Christine
Guest
Christine

Thank You. I needed to read this. We beat ourselves up over and over and maybe our babies are telling us “enough already”.. I was shocked at  cold turkey refusal, but after reading this, the signs were all there. She’s done and I guess it’s time to soldier on. My baby is trying out her independence. (sigh) I will miss it. Now I know why “it’s time for another one” …lol.