My baby is self weaning from the breast. OK, so he’s 4 and perhaps not a baby anymore. Yes, 4 – shock horror and still breastfeeding. I thought I’d share my story, because I was always keen to read about other people’s self weaning stories.
When Daniel was 6 months old, I thought I’d stop at a year, then I kept going. It was easy by then, feeds were less frequent, and it was such an easy tool to get him to sleep for naps and bedtime. I could feed him to sleep and then transfer him to bed.
When he was approaching 2, I thought I’d stop. I wanted to, I was touched out and frazzled, I wanted my breasts back. His birthday came and went. I really wanted to cut out the night feed and the morning feed. Somehow I managed to do it without too much hassle (I wrote about how I was ready but my toddler wasn’t here), and we were down to just one feed before bed by the time he was 2 and a few months. At this point it didn’t bother me, we would have a lovely nursing session, he would go to sleep and we’d transfer him to bed. Sometimes he’d come in to our bed during the night, but he wouldn’t nurse, so it didn’t bother us too much, he just hogged the space.
His 3rd birthday came and went we were still breastfeeding. Again, no reason to stop, we didn’t have to feed in public and it was a way to reconnect after work or nursery.
I decided quietly to self wean. I understand most children self wean at about 4-7 years old. I had my doubts, because he really loves it and showed no signs of stopping. I just couldn’t imagine him deciding to stop, I thought I’d have to do it. His 4th birthday approached and for me it was a double celebration, it was also four years of breastfeeding, when before I’d only managed 5 months – I certainly made up for it this time!
What started to happen was it stopped working as my magic sleepy tool. He would often nurse, then continue jumping around and not go to bed until he fell asleep next to us from exhaustion. If he breastfed then stayed awake, I wouldn’t nurse him again later. Sometimes we went to bed together and I laid with him until he slept. In the last month or two, he started saying he didn’t want it or need it. Sometimes he would nurse and then quickly say it was all gone, so I don’t know if it stopped flowing.
In the last few weeks he’s nursed a handful of times. We’re now trying to get him to go to bed when the others do, because he’d always breastfed to sleep he doesn’t just lie down to go to sleep. He started school in September and we want him to go to bed by himself – that’s our new challenge. It’s difficult, because he shares a room with Phoebe, and my mobility is poor at the moment making the stairs a challenge, so I can’t keep putting him back to bed. We also refuse to lose our whole evening trying to put a reluctant child to bed.
Daniel is our last child, so it has been easier in that sense to just keep going and go with the flow. Your journey may be different. There’s no right or wrong answer, just do what feels right for you and your family. The world health organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, then until the age of 2 and beyond alongside a healthy balanced diet.
Update: he now can go to bed with the others, and fall asleep independently. We just gently insisted. He still comes into bed with us at some point in the night most nights, but I rarely notice. After I started writing this post, he stated wanting to nurse again! So we still do it most nights, as part of his bedtime routine. He is completely obsessed with my boobs, calling it ‘Mummy Boo.’ I am back to thinking he will never self wean, but I know he will at one point.
Anyone else self weaning in the same boat? I’d love to hear from you.