My Baby Has Weaned before I Was Ready! Help!
Were you planning on breastfeeding for a while longer, but your baby has other ideas? Are you feeling rejected? First, make sure it isn't just a nursing strike. See the question: My Baby Is Suddenly Refusing To Nurse. Does That Mean It's Time to Wean? and our resource page on Nursing Strikes for ideas and support.
Maybe you have heard the saying: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. But I'll give you some tips to get your child back to the breast. When a child weans before the mother has planned, it can lead to feelings of rejection and grief in the mother, even when the baby seems fine with it.
Some of the most common reasons for an early weaning are: a baby who is getting bottles, using a pacifier heavily, or really chowing down on solids. Naturally, you can try cutting down on any of these activities. If your baby is getting bottles at daycare while you are at work, and is over six months old (approximately), it's probably time to go to the cup for the child's feeds. Cut way down on pacifier use too. That way, your baby won't be meeting his sucking needs all day, and will be more eager to suck on your breast, when you are together. If you started solids early (before six months), you can always cut back on the size of these meals, gradually, of course. Your milk supply will build back up, as the baby spends more time at the breast. Remember, your milk is by far the most nutritious food for your baby, for the first year, not to mention the immunological benefits.
Another common behavior to watch out for is the busy baby who is too distracted by everything around him, and won't take time to breastfeed. This usually occurs between ages six to nine months. Try going into a quiet, dark room to breastfeed. Your baby may start waking more at night to feed, when nothing interesting is going on. You may not like having your sleep disturbed, but at least your baby is getting the perfect nourishment his body requires. This is less of a problem if your baby sleeps in your bed. Night waking is also common during teething, anyway. A baby will often pick up on breastfeeding during the day at about one year, when he starts standing, walking and falling down and hurting himself a lot. Plus he's able to keep an eye on what's going on around him, and still get his time at the breast in--smart baby!
Perhaps you have a very busy baby who sucks his thumb, has always preferred sleeping alone, has adopted a blankie or teddy bear. We call these babies self-soothers. It's less common among breastfeeding babies, but they do exist. Perhaps you are pregnant, and your baby is reacting to the change in the taste or quantity of your milk. In these cases, it can be difficult, or impossible, to turn back the clock to those blissful breastfeeding days. You've experienced one of the most pleasurable, even spiritual, times of your life, cuddling with your soft, warm, fragrant baby. It's natural to miss it! Friends who haven't been there won't understand. They'll think you'd be glad to tuck your shirt back in, and move on to the next stage. But your feelings are valid! Call your local La Leche League Leader. She will listen, and sympathize.
A useful resource is The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning, by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich, available from the LLLI Online Store or your local LLL Group library. Also see our collection of NEW BEGINNINGS articles on weaning.
Our FAQs present information from La Leche League International on topics of interest to parents of breastfed children. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise. If you have a serious breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to a La Leche League Leader. Please consult health care professionals on any medical issue, as La Leche League Leaders are not medical practitioners.