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Would Weaning Make My Life Easier?

Are you thinking about weaning? Your child may be a few weeks or months old, or may be a breastfeeding toddler. Some mothers decide to continue breastfeeding until the baby outgrows the need. This is called natural weaning or child-led weaning. In modern American society, this is rather unusual. Worldwide, it is the norm. At a typical LLL meeting, you may find many mothers practice this. You can review the FAQ on the benefits of breastfeeding a toddler if this seems right to you.

If weaning still seems like the answer for you, ask yourself a few questions. Are you still in the early weeks, and experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding? Maybe you'd like to breastfeed longer, but feel overwhelmed or are actually experiencing discomfort. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports findings that babies do best when breastfed at least a year, and don't hesitate to call your local La Leche League Leader if you are having problems! She can help you with any difficulties you may experience. Sometimes just talking to an experienced mother who has "been there," who understands what you're going through, can be so helpful. All LLL Leaders have breasted at least one baby, for at least one year.

If your child is past the newborn stage, and you want to wean him/her, again, look at your reasons. Are you feeling tied down? Is it difficult to get out of the house alone? You may find that learning to get out and do more with the baby along, will give you a change of pace, and avoid that "trapped" feeling. Try using a sling, or front or backpack, when you go for a daily walk. Getting out of the house, in the fresh air, is a great stress reducer. Make friends with the other new mothers in your LLL group. Getting together during the month, or just phoning or emailing them daily, keeps you connected to the outside world.

Also, when your infant is small, you may find it's easy to go out on dates with your husband. A breastfeeding baby is portable. You can still go to a restaurant, or the movies. Take turns holding the baby, or pop him in his infant seat, if he's well fed and content. Many babies will breastfeed right to sleep in a dark movie theater.

Are you feeling pressure from other family members, (often one of the baby's grandmothers) or friends to wean now? Someone who didn't breastfeed at all, or only for a few weeks, may not understand the health benefits of breastfeeding for a longer period. Look up our FAQ on Dealing with Criticism for ideas.

If you really feel like weaning will make your life easier, imagine the reality. You will still have a baby who needs to be fed. If he is under a year, you will be dealing with the expense and bother of several bottles of artificial milk (formula) a day. And your baby will still want to be close to you and need to be comforted from his busy, sometimes frightening and painful world. breastfeeding can be a "magic bullet" in your parenting repertoire. It soothes a temper tantrum, sends them off to sleep, feeds a sick baby who may be refusing other foods (no need for Pedialyte!), offers security when you travel, etc. You will still be a parent when you wean, your child will still need you.

If you're really feeling burnt out and resentful, one thing to try is a mother's helper. Young girls, age nine or ten, and up, can often be found in your community, to entertain your baby while you are in the house, so you can rest or get some things done. The baby can be brought to you to breastfeed when needed. These young ladies can be surprisingly maternal and responsible. And babies often love them to pieces, since they're so playful.

The benefits of breastfeeding last as long as the child is nursed and often longer. This is the greatest parenting stress reducer of all!

A useful resource is The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning, by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich, available from the LLLI Online Store. Also see our collection of LLL Web resources on weaning.

Last updated Wednesday, October 11, 2006 by njb.
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