Were you planning on continuing breastfeeding, but your baby has other ideas? Do you worry baby is trying to wean?
First, make sure it isn’t just a nursing strike.
Common Reasons for an Early Weaning
- Bottles, pacifiers or increased solids. 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 while away from you. With dummies, reduce use to your baby won’t be meeting his sucking needs, and will be more eager to nurse, 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. If baby is under 12 months of age, make sure you are offering breast before solids. 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.
- Distraction. 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. Being tired can be overwhelming, but your baby is getting the perfect nourishment his body requires, and it should be a temporary issue. This is less of a problem if your baby co-sleeps.
- Self soothing. Perhaps you have a very busy baby who sucks his thumb, has always preferred sleeping alone, has adopted a blanket or stuffed animal. We call these baby’s self-soothers. It’s less common among breastfeeding babies, but they do exist.
- Pregnancy. Baby may react 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.
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. Allow those feeling to occur, they are normal and reach out if you need support. 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. They will listen, and sympathize.