How to wean?
July 22, 2012 8:24 AM   Subscribe

When and how did you stop breastfeeding?

Relatives are pressuring me to wean my baby (single digit month old).

They mean well: baby starts childcare soon; will eat more solids; i go back to work soon; i get more sleep.

I just do not feel ready.

I was unwell this weekend and they would not allow baby to breastfeed all weekend. They said this is a good time to wean. But I am tired, physically uncomfortable and missing my baby terribly.

They are now mad because I went back to breastfeeding on Monday. I told them I would prefer a gradual approach but they said it was better to be all or nothing.

They also insisted that I am being stubborn and stupid. They have more experience and why am I being so naive? Apparently in our culture, it is currently seen as a rarity to breastfeed as most mothers would opt not to even if they have breast milk - because most mothers like to preserve their youthful looks/ body and babies "suck the youth out of you." Breastfeeding also means no more firm breasts. So many mothers age so quickly after having a baby, they become physically unattractive (including being stretched down there) and thus it would make sense for their husbands to leave them for younger more nubile models.

I think they are full of hogwash (though they are looking out me for in their own way). But I am also unfortunately living with them and, perhaps being unwell, am starting to let it get to me as they are relentless in their constant nagging.

It would be very helpful to know of when and how others have weaned their baby(ies).

Also whether it is ok to be so incredibly sad when you do.

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Statistics show that it is better to breast feed. Since you are living with them you could brush it off and explain that NOW it is reccomended to do...

You will always have others giving you advice on how to raise your child. If it isn't breast feeding it will be something else. It is very difficult to do what you think is the right thing for your family when you are living in someone else's house.
posted by bwilms at 8:39 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your relatives may love and care for you. They are also completely full of shit. Let me count the ways: 1. Breastfeeding does not, not, not - let me repeat - NOT! - "suck the youth out of you". It also doesn't destroy your breasts (yes, they take some time to "bounce back" afterwards, as it were, but they DO). It promotes a healthy bond between you and your baby, which is EXTREMELY beneficial to your own health as well as baby's. 2. Any man who would leave you because you're tired/physically different after having a baby is a total asshole. It has nothing to do with the post-baby body and EVERYthing to do with the guy's character. 3. The ONLY PEOPLE who get to decide that it's the right time for you to wean are you and your baby. NOBODY ELSE has any say whatsoever in the matter. 4. The World Health Organization - presumably a more well-informed organization than your family - recommends that all women breastfeed until their babies are one year old, and then as long as they want afterwards. 5. Both I and many of my friends agree that breastfeeding was one of the sweetest, most wonderful experiences we've ever had, and we miss it deeply. 5. Anyone who attempts to get you to do what they want by calling you "stubborn and stupid" does not - I will repeat again, DOES NOT! - have your best interests at heart. They are interested in controlling you, NOT in doing what's best for you. 6. I nursed my baby until he was two. I wish I'd done it longer. I miss it a LOT. We both loved it, my breasts eventually went back to normal, I don't regret a thing.
posted by julthumbscrew at 8:42 AM on July 22, 2012 [34 favorites]

It is okay to be incredibly sad when you do. (My 1-year-old is weaning himself right now; he's just not interested any longer. I'm SO ready to be done with breastfeeding, but I'm still sad about it. Watching babies grow up is hard.)

It is also okay to tell these relatives to fuck off. You are the mother; if continuing to breastfeed your baby is a mistake, it is your mistake to make.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:42 AM on July 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

I weaned my daughter when she was four -- she would have happily continued, but I thought she was more than ready to be done. It was very unusual in this culture (I'm in the U.S.), but more common in my extended family, which helped. My breasts are as lovely and perky as ever, and my husband never tired of glimpses of breast when she was breastfeeding. So I wouldn't worry about that aspect of it.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry for this stressful situation, personally, I believe that you should only wean when you and your child are ready for the transition (obviously that includes if you have any medical, mental, or any other reason to want/need to outside of other people nagging you based on their personal opinions). If you want something concrete to tell them re: continuing to breastfeed, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until age two. Also, there are some potential benefits to you for continuing to breastfeed (see some of the stats cited here.

I weaned for good when my son was one year and ten months. I went back to work and he went to full time daycare when he was three months old, and we continued to have a breastfeeding routine that worked well for us for a long time. Personally, I ended up giving him mostly formula at daycare, with one pumped bottle of milk per day, because I didn't have the time or inclination to pump more than once a day. It took maybe a week for my supply to adjust from all-day-every-day to mornings, evenings, and nights, but I was lucky to never have supply issues from the partial daytime weaning.

You've got to do what is comfortable and feels right for you. And yeah, it is totally ok to feel sad. I felt very sad about the idea of full weaning until we hit a point where he and I were both ready to be done with it, and at that point I was super relieved to be done.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 8:47 AM on July 22, 2012

I told them I would prefer a gradual approach but they said it was better to be all or nothing.

Sounds like a recipe for mastitis for me. It also sounds like this person has no clue what they are talking about and had better get some their hands on some actual medical info.

I weaned at 18 months and did it gradually. I believe it's quite normal for a lot of mothers to be very sad about weaning. In fact, I've found information here and there that suggests that depression (I mean, actual clinical depression) is not uncommon at this time. I don't have a cite, I'm sorry, but anecdotally there's certainly a lot of stuff on the internet along those lines.

It's the chemical & hormonal changes of pregnancy that make breast tissue softer, not breastfeeding itself.

If your partner would leave you simply because he wanted to find a younger model after you'd given birth to and breastfed his child, I would say good riddance. In my case it was the lack of sleep that aged me in the first six months after giving birth. I look much younger again now that I'm not getting up every two hours. Funnily enough my (male) partner does too.

I don't know where you are or whether La Leche League exists there, but if it does then I would strongly urge you to contact them. I have found it to be an invaluable source of information and support.

If this person you mention happens to be your husband (I have no idea whether or not that is the case), then he is in need of urgent guidance and also needs to examine his own motives for his beliefs and controlling behaviour.
posted by rubbish bin night at 8:51 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know what kind of culture you are living in but feel really bad for you. These ignorant sexist relatives are not your friends. Too bad you have to live with them. Do you have a partner who supports you? If so he should be telling them to back off and let you make your own choices about weaning.

My kids weaned themselves at 2 years and three years but everyone around me including husband and my parents were very supportive, even through the culture was not 30 and more years ago. Plus I had the now rare luxury of being a stay at home mom.

If you need to go back to work you can get a breast pump and express milk to be bottle fed while you are away. Don't abruptly wean now, as someone else here said that is a recipe for mastitis which is painful and needs medical help. If you do not have a supportive partner, try to find another mother friend or anyone who can advocate for you, and don't listen to the relatives who are telling you unkind and untrue things. If you do have to wean now it is not the end of the world,, you and baby will be ok, but it really should be on your terms, not something you are forced into.
posted by mermayd at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think everyone has got the "you're relatives may mean well, but ignore them" part covered.

Breastfeeding is nature's way of keeping both you AND the baby healthy at this stage.

As far as my experience, I weaned my first child at around 18-19 months old. It was mostly because I was just ready to be done, she was eating well enough and drinking from a sippy cup and it just felt like it was TIME. We did it gradually, and the bedtime nursing was the hardest to give up.

My second child decided for himself he was done at around 9 months or so. I was not at all ready, but had been sick with a horrible week-long virus that left me dehydrated and had to rely on bottles and formula for a bit. He decided he liked that better, so that was that.

Which is all to say... there are a million "right" ways to wean. But ignoring your instincts as a mother is not one of them.
posted by pantarei70 at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Mine were two or three years old. They tapered, then just stopped I guess -- there was no dramatic "this is the last time" moment. Many, many women nurse their babies much longer than you might -- I've noticed this with my friends. By the time the child is a toddler they're probably nursing just at home, maybe just before naps or bed, and so you don't see it happening; plus there's the social pressure not to, of course.

I agree, La Leche League would be great for you. If you could get to a meeting you'd find plenty of women to take apart your relatives' claims. If you can't get to a meeting, could you at least contact someone by e-mail or phone? A lactation consultant could give you advice now, and also on how to wean with mastitis or misery if you decide that's what you want to do.

Your relatives are being jerks and I wish I were there to tell them that. It's 100% none of their business. Breastfeed your baby -- or child! -- as long as you both want.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:20 AM on July 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

You are the are right. The breast feeding relationship is already all too short (in my opinion). Your baby will ween when ready. Be strong....continue for as long as it works for you. You'll miss it when it's over. I did.
posted by pearlybob at 9:22 AM on July 22, 2012

I was unwell this weekend and they would not allow baby to breastfeed all weekend. They said this is a good time to wean. But I am tired, physically uncomfortable and missing my baby terribly.

I am deeply concerned about this. Whether you are unwell or not, it is up to you how you feel your child, not up to them. This sounds manipulative and abusive, and I am concerned about which other parenting methods you employ they may object to. It's normal for people not to agree on parenting methods, but it is up to the PARENTS to decide what works for them and their children.

My son and I had terrible difficulty breastfeeding and it ended at about four months, and I'm still grieving it. He's almost four.

My daughter is 10 months old, eats tons of solid food, I went back to work when she was three and a half months old, and she is still nursing strong. Because the pump and I are not friends, she receives both breast milk and formula at daycare, and at home she is exclusively nursed still. I'm happy to continue nursing her at this point, and I have no end date in mind currently. I will say that when she started solids she did cut down on her daytime nursing because she doesn't need to receive all her nutrition from nursing exclusively, she naturally tapered back on her own. I just follow her cues.

Breastfeeding is one of those things that you can revisit every so often. So if, say, in three months you think you're done, then wean. If in another year you're done, then wean. Whatever else, it doesn't sound like you are ready now (and I bet if things are going well the baby isn't ready, either). So I suggest telling you relatives that you will revisit this issue every few months and they do not need to be concerned with it -- and I would remind them that YOU are the MOTHER, not them. They don't get to make this decision. You and your baby get to make this decision when either or both of you are ready to make it.

And, yes, it's okay to be sad when you wean, whenever it happens, as it means baby is growing up. And it is both exciting and sad when that happens.
posted by zizzle at 9:22 AM on July 22, 2012 [15 favorites]

I breastfed my oldest until he was 22 months old. I tried to wean him at about seven months. He didn't want a bottle. I didn't want to see him starve. I caved and I am glad I did. That first time, it was a relative who was trying to tell me to stop breastfeeding. I later stopped when he was 17 months old. It was a month in hell but he was old enough to eat regular food and his nursing all night had become a problem for me.

Then he got sick, wanted desperately to nurse and I did not know how to explain my milk was dried up. So I decided to show him. Turns out I had less milk but it was not gone entirely. After that, he nursed a little every day. Then I turned up pregnant and decided I could not support three lives (mine, his and the new baby growing inside me). So I cut him off for good. And he was also more ready for it. I later learned he had a genetic disorder. So I think I did the right thing.

My youngest is lactose intolerant. He rejected the breast at ten days of age. He was 9.5 pounds at birth and by two days old, he was breastfeeding for over an hour every other hour and then taking a bottle afterwards. Switching to a bottle after he developed jaundice from my milk and refused the breast was painless. I took him to see a doctor who told me breastfed babies tend to be a little darker and it wasn't true jaundice and didn't need treatment. His skin got lighter on its own. After a couple of days, I returned to breastfeeding him once a day for about fifteen minutes just to give him the immune support of mom's milk. He stopped entirely at six weeks of age.

I am a big believer in doing what works for mom and baby and telling everyone else to butt out.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:22 AM on July 22, 2012

Man here.

If it matters... I wish my mother had breastfed me longer. I was born at a time when practically NOBODY was doing it, and anybody who did was considered extremely weird.

My mom nursed me for about 5 months, then went on a summer holiday without me and left me with her mother. My mom ended up with mastitis, which really put a damper on her holiday. When she came back, there were milk flow problems, I starved, and that was the end of that.

There's no way to know for sure if this is why, but I had a couple of very serious infections as a toddler and was already asthmatic by my second year. I don't think that's a coincidence.

The UN World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then solids plus breastfeeding for -- get this -- at *least* two years. The impact on resistance to infection in the child is well-substantiated.

For me, that trumps "perky breasts" (bullshit, by the way) and well-intentioned but ill-informed relatives. This is your child, not a house pet or fashion accessory.

If you feel bummed when you're not nursing, your body is telling you something. Be with your baby. It's natural. You have these feelings for a reason.

I think being a mother in the modern world is made all the more difficult by meddling relations. Everybody thinks you are doing it wrong because you aren't doing it the way they did. This is -- make no mistake about it -- partly a defence against guilt; nobody likes any implication they were less than the perfect parent. Breastfeeding is an extremely loaded subject in some cultures. You can thank Nestlè for that.

But let's get down to brass tacks:

1. when it is time to wean, you'll know. All children wean eventually.
2. if your family is giving you static, you need reinforcement. I am seconding the La Leche League suggestion. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
3. Lastly... this is between you and your baby, and nobody else. Whenever somebody starts nagging, remember that.

I wish you and your kiddo the best ;)
posted by rhombus at 9:26 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might be helpful for a conversation with your rellies. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding solely for 6 month, and then continuing for 2 yrs or more.

They have a ten point explanation about the benefits of breastfeeding -- including immunity for the baby from major health risks, and long term health for your child even as an adult.

Sometimes having recent information is helpful -- health advice to women on breastfeeding (and to parents generally) has changed dramatically over the years, and everyone feels very intensely about doing what they feel is right for the kid. It's one of those situations where complete strangers feel they have the right to give instruction, and somehow mom is always wrong.

It is completely normal to feel sad about the end of breastfeeding, and it ends at different times for different kids, as mentioned above. It reminds me of my feeling sad these days that my son (now 12) won't hug me in public--there are so many endings, large and small, with kids! My son stopped nursing during the daytime and switched to bedtime only after 1 year or so, tn just stopped altogether at about 18 months. By then we were both ready.


Good luck!!!
posted by chapps at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2012

Diabetes runs strongly on my husbands side of the family. As a result I was recommended to nurse his children until they were at least a year old and not to let them have any cows milk until they were that old as breast feeding statistically provides protection from diabetes.

I could have put my kids on soy milk, I suppose, but I am starting to read that there is more evidence that soy milk is part of the diabetes is caused by too much carbohydrates in the diet evidence so I think my decision to breast feed for a year each was a good one. My son was weaned a little earlier because I had to wean him before I could get pregnant and wanted to space him as close to the next kid as possible. The last one weaned for a bit more than a year.

Basically, I find it worrying that your family should be interfering in what is your choice and your choice alone. Some people argue that nursing a child to four years or seven years shows a pathological over attachment to the baby. But I don't think there are any reputable health care professionals who believe that nursing for at least a year is harmful to either the Mom or the kid. My guess is that you would probably want to wean the kid when he reaches that growth spurt that makes him heavy enough that he is hard to carry while carrying something else- which is generally around two years old. I would certainly feel that if you have a non-walking baby there is no reason to wean it.

All that said it was not until all of my kids had been weaned for several years that I found out that the unspoken reason many mothers wean is that babies on breast milk produce floods of smelly cheesey yellow feces, which is so liquid it leaks out of any diaper that is not hermetically sealed, where as if the kid is on a formula based diet, or solid food and cereal the feces are much more solid, smell a lot less and are far easier to clean up. The decision to wean is apparently frequently linked to being fed up with the laundry and dealing with the smell!

My feeling is that this situation is not about whether to wean or not, but why your relatives are trying to stop you nursing, and what to do about this. Do they want more control over you? Do they want you to go back to work and bring in money? Are they fed up with the stinky diapers? Do they want you to turn your resources and time away from the baby to other projects they prefer. Do they feel you have been withholding the baby from them when they want to caretake it? Have they been worried about you for being housebound, emotional, and potentially depressed? Are there any red flags of a bad relationship between you and the baby, such as you not being able to assert yourself at all with the kid, varying screaming at it and then not being willing to put it down?

I'm kind of thinking that maybe you have a better relationship with your baby than with your relatives. A nursing baby may be demanding but are your relatives more demanding than the baby? Also, is there any possibility that the baby is a girl and they feel too much effort is being put into her on those grounds?

Weaning will cause your hormones to change and that might make you very weepy and emotional, or finally bounce you back to energetic, or make you more irritable or... well anything is possible because everyone's hormones are different. So yes, being weepy and sad and bereft while weaning sounds extremely likely. It would probably have both psychological and hormonal causes.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:30 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am still nursing my 21 month old. We have gotten down to mostly only nursing around sleep (before and after nap and before and after bedtime), with maybe a few snacks during the day with no special effort on my part. My plan is just just follow his lead in fully weaning. You have science on your side in this. The WHO recommends nursing til 2 or longer.

YOU are this child's mother and YOU get to choose how breastfeeding and weaning will happen. Tell your family to back off and nurse that baby.
posted by chiababe at 9:34 AM on July 22, 2012

Is baby's dad in the picture? And are these his relatives? If so get him the information others have linked to above. A supportive partner can run interference with the family (and sadly, sometimes a man's opinion will have more sway.)
posted by vespabelle at 9:35 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My son absolutely loved nursing. As a single mother I found it convenient and emotionally beneficial. When I returned to work he was 10 months old and enjoying baby food, some table food, and was able and willing to drink various liquids from a sippy cup -- but he still loved nursing. It was clearly not for nutritional purposes, but rather was his way of renewing our bond. I saw no reason to stop. He nursed before going to the babysitter's in the morning, ate & drank well while with her, and then joyfully nursed when I picked him up after work, ate dinner, and nursed once more before bedtime. Any attempts to suggest that "big boys don't nurse" were soundly rejected by him, so I knew that eventually I'd have to push him to wean. My intention was to start weaning around his third birthday, but I unexpectedly came down with shingles when he was 2 1/2 and had to stop nursing (I pumped & dumped to prevent engorgement) to take the necessary medication. I showed him my "boo-boos" and explained that I had to take medicine to make them better and the doctor said no more "nummies". I figured, let him blame the doctor for no more nummies. My son looked at my boo-boos a few times to see if they were getting better, and he maybe once or twice mentioned "nummies" and I reminded him that "doctor said no." I think I took the medicine for 10 days or so, and by then, he was weaned and on to other things. He still loved cuddling though, and was a lap-sitter till he was 9.

Enjoy your baby! - and don't let anyone shame you into weaning or stopping anything else that's right for you and your little one.
posted by RRgal at 9:36 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I weaned my daughter about a week shy of her third birthday, because I was going to be going away for a week and thought it would be better to wean her when I was around than when I wasn't. My son weaned himself at 14 months; one day, he climbed up into my lap, patted my breast and said "num-num," so we nursed, and that was the last time he ever nursed. He just didn't want it any more.

When to wean is a personal decision that should be made by the mother alone, after considering all the available information and resources. If you want to keep nursing, keep nursing, there are no documented ill effects no matter what the age.
posted by KathrynT at 9:39 AM on July 22, 2012

My first self weaned at around 10months. He got teeth early and loved solid food, plus started rejecting the bottle around 8 months, and was accidentally given cow's milk at the same sort of time. He did like the sippy cup though, and so he switched to that and mostly regular food early, and was only nursing at night. He dropped that immediately upon sleep training and then he was done. I am not a mother who loved breastfeeding, we had had a lot of trouble with it, but had ended up in a fine place. That said, I was still a little sad when he stopped, but he was ready for it. Trying to wean a baby before they are ready just seems like a recipe for heartbreak for all that is involved. I am currently nursing my 2nd (4 months old) and working full time (I pump during the day) and I have no clue how long he's going to go for, he seems generally happy with all ways of getting food, but I would never let someone else tell me I had to wean. And definitely taper, I can't imagine the pain for stopping cold turkey, it makes my breasts hurt just thinking about it!
posted by katers890 at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2012

I went back to work full-time, kids were in day care, and nursed both my kids until they were more than a year old. In fact, I wasn't sure I would ever get my 2nd kid to wean (she did, in time). So I'm not a good person to ask about weaning -- I would say, if you're not ready, don't do it. Tell your relatives to take a hike, get a breast pump (a lot of hospitals rent them), and give pumping a try when you head back to work. Child care and work don't have to kill breastfeeding, though it can make it more challenging. But hey - what's life without a few challenges? :) If it doesn't work that's OK, and at least you tried, which it sounds like you want to do.

And I thought it was pregnancy that screwed up your breasts, and not breastfeeding. I could be wrong there, but I thought I read something to that effect (I did, here). And does the SO in question find breastfeeding unattractive? Is he supportive or does he also want you to wean? I hate to say it, but sleepless nights and lack of intimacy don't magically return if you stop nursing -- someone still has to get up with the baby, whether it's bottle or boob. If being a mom is unattractive, well -- then a lot of us are screwed, according to those standards. And yet many of us are also still happily married. Has your family figured that one out?

I can't help you with your family, since I think the real problem here is that you have to tell them to back off. And they're already more involved than I would let my own family be, if they kept you from breastfeeding for a weekend. So if that's not something you're good at doing, start thinking about negotiation. You could, for example, just nurse at night and in the morning before work. Whatever you do, remember that this is just the beginning of handling a lot of family opinion (hell, stranger opinion too) and interference in your parenting life. Everyone else will always have assvice about what's best for you and your kid, but the only person who's responsible for what you actually do is you.
posted by hms71 at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are ready to wean, that is okay. Otherwise, your relatives are totally full of shit in every argument they have made.

Breastfeeding is great for babies. It is good for moms. It is good for the relationship between moms and babies. It does not "suck the youth out of you" (do parents who formula-feed look like they dance all night? Parenting an infant is hard, no matter how you feed them.) It does not make your boobs sag. You can blame a combination of genes and pregnancy and time for that. Also, women are under no binding agreement to stay young and hot forever so their husbands won't bail. Men are their own people, a dude can be faithful or not, that's his choice, independent of how luscious his new-mother wife is.

If you are ready to wean, cold-turkey is not the way to go. That will be hard on your body: if your baby is "single-digits", I assume it's 9 months or less. Although a lot of people start feeding solids at six months, your boobs are pretty much counting on needing to produce most of a baby's nutrition until a year. You have a lot of milk at this stage. If you quit cold-turkey, it will hurt, and you might get sick (mastitis). If weaning is what you want to do, you want to step down slowly, swapping out a feeding for a bottle one at a time over a number of days.

But you don't need to wean. It sounds very difficult and kind of terrible to have relatives saying these outlandish things to you and refusing you access to your own baby. That is not okay. I hope you understand that. YOU are this baby's mama. You live in your own body. You are the only person with access to all the information to make the right choice for the two of you. I hope the answers here give you a deeper feeling that you are right and your family doesn't get to tell you how this is going to work.

I am nursing a two-and-a-half-year-old. I think we will probably wean in the next couple of months, and you know, even though I am getting ready to be done, I am also sad that this will end. It is a very sweet thing, nursing your baby. I think a lot of women are sad when they wean.

My experience has been that a lot of women this comes up in front of respond with a furtive glance around and "I nursed until my kid was 18 months/3 years/whatever, I thought I was the only one!" I suspect that more women than you think nurse kids this age, because we probably mostly do it at home, a couple of times a day.

Breastfeeding is a good thing. You should feel good about nursing your baby. I hope you work this out. If you need support, the La Leche League is good. If you need a point of authority to get your relatives to back off, you might try "I called the pediatrician and he said I should definitely keep nursing." or something. Good luck. I hope you figure this out!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:10 AM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

"I appreciate your concern, but this is my decision." Repeat as necessary.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately this is just one of many childrearing decisions that other people have an opinion about but you need to hold your ground.

Most of us here probably don't understand the cultural context that you're in and if there will be major repercussions to you standing up for what you want.
posted by k8t at 10:31 AM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'll say that I think it is horrible that you are being pressured to stop breastfeeding.

It's only with my first child that I felt any pressure to stop. I wanted to breastfeed for a year, and once I hit that mark, I then set about weaning, thinking that is what I should do, and my husband agreed with that. It took me three months, ultimately. It took so long because it was going so well, and it was emotionally difficult to go through the process, because really, I didn't want to stop, and neither did the baby. The way I did it was to start substituting regularly scheduled breastfeeding times with "real food" mealtimes. At first it was one, and then a couple of weeks later it was two... and so on. First thing in the morning and last thing at night were the last two feedings to go. I was very sad when it ended. I am still sad and it was 12 years ago! It is a special part of being a woman & a mom.

Mastitis is no fun. I got it one time on Christmas day, and you would have thought that I could have at least sat on a couch and opened presents and quietly enjoyed everyone's company. Nope, too darn sick.

My second and third babies were nursed to 18 months and 21 months, due to me deciding that I wasn't going to stop until the baby wanted to stop.

Good luck standing up to your relatives.
posted by molasses at 10:54 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I weaned my son at 20 months and I still miss it...8 years later. Stay strong! Do what YOU want to do. This is YOUR child. Not theirs.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:05 AM on July 22, 2012

Can you enlist your pediatrician? Pushy relatives will often back off if you start the discussion with "I discussed this with our pediatrician, and she/he agrees that XYZ"

I am sorry that you are being pressured this way. Breastfeeding is a special time and I miss it. I nursed my boys until they self-weaned, the first at about a year, and the second at about ten months.
posted by ambrosia at 11:20 AM on July 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I stopped breastfeeding my daughter at ~19 months. It was a great time to do it-- she was old enough to have plenty of other ways of feeling close to me, was well into solid foods, single naptime, had been sleeping through the night for ages and ages, etc. We'd already pared it down to solely pre-nap and pre-bedtime nursing a month or two before, and in the end, she was pretty much completely cool with stopping. I may have felt a teeny bit sentimental at the time, but I think we both had a sense that we'd done justice to the experience.

Weaning her in single-digit months, now-- that would have been very hard, particularly if I'd been doing it in obedience to external pressure of some sort. Also, in what world does weaning the baby give you more sleep and less trouble than you have now? At <1>
Also, data point: breasts still pretty perky :) I'm pretty sure it's the weight gain/weight loss seesaw that stretches them out, not the breastfeeding per se.
posted by Bardolph at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2012

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I had to supplement my little guy at 2 months because he needed more calories. I still pump/nurse to the extent that I can (pump during lunch, end of day, at home). Even though he drinks 75% or more formula, it's still worth it to me to not wean him yet.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:25 AM on July 22, 2012

The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding "up to two years of age or beyond." The American Academy of Pediatrics stated in 1997 that, "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child." Additionally, as noted in Wikipedia, the Koran, the Talmud, and the writings of Aristotle all recommend breastfeeding for 2 to 3 years.

Is this your mother in law?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh Anon, I'm so sorry you're being pressured like this. Everyone else has good advice - there is nothing wrong with continuing to breastfeed if you want. My heart aches for you being kept from feeding your baby this weekend.

I'm breastfeeding my 9-month-old and I don't know when or how I might wean her, but it's not something I want to do anytime soon.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:06 PM on July 22, 2012

I presume you have a pediatrician. Call them, get a nurse on the phone, and hand the phone to the relative. Tell them you will follow doctor's orders regarding your child's nutrition, and not theirs.

And btw tell them they are risking you getting mastitis by trying to make you wean suddenly. I have had it and it's no fun.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:45 PM on July 22, 2012

Oh, and to directly answer the question, I weaned my first when I got pregnant with #2 (the first was nine or ten months old at the time), the second one weaned herself at three months (I was pregnant and didn't know it -apparently the flavor changes!) and the third weaned naturally around one year right before I took a crosscountry trip to Colorado.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:47 PM on July 22, 2012

My daughter is nearly four and loves nursing. This is a very personal thing between mother and child. Do what feels best for both of you.
posted by zia at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2012

Why are you trying to wean when you don't want to? I don't understand. Lots of women pump and do modified schedules when the kid is in day care.

And this:

they would not allow baby to breastfeed all weekend.

Is bizarre and sort of scary.

I'm sorry to be questioning the premise but I'm genuinely confused. What you're describing is very controlling behavior. You are the child's mother. That's what gives you the authority to make these decisions.

It's nobody's business what happens to your boobs or your woo as a result of childbearing, and someone taking an interest in this is very, very weird.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2012 [8 favorites]

Yor relatives have a heck of a lot of nerve. If you and your baby are happy and baby is growing well there is no need to stop. There is some point at which all mammalian moms push their young away and say 'that's all, go eat your kibble, hay, French fries" or whatever. But that's up to you to decide.
My first stopped on his own at 21 months due to schedule changes. My second I ended at 2 3/4 years. 3 years was my limit and I went out of town for a week, so we just didn't resume.

Good luck dealing with your relatives.
posted by SLC Mom at 1:48 PM on July 22, 2012

My mother loved le leche league because their attitude towards breastfeeding was that the child will know when to stop. I breastfed till 3.5 years wife never breastfed; we both scored in the 99th percentile on several standardized tests. Point being, breastfeed, or don' might not matter. Trust yourself and your child.
posted by schyler523 at 1:49 PM on July 22, 2012

There's some wonderful advice upthread, and I thought you might be interested in something I noticed recently. I work in Papua New Guinea and have learnt to speak Tok Pisin, the local pidgin language. The word for 'breast' and the word for 'milk' are identical - there's a fundamental understanding that breastfeeding is what breasts are for.
posted by twirlypen at 3:34 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's no one's decision but yours and your baby's. There are, as many have stated, a lot of really good reasons to keep breastfeeding, no GOOD ones unless one of you don't want to or there are some pretty serious health issues. You don't have to stop because the baby goes to daycare, and you certainly don't have to because someone else thinks you should.

My daughter was three. She'd been decreasing for a while, but then I was pregnant, the milk changed and she didn't like it much, and my breasts were super sensitive, so it was sort of mutual at that point.

Good luck.
posted by upatree at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2012

You might try going to your doctor and asking for a note that basically says breastfeeding is medically recommended until the child is X years old. Traditional in-laws that you're living with is super-complicated, and it's probably part of a power-play. You breastfeeding means that the in-laws don't have total control over the baby because she's still dependent on you for food.

While it's nice to be able to say "fuck off", that's not practical if you're living with them and don't want to deal with a giant family storm. In my extended family which is Asian and reasonable and White and crazy, I often use "The doctor said..." to justify parenting decisions when I don't want to deal with arguments. Fortunately none of my relatives are pediatricians!

Seriously, a decent doctor will write you a short note recommending breastfeeding. If your child has *any* medical conditions like ear infections or colic or even that one-time she slept badly, breastfeeding can be justified to the in-laws.

It's worth winning the battle on this because then you can't be pushed around for future battles with the in-laws about how she should be raised, and because it really is simple: you and your baby both want to keep breastfeeding, and it's so good for her.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:13 PM on July 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Surprised nobody has yet linked to Katherine Dettwyler's essays, which you will likely find to be good reading, even if your relatives don't (or might they?)

Your living situation sounds very unhealthy; I don't know what else to say.

My daughter slowed down very very gradually, and weaned herself around 4 3/4. I am a firm believer that weaning, potty training, cribs, and feeding mush on a spoon are all ridiculous ideas, and would not hesitate to avoid them with another baby, having discovered that getting off the breast, using the toilet, sleeping well, and self-feeding all happened quite easily and with pride instead of sturm und drang when I didn't meddle with them. This, for me, would be an "I am moving out" issue, and with a young child I would even prioritise nursing over living with Dad if it came down to it.

IF I had run into some sort of unspeakable situation -- potentially lethal disease for which clearly breastfeeding-unfriendly medication needed to start right away, say -- I would have hoped I could have aimed to wean around the end of the first year. Lots (most? all?) of babies go through a little period where they are distractible as hell and suddenly more interested in the non-Mummy world then, and going to bed and nursing are both difficult as the kid wants to be up and engaged instead. There was a period around 10mo when nursing was barely a 2x/day thing. Weaning, surely. But no, just a distractible phase, and it went back up when it was done. But that temporary disinterest would probably be the easiest time to wean. It is going to mean tears, though. (On distractibility)

(I have read about lots of mothers crying over the end of breastfeeding; I can't identify with that at all. Not weaning but letting the kid wean meant nothing but pride and happiness on my end)
posted by kmennie at 4:49 AM on July 23, 2012

The attitudes in the original post sound like the poster may possibly be French, in which case the pediatrician may well not support her. Not everywhere in the world has medical establishment support for breastfeeding. If the OP is fighting a strong cultural attitude that breastfeeding destroys women's lives, this is a much different battle than, as most are assuming, getting away from or standing up to a ridiculously controlling family; if she's in France, then many doctors will indeed agree that she is putting her family at risk by continuing to breastfeed.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:56 AM on July 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with you Eyebrows McGee; here in the Netherlands it was the paediatrician who commanded me to stop breastfeeding that very day and start giving formula instead (I think my son was about 4 months old at the time). I didn't, but I am very familiar with being actively discouraged at almost every turn (the best any doctor here ever did was more or less humour my breastfeeding). That is where my partner and La Leche League were invaluable to me. In this country the medical establishment supports breastfeeding in theory, and the culture is very tolerant of public breastfeeding (though it's gradually becoming more Americanised), but in practice if your baby is 'too big' or 'too small' you are likely to be strongly discouraged from breastfeeding, if not downright bullied*. This is why I think that the OP should do her best to find any sort of group or even individual who shares her views and can offer support and/or encouragement if she is not yet ready to give up breastfeeding and is under strong pressure to do so, coming from within the home.

*I'm not suggesting that the situation in this country is anything like it is in France, and certainly our reasons for discouraging breastfeeding are different, but those details are obviously not relevant to helping to answer the OP's question.
posted by rubbish bin night at 10:56 AM on July 23, 2012

My daughter and I both seemed to be ready to be done at about 13 months, but we were in the middle of moving several states away, so I continued to nurse her, thinking that would provide a lot of comfort at what might be a difficult time. The day we arrived in our new home, she would not nurse and never did again, though I did offer.

She was at daycare from the time she was very young, and I continued to nurse (and supplied the daycare with breastmilk), but I recognize that won't work well for everyone.

It's ok to be sad, it's ok to be happy, it's ok to be both at the same time. If you are incredibly sad and it is affecting your quality of life, you might consider talking to your doctor to make sure you aren't depressed.

I want to wish you the best in whatever you decide to do.
posted by freezer cake at 2:35 PM on July 23, 2012

If you need yet more support, you've got it from me. Stand your ground, nurse your baby, ignore your relatives.
posted by Capri at 7:27 PM on July 23, 2012

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