It happens so easily. At first, it may seem like getting through the first month’s breastfeeding challenges is impossible. The next hurdle may be returning to work, starting solid food or getting past relatives’ subtle — or rather rude — suggestions that it’s time to wean your baby.
But once you’ve been breastfeeding past a year, it’s so easy to find yourself breastfeeding a toddler. And with child-led weaning, before you know it, you may be breastfeeding a preschooler.
You may have mixed emotions about this stage in your breastfeeding relationship. I did! When my son was two-years-old, I made a firm decision in favor of child-led weaning. About six months later, I was surprised by my feelings of feeling touched-out and tied-down. I felt ready to wean, but at the same time, I was very sad at the thought. It was evident that my son was not ready to wean. I never thought I would struggle with these feelings.
Then a friend gave me a copy of To Three And Beyond: Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them, a collection of stories by mothers who breastfed a child to three-years-old and beyond. In the most down-to-earth way, Janell E. Robisch’s book helped me feel normal in my mixed emotions while also encouraging me to continue my goal of child-led weaning.
Here is my interview with Janell on her tips to overcome the biggest challenge in child-led weaning — making the choice and sticking to it:
Q: Despite the immense amount of research showing the benefit of breastfeeding and the biological norm of child-led weaning, breastfeeding a three-year-old or beyond is still considered “fringe.” Have you found that mothers who choose child-led weaning share any common threads?
A: While no two mothers’ experiences are the same, one of the main threads is that of individual mothers carefully considering their children and their families, and making decisions about breastfeeding and parenting based on the family’s needs as a whole and the children’s needs in particular. There is compassion and respect here for children’s needs, even when they contrast with what society presents as the “right” way to do things. And there is balance as well.
Q: Perhaps the biggest challenge to child-led weaning is a mother’s feelings of isolation. What tips do you give to mothers who are reconsidering their choice to child-led wean when faced with the lack of support for their choice?
A: You are not alone, not by far. I feel comfortable saying that at this moment, there are thousands — if not more — mothers nursing beyond infancy and even toddlerhood. There are two important things to do:
- Remember why you have made the choice to continue breastfeeding.
- Find support. It means the world, even if it is only in a book, or online, or from one friend or family member in your life. Parents can also join the Breastfeeding to Three and Beyond online discussion group on Facebook.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: I just want to give a shout-out to all the brave mamas out there who fly in the face of tradition — not to rebel but to parent in the best way they know how — those who are brave enough to question parenting practices that ignore the needs and developmental stages of children, and to do what feels right for their children and families.
The expert: Janell is a homeschooling mom and former La Leche League Leader who breastfed her three children to the ages of five, four-and-a-half, and three-and-a-half. She is the author of: To Three And Beyond: Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them and moderator of the Breastfeeding to Three and Beyond Facebook group.
Photo credit of Janell: Allison Profeta
Photo Credit of top photo: Pixabay