Weaning from breastfeeding – when and how?

January 14, 2010

When does broccoli win over breast? Photo by Fimb

When does broccoli win over breast? Photo by Fimb

In part two on this week’s series on breastfeeding (see part one here,) we asked our Council of Vegan Parents a simple question: for how long did you nurse your children?

The answers were pretty evenly split – and surprising.

About half of our respondents were in the six months to a year phase. The other half? Three to three and a half years.

I’ll admit it, I hadn’t done any real research before asking the question, and I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but wow! And I wasn’t the only one: as Dalyn says, “When the nurse came to the house for a visit the week after he was born… she told me that they recommend breastfeeding for a year. I nearly fell out of my seat – it seemed like a very long time to have a little body attached to my breast.” It looks like she got over the initial shock though: “in some ways, it is a long time, but the convenience and the health factors do, of course, make it worth every moment.”

One thing I’m learning from compiling these surveys is that every case is different, and sure enough, there seem to be a lot of different reasons to wean at various points.

In some cases, another baby was on the way, and in others, the child decided on his or her own. Some women weaned out of concern for their own health (typically other factors were involved) and others out of discomfort, decreasing milk supply or simply the inability to “keep up with demand.”

As for the transition, a few Council members shared their stories as well.

Most of the 3+ year group night weaned at around the two and a half year range. As Doh pointed out, later-stage nursing seemed to be more about the emotional connection and comfort than the need for sustenance, so preparing for the change was more mental than physical.

For Julie, by the end of the cycle, she had to work on teaching her son to soothe in different ways. “He was big enough at nearly 3 that we could spend the couple of months leading up to it talking about how things would change when he was 3 and a ‘big kid,’ and he was excited enough about his birthday that it was a date he remembered and looked forward to, so it was an easy event to attach the change to.”

Their transition went relatively smoothly: “He was noticeably needier/clingier for a while, but he had a lot of changes going on in his life (weaning, me traveling abroad, moving to a new class with new teachers and new kids at school), so it’s hard to say how much of it was directly related to the breastfeeding. For a couple of weeks, he would ask to nurse, but I just had to ask him to stand up and show me how ‘big’ he was now that he was 3 for him to accept no as an answer. For a while, he asked about getting to nurse again after the [second] baby comes, but now (almost 5 months after weaning) those questions seem to have gone away as well.”

As for solid foods, in most cases these were introduced between the fifth and twelfth month. Steph started out with rice cereal and introduced things gradually from there, keeping an eye out for problems (oats caused some issues, for instance.) She recommends avoiding gluten grains in the first year. Meredith supplemented nursing with soy formula, and at about the one year mark her son started consuming regular soy milk – a habit he continues two years later at the rate of several cartons a week!

If you’re looking for more information, Steph pointed out a few resources that helped her with nursing and nutrition, including Healthy Eating for Life for Children and Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan!: Simple, Delectable Recipes for the Everyday Vegan Family.

A huge thanks to Julie, Meredith, Kari, Doh, Steph, Trin, and Dalyn for contributing on this one. What about you – how were your nursing experiences? Let us know in the comments, or if you’d like to contribute to a followup article, consider joining the Council of Vegan Parents!

(Photo by Fimb)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

lj2002 February 10, 2010 at 2:51 pm

La Leche League is also a great resource. They have tons of info and are a great support group to attend meetings.

Unsheeply February 18, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Our son is about to turn three and still nursing. At times I'm really glad of it, like when he's sick. As of right now I'm still planning to wait until he self weans, no matter what the age.

Mothering magazine recently had an awesome article about breastfeeding in Mongolia where it was really common for the kids to not wean until much older and on the rare occasion breastmilk consumption even by adults was accepted in their community. Such a different perspective from the US. I think some of my family members would be horrified if they knew our DS was still nursing .

The council answers seems to jive with the answers from friends and family members. Most of them either weaned after a few weeks or after an extended period of time. Many of them it was when they had to go back to work, after 10-12 weeks.

Unsheeply February 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Our son is about to turn three and still nursing. At times I'm really glad of it, like when he's sick. As of right now I'm still planning to wait until he self weans, no matter what the age.

Mothering magazine recently had an awesome article about breastfeeding in Mongolia where it was really common for the kids to not wean until much older and on the rare occasion breastmilk consumption even by adults was accepted in their community. Such a different perspective from the US. I think some of my family members would be horrified if they knew our DS was still nursing .

The council answers seems to jive with the answers from friends and family members. Most of them either weaned after a few weeks or after an extended period of time. Many of them it was when they had to go back to work, after 10-12 weeks.

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