This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Code Name: Mama and Aha! Parenting. Our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles about the end of the breastfeeding relationship.
In cultures where such developments are often ruled by a clock or schedule, it may be difficult to hold an open space for weaning to simply take place for the natural occurrence that it can be. Our beliefs about such a process definitely influence how the experience feels for everyone involved.
Early on in parenting I was introduced to the idea that weaning doesn't have to be something that mom does to her child, that it could be a more child-led or even mutual experience -- kind of a dance where both parties would know when the music transitioned. While that idea was intriguing, I had little tools to put it into practice when I felt overwhelmed with nursing a toddler and at the same time wanted the close connection we had through breastfeeding to continue. I felt a bit at a loss and sadness plagued me as I encouraged her to wean.
As I have grown to include more children I am reminded of a few thoughts I have embraced along the way as a mother. Maybe they will help other mothers embrace weaning as not only a component of breastfeeding, but a continual process in parenting.
Weaning begins when a baby starts eating and moving away from mother; this is healthy, natural, and desired. Many of the tears I shed over weaning had to do with holding to ideals about child-led weaning being a certain time frame or type of experience. While I respect that certain people and agencies are sharing information about average weaning ages the world over, those may or may not apply to any particular mom and baby. We must come to peace in our own relationships.
If we look at weaning in terms of reality, how it occurs, we will see that it begins very early with babies showing interest in food and moving about in their environment with incrementally more and more space between themselves and mom. This is just how it is regardless of what culture we are talking about. Babies and children gradually grow into more independence when allowed to follow a natural course, meaning we do not over-protect nor force our ideas on them. With this approach, the process is healthy; it does not need to be pushed or feared. It can benefit from being embraced.
Weaning means "to ripen". I'm not sure where I heard this first and I'm not going to look it up to provide proper attribution. I'm just going to go on the concept and how it influences me.
When is a fruit at its most delicious? When it's ripe. Would we like it before that? Sure, we can appreciate it in its growth process from even before seed until it's a bit past ripe. All stages have their value. Would we like it after it's past ripe? Possibly, but we will most likely recognize the value of enjoying it when it's ripe rather than holding onto it too long afterward.
In terms of breastfeeding and parenting, if we view weaning as a growth process into and through ripening we can see the value of allowing it to occur in a space of positive expectancy. It's not bad for fruit to ripen; quite the contrary. It's also not necessary to push it to ripen. The other factor, though, in the nursing relationship is the mother's experience. She, too, is ripening. Moms go through the process just as much as their littles, growing through the progression of a very close relationship with their babies and children to a relationship of a different form.
Love simply changes form. This is the most pertinent to embrace, in my opinion. We get all kinds of ideas about love, how we share it, what it means, and whether we're providing it rightly or enough to our children.
There's no doubt that the breastfeeding relationship has the potential to cultivate a heart-to-heart connection between mother and child. While the child nurses, mom is open and receptive while at the same time giving - when all is going well. The child receives not only physical nourishment in the form of milk, but also emotional and spiritual nourishment in the form of unconditional love. Sometimes, though, nursing does not feel like this and it may be that it's time for some assistance or a change.
Change is not necessarily bad, especially when it is love changing form. Just because a mother decides to wean -- or that breastfeeding is not for her -- does not mean that the love she has for her child is not enough, less than, or otherwise tainted. It means that the ways she expresses her love are changing, and that is okay. I'll say it again, that is okay.
Through out the parenting relationship our babies grow into children, children grow into "tweens", then teens, and adults. And through out, the love we hold for them does not need to feel restricted or lessen based on the shifting of how we relate when we choose to embrace the fact that love changes form.
One way to continually experience a deep feeling of love and appreciation of our children, regardless of phase or age, is through embracing full body awareness. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of viewing either growing children or the parent-child relationship itself as a pain, or with a negative slant. Through deeply experiencing the love we have for them on a regular basis we can come to realize that everything in life is changing form, all of the time, and we get to choose how we relate to those changes.
Thank you for visiting the Carnival of Weaning hosted by Dionna at Code Name: Mama and Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants (and many thanks to Joni Rae of Tales of a Kitchen Witch for designing our lovely button):
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 21 with all the carnival links.)
- On Breastfeeding, Weaning, and One Mother’s Identity — Jessica at Natural Parents Network has been nursing one or more of her children since 1993 - breastfeeding is wrapped up in her concept of mothering and herself. She shares her thoughts on weaning.
- two tales of weaning — Aspen at Aspen Mama writes about their countdown to wean.
- Wean Me Gently — Tam at Please Send Parenting Books shares a beautiful weaning ceremony.
- You say potato, I say bleeeuuuuch... — Anelie at Mindcradle had read the books and knew just how to introduce her baby son to solids—unfortunately, he had other ideas.
- A post about Weaning — (Not) Maud at Awfully Chipper writes about how weaning her son took longer than she expected.
- On Weaning, Pregnancy and Emotion — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about her mixed emotions as she allows her son, Little Man, to guide her through his weaning process.
- half of her life — Staci at Springpatch Jam looks back on her nursing relationship with her first born.
- Is it just this After Forty Mom or is it harder to wean when its your last? — Amanda of After Forty Mom shares her emotional journey towards the impending self-weaning of her toddler daughter.
- Nursing Limits — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she has weaned her toddler down to minimal nursing and her guilt about the decision to do so.
- Weaning Video Series #1: Preparation for the Weaning Process — Why is weaning such a taboo topic? Dionna at Code Name: Mama got mamas from across the blogosphere to start talking about weaning - on video. Come check out the first video in a series of five that she'll be posting this week.
- On the weaning of the boy in the middle — Kelly at Witness To Hope shares the lessons of a little one self-weaning at 18 months in the middle of an unexpected pregnancy, after nursing his older sister for three years.
- Weaning due to anxiety — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about how she had to wean to preserve her mental health.
- When Will I Wean? A Guest Post — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama hosts a guest post from a mama who contemplates when her breastfeeding relationship will end.
- On His Own Terms — Momeeezen shares her heartbreak from when her son weaned much earlier than she anticipated.
- Our Weaning Story - Sudden, Surprised, and Embracing a New Season — Weaning doesn't always go how we imagine. That Mama Gretchen shares the story of her daughter's sudden weaning and how she has embraced this new season of motherhood.
- A Tale of Two Weanings — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares the similarities and differences of how her nursing relationships with her now six-year-old and four-year-old daughters came to a close.
- She Doesn't Remember — Alicia at Lactation Narration finds that her 6 year old no longer remembers nursing, only one year after weaning.
- It's The End of the World As We Know It — A story about the end of a tandem nursing relationship on Never Mind The Rain: A toddler moves on to a new phase in her life before mom is fully ready.
- A Natural End To Our Breastfeeding Relationship — With two self-weaning children, Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots does not know when the end will come, but that it will be natural and without regrets.
- Child-Led weaning: It's Not Extreme; It's Biological — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children explains why child-led weaning is based on biology rather than social constraints.
- 6 Years of Natural Weaning in 5 Steps — Jess at miniMum shares how and why she let her first child stop when he was good and ready.
- Is This Weaning?: A Tandem Nursing Update — Sheila at A Living Family bares all her tandem nursing hopes and fears during what feels like the beginning of the end for her toddler nursing relationship.
- Memories of Weaning: Unique and Gentle — Cynthia at The Hippie Housewife shares her weaning experiences with her two sons, each one unique in how it happened, and yet equally gentle in its approach.
- Weaning Aversion' — Gentle Mama Moon shares her experience of nursing and unplanned weaning due to pregnancy-induced 'feeding aversion'.
- Three Months Post-Mup: An Evolution of Thoughs On Weaning — cd at FidgetFace describes a brief look at her planned (but accelerated) weaning, as well as one mamma's evolution on weaning (and extended nursing)
- Weaning my Tandem Nursed Toddler — After tandem nursing for a year, Melissa at Permission to Live felt like weaning her older child would be impossible, but now she shares how gentle weaning worked for her 2 1/2 year old.
- Every Journey Begins with One Step — As Hannabert begins the weaning process, Hannah at Hannah and Horn's super power is diminishing.
- Reflections on Weaning - Love Changes Form — Amy from Presence Parenting (guest posting at Dulce de Leche) shares her experience and approach of embracing weaning as a continual process in parenting, not just breastfeeding.
- Weaning Gently: Three Special Ideas for Success — MudpieMama shares three ideas that help make weaning a gentle and special journey.
- Guest Post: Carnival of Weaning — Emily shares her first weaning experience and her hopes for her second nursling in a guest post on Farmer's Daughter.
- 12 Tips for Gentle Weaning — Dr. Laura at Aha! Parenting describes the process of gentle weaning and gives specific tips to make weaning an organic, joyful ripening.
- Quiz: Should You Wean for Fertility Treatments? — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries talks about the key issues in the difficult decision to wean for infertility treatments.
- I thought about weaning... — Kym at Our Crazy Corner of the World shares her story of how she thought about weaning several times, yet it still happened on its own timeline.
- Celebrating Weaning — Amy at Anktangle reflects on her thoughts and feelings about weaning, and she shares a quick tutorial for one of the ways she celebrated this transition with her son: through a story book with photographs!
- Naturally Weaning Twins — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses the gradual path to weaning she has taken with her preschool-aged twins.
- Gentle Weaning Means Knowing When to Stop — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes about knowing when your child is not ready to wean and taking their feelings into account in the process.
- Weaning, UnWeaning, and ReWeaning — Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy discovers non-mutal weaning doesn't have to be the end. You can have a do-over.
- Prelude to weaning — Lauren at Hobo Mama talks about a tough tandem nursing period and what path she would like to encourage her older nursling to take.
- Demands of a Nursing Kind — Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares her conflicted feelings about nursing limits and explores different ways to achieve comfort, peace, and bodily integrity as a nursing mother.
- Breastfeeding: If there's one thing I know for sure... — Wendy at ABCs and Garden Peas explores the question: How do you know when it's time to wean?
- Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Two, Three? — Zoie at TouchstoneZ discusses going from 3 nurslings down to 1 and what might happen when her twins arrive.