Good Advice for Gentle Weaning: ‘Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse’

By Grace Zell, staff writer for The Attached Family

Gentle weaning storyMy experience with weaning my daughter was very successful and non-traumatic, which was a good thing since I found it hard to imagine how I would ever refuse her.

Luckily, while reading The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, a wonderful resource as my nursing experience changed from stage to stage, I came across the slogan, “Don’t offer; don’t refuse,” which made great sense when I was ready to start the weaning process.

I let my daughter determine the pace of things. Fortunately, I am a stay-at-home mom and didn’t have any pressing need to stop nursing, so I took my cue from my precocious baby who, at a year, had already been walking for three months. She was also eating solid foods and drinking from a sippy cup and bottle.

The weaning process seemed to be harder on me emotionally, as I didn’t want to commit to ending our breastfeeding relationship. I worried about depression once my daughter was weaned, especially because I felt that the nursing hormones probably protected me against the depression that I had developed after my first child was born. Despite my sadness, I knew that I should try while it was naturally going in that direction.

One day, shortly after my daughter was about 13 or 14 months old, I took a deep breath and decided to follow the “don’t offer; don’t refuse” advice, and I went about our day without initiating a feeding. At a certain point during that day and the next few days, my daughter would come to me when I was sitting and tug at my shirt and push it up, but when I positioned her to nurse, she nipped at me. So, I gently pulled her away, closed my shirt, and put her down. To my relief, she would scamper off, laughing. It was a game to her, and she didn’t seem to need to nurse for comfort or security since I was providing those things in other ways. She still had her special blankies, and we spent time snuggling and playing and rocking in our rocking chair. I also fed her a bottle once or twice a day.

In a very short time, nursing was just a memory. It still makes me a little sad, but as I watch both of my children go through new and exciting phases, that cheers me up!

3 thoughts on “Good Advice for Gentle Weaning: ‘Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse’”

  1. My son is 3 and a half years old and I have been trying to sloowwly wean him for about the last 8 months to a year now. When he wants to nurse during the day I simply occupy him on somthing else or tell him we’ll nurse at naptime or bedtime.

    I put him to sleep by nursing him, but he is able to go to sleep just fine without when he is away from me.

    He would prefer to nurse all the time. I’ve had to set limits because I’d never get anything done during the day.

    I have a friend of mine whose husband nursed until he was 8 years. I agree that my child should choose to stop when he is ready, but I see no sign of this at all and I can not see myself still nursing him when he is 8.

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