Breastfeeding after ‘Almost’ Weaning

By Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves,

Q: My two-year-old had almost completely weaned himself a few months ago. Then I got laid off from work and he began nursing all over again. Now he demands to nurse every two to four hours and will hold on to my boob saying he “doesn’t want it to fly away.” I put a limit of nursing at nap time and bedtime, but I’m not sure if he will re-wean himself. And, I’d really like to resolve his apparent fear that they are going away, or to somehow find a way for him to console himself with something other than the breasts.

A: This is a sweet misunderstanding between you and your son. He didn’t almost wean himself, and his fear that “they will fly away” is valid; he is sensing your intent to take breastfeeding away from him.

Children tend to go back and forth with their graduation schedules from anything and everything. My oldest, at age two, would stay with his favorite uncle for a couple of hours and my husband and I could go out. By age three, he went back to needing me with him at all times. I supported his process. I didn’t think that just because he was able to be without me before, he must stick to this ability. It is not a contract. In fact, if we tie a child to his new stage of development and not allow him to try and retreat, he will be afraid to grow and try new things. In order to have the confidence to move on, a child must know that he can safely return to where he was before.

Most likely, your son did not almost wean himself. And, if he did, well, that was then. Loving is being in the present. In the present, he is breastfeeding. Trust him. By nature, a two-year-old does not usually wean himself unless we offer a bottle, a pacifier, or the mother is not present at all hours of the day.

A child can increase and decrease breastfeeding in response to his interests and the mother’s availability and attitude. He can go through a period of hardly nursing because of a new passion or having a new friend. Or, in your case, your son could have accommodated himself to the fact that you were working and therefore not always available. As soon as you stopped your job, he went back to what he really wanted and needed.

Children communicate clearly. You toddler says,  “I don’t want it to fly away.” Why not listen and respond to him? Why evaluate his communication as “wrong?” Instead, realize that it is your interpretation of his former “almost weaning” that is an innocent mistake.

Your child is well bonded and therefore feeling deserving to get his need to breastfeed met. He is guarding his treasure and declaring his intent. He needs to breastfeed. He didn’t mean to wean himself. If I could translate his communication, he would say, “Mom, I didn’t mean to wean. I am still a baby. I still need to breastfeed; don’t take it away.” He needs it emotionally and physically. Your child gives the answer to your question, and you can count on him to keep guiding you clearly.

9 thoughts on “Breastfeeding after ‘Almost’ Weaning”

  1. I really appreciate this answer, as I am in a similar situation with a 27 month old that would really like to see wean himself soon. I just have to ask, Isn’t there a time that my needs & wants become as important as his?

  2. This is such an excellent reply by Naomi Aldort. I believe that that we come in to this world with a natural sense of what we need in the love department and it is important for parents to realize that for the child’s healthy emotional growth their need for security be given them.

    Only when they feel safe will they be able to venture out with confidence and when it gets scary, they can run back to the loving arms (or breasts) for a dose of love, security & safety, only to venture out again when they KNOW they can always retreat to security & safety.

    Giving the child the love they need will make a happy, secure & confident individual.

    When it is hard for Mom which I know it can be, understand that each child’s needs are different & to try to follow their legitimate needs and making sure that you have resources for yourself that will help YOU to get your needs met so you can be there, boob & all for the little one.

    Peace & Love,

    Gail Ferguson-Maceda

  3. Overall, this reply is helpful however it could be takin as blaming the parent for not knowing that or if the parent was wanting to make a change with the beast feeding.ultimately its the imteraction, attunement, comfort etc that creates the attachment/bonding which can be met in other ways, not just through breast feeding.This reply could have been enhanced with examples of how other interactions can be swapped if the mother did not, could not want to breast feed anymore.

  4. Oh, this brings tears to my eyes as I remember how many times my beautiful son went back and forth with his nursing needs…. Please take a note from a former nursing Mom – let them stay babies as long as they will. Now, he is in Kindergarten, and a wonderfully inquisitive, empathetic little man who holds hands with his best friend (Jon) on their way thru the hallway of their new school. He and I nursed until he was (ahem…pause) well, 4…as he had almost weaned when his little sister was born into the family. When she came, he wasn’t about to get left behind on the boob-buffet! He needed the continued reassurance that we loved him, cherished his time in bond with us…and despite the jokes from the family, we continued until he gave up on his own. (“Gonna be kinda hard for him to date in high school while he’s still nursing!” – Granpa)

    Our family has been thru a lot this last year, being flooded out of our home, losing everything we owned, living in a hotel room for 8 months with a family of five until our house was livable again. Even with all this stress on our little people, I truly believe the closeness and bonding we had already nurtured and continue to nurture is what has seen us thru this time. Our children know we are there for them…and that is what matters in their world.

  5. For most children, breastfeeding gives a feeling of comfort. This comfort and security can help create independence. When the child has that extra security, he’ll be more prepared to take the appropriate steps toward independence. Forcing a child to wean prior to he is ready could actually cause him to be more clingy, instead of the other way around.

  6. What a great response! It made me rethink a statement that I’d been making for over a year now, “My daughter weaned before she turned 2 but then when she started overnight visits with her father, she started breast feeding again.” I thought back, and Naomi is right, I weaned her. She didn’t choose to do it. I did it because I felt judged and pressured to do so before she turned 2. I regretted doing that, and I missed that special bond that we shared. I am happy I get a second chance. She has just turned 3 and is still nursing, although now just for comfort – her favorite thing to do after a hard day at preschool is to “Sit down with Mommy on the couch, have boobies, watch a movie.” I know that when she’s ready, she’ll find another way to “chill” but for now, I enjoy our Mommy/Daughter time.

  7. My son is 30 months and just not looking like he will ever ween. Do little children actually ween themselves or will I have to initiate it?

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