My Views on Weaning

By Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC

I think that anyone who wants to breastfeed at all (no matter how limited) is doing a great thing for her child. Any breastmilk that your baby gets – even if only for a few days or weeks – is going to help your baby. And although breastfeeding is very beneficial to your child at any age, it is most important when your baby is younger — when his immune system is the least developed, and when he is not getting significant nutrition from other sources. So I want to help and support anyone who is interested in breastfeeding, no matter how long she wishes to continue.

Weaning – when and how – is a personal decision that a mother makes for herself and her child. I personally feel quite strongly that a child-led approach to weaning is best, and that is what works for my family. I do hope that every mom will take the needs of her child into consideration when it comes to weaning, and if she feels that mother-led weaning is best for her, that she will do this gradually, since it’s easier on both mom and baby.

If I question a mom’s decision to wean, it’s because it sounds like she is being pushed into it by the opinions of others around her, or because she may not be fully informed about the benefits of continuing to nurse. I don’t think a mom should be forced into weaning when she doesn’t really feel that her and her baby are ready for it. Weaning should indeed be the mother’s decision (though I hope that she will also follow the lead of her child). Many mothers wean because “everyone said it was time” or because it’s too hard to deal with negative comments or looks. If a mother appears to be unsure about weaning, I will certainly give her information on the many benefits of continuing to breastfeed.

In addition, depending on a mom’s reasons for wanting to wean, there are often options – short of total weaning – that can meet the mom’s needs while still allowing her baby to get breastmilk. Since I feel that it’s important for a baby to receive breastmilk for at least a year, I’ll first try to find a solution that will work for a mom and still allow her baby to nurse at least part-time.

Very often, the conventional answer to many problems/difficulties is to wean – many women aren’t aware that there is often an option to weaning. I want to make sure that moms know their options. For example, I know several moms who weaned when they returned to work; they said later that they wouldn’t have weaned if they had known there was another way. If the only acceptable solution to a mom is weaning, then I will support her in that decision – I just want to make sure that she knows about other options before she makes this decision.

My main wish is that everyone has the information necessary to make informed decisions about breastfeeding. My goal is to offer support to breastfeeding moms, to dispel myths and to present the current scientific research about breastfeeding. I want all moms to have the information and support they need to continue breastfeeding as long as they wish.

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