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Weaning






"I don't mind the boots, but the spurs have
to go."
This segment of Sesame Street with Buffy St. Marie nursing her son, Cody, aired in late May or early June of 1977 just a few weeks after my youngest child had self weaned. He was two. We sat watching this segment and he leaned against me and ask to "nursie," that was the last time he ask or nursed. It holds such precious memories.
Questions to consider when thinking of WEANING

The following questions and answers are quotes taken from the book What Every Child Would Like His Parents to Know written by Dr. Lee Salk.  Dr. Salk was an eminent and well respected child psychologist. He was Director of Division  of Pediatric Psychology at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and Professor of Psychology and Pediatrics at Cornell University Medical College at the writing of What Every Child Would Like His Parents to Know in 1973.  He is also a co-author of How to Raise A Human Being. His books are out of print, but his wisdom is timeless.

How should I wean my child?
"Gradually..........the parent who decides that at a predetermined moment his child must give up the nipple and take on the difficult task of drinking from a cup frustrates the infant.  The double difficulty is that his frustration increases the child's desire for sucking satisfaction, which is his means of coping with stress.  In other words, if the weaning process itself produces stress, the desire for sucking gratification increases as an important means for minimizing stress.  A vicious circle is set in motion."

Will my child be permanently affected by frustration of his sucking needs?
"I want to emphasize that frustrating your baby's desire for sucking does not teach him to give up his desire for sucking.  Satisfying the need does."

How long will weaning take?
"Longer than most people think."

What will happen if I wean my baby too soon?
"Weaning your baby too soon will tend to prolong his desire for sucking and encourage other means of oral gratification.  A child weaned too soon is frustrated during an early stage in his life, the oral stage, when he has little tolerance for frustration.  He may start to distrust the people who have caused his distress.  He may find it increasingly difficult to relax and may withdraw from reality by sleeping, which at least removes the frustration he experiences when awake.

Severely frustrating your baby's sucking needs can predispose your child to serious emotional problems.   He will have a very low frustration tolerance."

Are there problems if I wait too long to wean my child?
"Weaning your child too late is by no means as detrimental as doing it too soon."

When, then, is the best time for me to wean my child from the breast or bottle?
"The best answer to this question is probably an indefinite one.  Because of individual differences, some babies can be weaned when they are close to one year of age; others may require a bottle (or breast) until they are three, or in some instances, even older.................since the primary task for a baby in the first year of his life is to develop a sense of trust, and since you will be minimizing frustration during this time, avoid frustrating your baby's need for suckling satisfaction.  Don't try to wean him completely in his first year.  Wait well beyond the first year, and begin slowly, while you're teaching your child to feed himself."
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Needs vs. Habits by James L. Hymes, Jr.
Mothers sometimes wonder if nursing is just a habit for their child, and if he might be just fine if he were weaned. Occasionally, this could be the case. In the book The Child Under Six, James L. Hymes Jr. offers this classic definition of how to determine the difference between needs and habits:
"If it was easy to break, it was a habit. If you run into any major difficulty at all, beware, you probably are not dealing with an old worn out habit. Chances are that you are tampering with a need. Habits fade away with a little counter-push. If you ignore basic needs, or try to block them, they shoot sky high. If you treat needs as if they were habits, all you do is to make them go on longer and stronger and more powerfully than ever."
One way to decide if your child is nursing out of habit or need is to try some gentle weaning techniques, carefully observing your child's reaction. You will notice quickly if your child balks or becomes distressed. This may indicate nursing is still a strong need. On the other hand, you may be surprised to find that your child is ready to wean and just needed a little assistance from you. In either case, looking to your child will give you the information you need to decide.

"Children learn to care by experiencing good care. They come to know the blessings of gentleness, or sympathy, of patience and kindness, of support and backing first through the way in which they themselves are treated." quote from James L. Hymes, Jr.'s The Child Under Six



A Natural age of Weaning by Kathy Dettwyler, PhD.

Why Nurse Toddlers?  by Kathy Dettwyler, PhD.

Nursing Past a Year  (several links on nursing past a year)

Babyledweaning.com (an online forum for feeding food instead of commerical baby food and letting baby take the led to good nutrition and weaning)

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The most successful weaning is done gradually with love and respect
for the child's sucking needs and does not frustrate the child or
disturb the parent/child trust bond.

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Wean Me Gently

I know I look so big to you,
Maybe I seem too big for the needs I have.
But no matter how big we get,
We still have needs that are important to us.
I know that our relationship is growing and changing,
But I still need you.
I need your warmth and closeness,
Especially at the end of the day
When we snuggle up in bed.
Please don't get too busy for us to nurse.
I know you think I can be patient,
Or find something to take the place of a nursing;
A book, a glass of something,
But nothing can take your place when I need you.
Sometimes just cuddling with you,
Having you near me is enough.
I guess I am growing and becoming independent,
But please be there.
This bond we have is so strong and so important to me,
Please don't break it abruptly.
Wean me gently, because I am your mother, and my heart is tender.
by Cathy Cardall

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WHEN YOU THOUGHT I WASN'T LOOKING

A message every adult should read because children
are watching you and doing as you do, not as you say.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you feed a
stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn't looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each
other.

When you thought I wasn't looking, I saw you give of
your time and money to help people who had nothing,
and I learned that those who have something should
give to those who don't.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn' t
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it's all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn't looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn't looking I learned most of
life's lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn't looking I looked at you and
wanted to say,'Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn't looking..'
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© 2001 Pat Lindsey, IBCLC - Lactation Services all rights reserved.
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