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When You Know It’s Time to Wean

By Madeline Holler |

Everyone’s got an opinion on when to wean kids from the breast or the bottle. Some women do right after the lactation consultant leaves their recovery room. Others wait until they go back to work. There are those who hold out until introducing solids around six months, whereas many like the nice round number of 1 year.

Getting into toddler breastfeeding territory can get dicey, depending on surrounding attitudes, but this is also where the fun really begins. Various signals to wean include a full mouth of teeth, dexterity for unbuttoning tops, talking. “When she can ask for it is when it’s time to stop,” breastfeeding moms hear (and say) over and over again.

Mother of two, Sharon Nesbit-Davis, writes about how she knew it was time to stop breastfeeding her son. Public shame had a little to do with it, but not that kind that spurs lactivism at the shopping mall.

Rather, while she was taking a much-needed nap, she heard her son yell, “I want mommy’s breasts.” In a full house. Of football-watching guys.


How did you decide enough was enough?

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About Madeline Holler


Madeline Holler

Madeline Holler is a writer, journalist, and blogger. She has written for Babble since the site launched in 2006. Her writing has appeared in various other publications both online and in print, including Salon and True/Slant (now Forbes). A native of the Midwest, Madeline lives, writes, and parents in Southern California, where she's raising two daughters and a son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Madeline's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “When You Know It’s Time to Wean

  1. Joy says:

    The AAP recommends breastfeeding infants until at least 12 months; the WHO recommends breastfeeding until at least 2 years old. There is no reason to wean from breastmilk to formula when starting solids at 6 months.

  2. TC says:

    My son just stopped nursing at 13 months. My daughter weaned herself at 20 months. Whatever is comfortable for mom and child is when it’s time to stop. It’s no one elses business otherwise.

  3. Linda says:

    It’s a personal decision and the only real REASON to wean, IMO, is because Mom and/or child are ready to be done. EXCUSES, however, abound like the ignorant soundbites about teeth and being old enough to ask and houses full of football watching men. I find all that completely stupid.

  4. JBoogie says:

    Linda, I have to say, you have taken the crown from GP recently for most abrasive and annoying poster. Congrats! And, I don’t think it’s an “excuse”. It’s a reason. It was time. Not everyone wants to continue nursing when there is a bite-hazard, or when the child gets done nursing you can ask them “So what do you want to do today?” they can answer you in a complete sentence. Weaning is normal. Get over yourself.

  5. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    Linda, I was with you up until the end of your first sentence. Since you said when Mom and/or child are ready to be done, for that mom, the incident she shared was when SHE was ready. Was it any less her personal decision because it’s not what you would have done?

  6. MaryAnn says:

    My kid is about to turn 17 months, and she has a full set of teeth, the teeth are rarely a problem. we are aiming for 2 years of nursing, i don’t think either one of us would be down for nursing past 3 years, but we also don’t nurse in public anymore, only when we are alone and trying to settle down like fore naps or bedtime. But that’s not because i have a problem with public nursing it’s just that the babe is too easily distracted to nurse when anything else is going on.
    it’s all a personal choice, i don’t think there should be any shame in nursing for however long you are comfortable. but i also think there will be one incident for most people that makes you you go, “Alright, I’m done!” sometimes it’s bitting, sometimes it’s a public request, sometimes it’s just the desire not to have to wear nursing bras anymore. whatever the reason, its valid.

  7. Linda says:

    M. Scorp, I think my post was pretty clear. When people are done, they’re done. Justifying it is unnecessary and lame. Why, can’t people just own their own decisions and stop trying to get the other people to affirm them? I, personally, have more respect for a mom who just says she weaned because she was done, than one who whines that she couldn’t possibly keep nursing because her baby has teeth or can talk well enough to express the desire to nurse. It may not be a popular opinion, but I’m being honest. And JBoogie, you can bite me! You’re the one who always goes straight to the personal insults. Is that all you’ve got? Or are their some actual arguments of substance in there somewhere? I couldn’t care less what you think of me, so can it already and move on to the posts you enjoy.

  8. Annie @ PhD in Parenting says:

    I didn’t decide when “enough was enough”. My children did. One at 2.5 years and the other one at 3 years.

  9. PlumbLucky says:

    Apparently my child knew I was pregnant before I did, didn’t appreciate the change in taste, and declared himself DONE.

  10. JBoogie says:

    Bella, err…Linda, no I won’t bite you. Call Edward, or better yet, your toddler! And if you want an argument, here: Nesbit-Davis wasn’t justifying her decision, she wasn’t defending weaning her son. She was just saying “This is my reason”. You don’t have to like her reason, but it’s her reason. You are the one that decided it sounded like she was justifying herself, and you are the one who said she had nothing but an ignorant soundbite. Who are you to pass judgment on her like that? I don’t know of any woman, even the freaking president of LLL, who wouldn’t blush just a bit when their kid says “I want mommy’s breasts!” in front of a room full of people, much less a room full of men. So she decided it was time to wean. Obviously, if the kid is old enough to say that sentence, she had been nursing for a long time. Is that not enough for you? What more could she have done to have your precious stamp of approval?

  11. Linda says:

    The point is that she doesn’t need anyone’s stamp of approval. And I don’t have a toddler. My youngest is starting kindergarten in 6 weeks. How delightful of you to attempt to bring up my child in an attempt to continue to insult me for expressing my opinion though. You’re so very sweet. :)

  12. bob says:

    The first person to start using their real name is a rotten egg.

  13. libs says:

    Coming out of lurking to say that I wish this was FB so I could “like” bob’s comment.

  14. Leigh says:

    I weaned when I realized I had become a human pacifier. I was fine being a source of nutrients, but once my DS was able to get them from solids I stopped. If you are nursing only at nap and bedtime, are you really providing them any further immunity/health benefits at that point? And are you possibly hurting their ability to self soothe and go to sleep on their own? Or are you doing it for your own emotional needs? Of my friends who were long term breastfeeders, they all cried when their children weaned themselves. I had no such hesitations and was glad to get my boobs back. As much as I am glad I did it, I didn’t feel feminine when I breastfed, I felt utilitarian.

    Thank you bob for the hint of humor. I usually enjoy your comments and hope you really are a boy. I would love to find a balanced (mom/dad) parenting blog. I think the guys could have some interesting points to share.

  15. Callie says:

    Personally, I’m OK with being a pacifier. Whether it’s with nursing, hugs, kisses or whatever, soothing our children is a big part of being a mom. My son, who is 25 months, still nurses fairly frequently, mostly when I return home from being gone for a while (at work, etc.), and for naps and going to bed. He never took a pacifier, he doesn’t have a lovey or a favorite stuffed animal, so the one failsafe thing that makes him relax and feel secure is to nurse. And for now, I’m fine with that. When either one of us stops being fine with it, it’ll be time to wean.

  16. jepea says:

    my 12 month old son still nurses, and we’ll keep going until one of us decides to stop. i really, truly enjoy it, but also look forward to someday having full ownership of my boobies again… like around when he turns 2? think it’s fine to keep going longer if you want, but i don’t think i’m gonna want to.

    i am curious why one would call breast-feeding “selfish”…. it seems pretty darn self-less, actually: you can’t drink or take various medicines, you have to be available on demand, you probably have to pump (ugh!). and i agree with the poster that wishes more guys read/chimed in on these blogs!!

  17. EmDu says:

    My son completely weaned recently, between 16 & 17 months. Part of it was a need for my husband to put him to bed at night, part of it was that it stopped “working” for getting him down for naps (he was down to just bedtime & naptime for a while, then just naptime), and part of it was me just being tired of it – and bring pregnant. Also, I sort of had the idea in my head that I wanted to be done by 18 months. To be perfectly honest, I never wanted him asking for it (he never had a sound or name for it, and I preferred it that way – of course, he still had ways of asking). I probably started reducing the frequency of breastfeedings intentionally around 12 or 13 months, when he started eating more substantial solids and walking, so in tandem with him exerting independence, which felt appropriate. Though honestly, if he walked much later, I doubt I would have waited him out. And personally, I *never* considered leaving it up to him – I love him dearly, but he has terrible judgement ;)

  18. Marj says:

    I really hate when extended breastfeeding advocates invoke WHO’s recommendation. WHO also recommends comprehensive vaccination and often those same people are totally against that. Talk about using bits and pieces to support your argument, ignoring anything that you disagree with.

  19. Becca says:

    My kids pretty well weaned themselves when they discovered cups. I didn’t nurse for comfort and cups are way cooler to a toddler who wants to be big. My Doctor though had the greatest when to wean moment with her oldest daughter. She knew it was time to wean we she found herself running after her toddler boob telling her to come drink her milk. LOL

  20. Sharon Nesbit-Davis says:

    Comments Interesting to see my name and a my story mentioned (and linked) here. I wrote it with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. People take themselves far too seriously, especially those who see themselves as crusaders for a cause. I thought it hilarious that my son said that. I had other reasons which were not so hilarious and would not have fit into the mood of the piece.

  21. Marianne says:

    I love how people use the World Health Organization to justify breastfeeding 4 and 5 year olds. You do realize WHO is largely taking into consideration very poor countries where this is the only source of nutrition malnourished children would get, right?

    I have a friend who is breastfeeding her newborn and her 3 1/2 year old. The older child has always been very advanced physically, mentally, and emotionally for his age. He started losing interest in bf at 6 mth. And the pediatrician said he was ready for more than breast milk and was not getting what he needed from it. The mom said, “No way I am enjoying this too much and am not stopping.” Ignoring her child and his doctor. And she refused to add other sources of food that the doctor said the kids needed but exclusively nursed even though the baby was no longer interested. She basically forced her child to nurse, he actually fought it. (isn’t there some argument about as long as mutually desired by baby and mother and child led weaning?) Now it just is a comfort thing to him and his favorite toy is his moms boobies. He is big for his age and looks 5 or 6. He speaks in complete sentences and has for awhile. He sticks his hands down his mom’s shirt and tries to get is mouth on her breasts. She has no modesty and lets him nurse in public.

    I realize bf is healthy for children and I am not against it, but I do think it gets out of hand past a certain age. It borders on abuse when you are bf a 4 year old. There are other ways to comfort and nurture. How about holding and rocking? Reading? Playing?

  22. Rachel C says:

    My daughter is 6 1/2 months old and is quite content with our nursing routine right now. When her teeth start coming in I’ll pump for her morning feedings and nurse her at bed and nap times for the simple reason that I have a medical condition that makes nursing painful for me and I do not look forward to the added pain of the occasional bite. Right now the only way to calm her to sleep is to nurse, she doesn’t take a binky and doesn’t sleep well when soothed any other way. After she’s weened I plan to pump and donate my breast milk to milk banks that are in short supply. So, I will never be truly “done” with nursing.

  23. Rachel C says:

    and I may be the rotten egg on this post. :-D

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