Child-Led Weaning.


Tomorrow (August 6) is the Big Latch On. Designed to raise awareness of breastfeeding, events like this don't necessarily position nursing as normal in dominant culture, but they provide a sense of community and belonging for mothers (especially those who otherwise aren't surrounded by a supportive, like-minded community).

Personally I never felt uncomfortable nursing. It never occurred to me to cover up or watch for scornful eyes or worry what others might think. It was just what we did. No one ever openly questioned my choice (even when nursing my toddlers) and the only feedback I ever got was positive. I never hid my choice to breastfeed. It just seemed perfectly natural in every way.

I appluad my mother for nursing in the 1970's when she knew exactly one other nursing mother. One. I am amazed beyond words that she was able to honor her truths and nurse my sister and I, me until I was toddling and verbal. (You were a radical, mom. I love you.)

I remember nursing my children…

in the woods,
in the swimming pool,
on hiking trails,
at my great-aunt's, my grandmother's, and my grandfather's nursing homes,
on my grandma's couch (My adored grandma – who bottle fed her kids – and was sincerely worried that my A-cup breasts "weren't big enough" to make enough milk for my already breast milk fattened boy),
at my grandpa's funeral and my best friends' weddings,
on the dock at the river,
In a moving car, hanging over a car seat with my face pressed against the backseat window,
at the grocery store,
and the museum,
and the library,
and the coop,
and the hardware store…

Where I nursed really comes down to one simple question: Where did we go before either of my kids weaned at 3 1/2? Then that's where we nursed.

Below is a re-post from last August when I realized that Lupine was weaned. Enjoy, and happy World Breastfeeding Week.

~ Rachel

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Nursing has been on my brain lately. Because, for the the first time in almost eight years I'm not nursing anyone. Or I don't think I am. (I know. That sounds strange. But natural child-led weaning isn't a cut and dry nursing/not nursing relationship. It's fluid and transparent and ever-changing.) But I'm fairly certain that we're done. Forever.

Since late 2001 I have been either pregnant or nursing. Until right now. Sage nursed until he was 3 1/2. He weaned around the time I became pregnant with Lupine. And she is now 3 1/2. And she'd done. Weaned. "A big girl" as she would put it.


Why child-led weaning? For me it is an extension of how we have chosen to parent both of our children, gently and with the minimal intervention possible. But in truth (if I look deeper into the shadows) there is more to it than that.

When Sage was almost two I started to feel done with nursing. (There is often an increase in the intensity and frequency of nursing when a child reaches 18 months old, and we were there. I didn't know it would pass and we'd hit our groove again.) I started to move towards gently weaning Sage.

But then Sage got really sick. And as I lay by his side in the pediatric ICU, wires and machines and nurses and neurologists everywhere, we nursed. All night we nursed. All day we nursed. And as that long week wore on I felt gratitude hour-after-hour for nursing. It was all we had.

And after we went home, nursing – so vital all along – became unsurpassed in its importance because if things ever went terribly wrong again (fingers crossed) I wanted that safety net available to us – for comfort, security, and nourishment.

I decided that Sage would know best when he was ready and I surrendered to that. And he did. No, we never needed nursing again like we did that week, but we still needed it – for overstimulated afternoons, for connecting after a hard day, for hydration and natural immunity during colds and flu, for a physical manifestation of mother-child love. And when he was ready it was over. It was so gradual I can't remember the last time we nursed.

Lupine was a different story in that she arrived with no baggage of something-might-go-wrong. Just bliss, joy, and the now. While I was free of worry, I still carried the gift of surrender that I learned with Sage. I gave myself up to her babyhood in a peaceful and joyful way, knowing that these moments were fleeting. I was happy to have her in my arms, in my bed, at my breast for as long as she chose. And while I didn't know what that would mean I was game. It just felt right.


And now? I have a big girl. In her words, "Mama, do you know why I don't love to suse (nurse) anymore? No milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk, no milk – for like five days."That was this June. Since then she has halfheartedly nursed for a brief second on each side, once a week.

Yep. It's over.


As for me, it feels good. Like both my kids (in this department anyway) had their needs met and we were all happy with the journey. Now everyday Lupine nurses her dolls and talks about all the babies she'll have when she is "a real mama."

And so this chapter ends and the next begins.

23 thoughts on “Child-Led Weaning.

  1. Mara says:

    Thanks for the article–via Ami–it was great. The “Adventures in Tandem Nursing Book” may also help. Great post. So nice to meet you last weekend–even in the heat! I love that community out there.

  2. Lori says:

    Rachel another beautiful post. My Isaac is 19 months and still nursing (glad you mentioned the in nursing around 18 months – we’re there) and I’m in no rush for him to stop nursing. It’s just such a sweet thing. Thankyou for the encouragement in a world where I’ve gotten “those looks” while nursing my very active toddler in public.

  3. Anne says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am still nursing my girl who is 2 1/2 am feeling some outside pressure to wean. I love nursing her and like you said it hasnever occured to me to do it any other way but to let her be done when she is done. I don’t know anyone else still nursing an older toddler. Your post gave some much comfort and courage to be embarrassed to not take that negativity in. Thank you

  4. Vallimasoos says:

    “In a moving car, hanging over a car seat with my face pressed against the backseat window”

    I LOVE IT!!

    Me…In a moving car, leaning over a car seat with a boob in baby’s face talking to my husband.

  5. says:

    Beautiful. I feel you! I planned on nursing my first as long as she wanted. She’s now almost four, but one day – she was maybe 1 1/2 – she just shook her head and pulled my shirt down. I was shocked! I thought I would be pushing her to wean. There was one time later on that she got curious again, but that was it. Now she talks openly about mama’s milk, nursing my almost-2-year-old, and of course nursing her own “children.”

    I’m so glad my second has kept on nursing – I love the connection, the immune boost, the calories it burns… 🙂

  6. Maria says:

    My mom was like your mom a little, I guess, except her kids were in the 80’s, but her mother and mother in law, and other family members, thought nursing (and we’re not even talking in public) was “ridiculous”. I never thought of it as unnatural, and I know my younger sister nursed until she was 3 or so, but my mom did wean her because I think it was getting a little uncomfortable for her (my mom) in terms of my sister grabbing her breasts in public, reaching up her shirt (I’m sure you know all about that!) LOL.

    I just found your blog and I’m enjoying myself thoroughly 🙂

  7. Becca C says:

    My little Lucas just weaned himself a few months ago, he’ll be 3 next month. He’s my last, so it’s really bittersweet.

  8. Jenny says:

    Very cute post. My first weaned himself. Much earlier than yours however. He was a year. I didn’t know he was weaning himself and one day he was just done. So with my 2nd, I thought I should just wean her at a year since that’s about when everyone I know weans, and that’s when my first weaned himself. Boy was I wrong. It did not go easily, and I regretted it once we were done. I even tried to let her go back to it but it was too late and didn’t work. So, when my third came along, I’d learned my lesson and just let him do his thing. He weaned himself at 15 months I think. I would have nursed him much longer if he wanted and I was a bit sad when it was over, but I was happy that he had done it himself and it was so easy. No tears from either of us (unlike the experience with my daughter). Now, I’m yearning for another. And as we wait I dream of and can’t wait for the day when I’ll have another babe at my breast. And the next time will be exciting as I’ve learned along the way how it really should go and I’m excited to nurse another babe one day without worrying about the right time and just enjoying the short time it lasts. When I think of having another babe, nursing is what I look forward to the most and I have an ache in my heart for mom’s who “don’t have the desire” to even try. If only they KNEW what they were missing.

  9. Grace says:

    This is the post I needed to ready right now. My first weaned herself at around 14 months and I was 17 weeks pregnant but my second girl is still going strong. She is 14 months now and looks like she is in no way wanting to give up. I had been teaching my daughters signs for milk etc since about 6 months of age and my first NEVER signed but my second was signing milk from about 7.5 months and so now she looks me intently in the eyes and signs milk for me. I am also pregnant again (14 weeks now) and at my last doctors appointment she told me that my daughter didn’t need to nurse during the night and that I should pick a date and just not feed her anymore during the night, she said to leave her to cry and go in every minute 🙁 She shares a room with her sister and I couldn’t just let her cry. The doctor said that my daughter sounded very switched on and is doing it because she knows I will give it to her. She said that my daughter is taking away the nutrients that my unborn baby needs because she is being breastfed. Well, that was 3 weeks ago and I haven’t taken her advice but it was very hard to sit there while the doctor told me how bad I was for letting my daughter “rule” me and manipulate me. I know that she will stop when she chooses and I don’t want it to be in such a negative way like the doctor suggested. Your post has given me the boost I needed. Thank you.

  10. jeanine says:

    Swooning over those beautiful pictures! My third babe is 18 months old now and I cringe at the thought that he’ll up and end the nursing process one of these days…or years. 🙂

  11. jeanine says:

    Swooning over those beautiful pictures! My third babe is 18 months old now and I cringe at the thought that he’ll up and end the nursing process one of these days…or years. 🙂

  12. Alison C says:

    Beautiful post! My daughter weaned at 26 months.
    She was two weeks in the NICU when she was born (6wks early) that I wanted to let her
    Nurse as long as she wanted. I just had my second and I’m planning on doing the same – child led weaning. I just love the post.

  13. Sarah says:

    i had similar experiences re: gradual weaning. Lee was the only one I remember the last time b/c when Asa was born (Lee was 3+) he went to have his suck the next day and said “I think I’ll save the rest for Asa” and that was it! I don’t remember Maxine or Asa’s last suck but I wish I did- they were older and it just gradually stopped until “There’s no more nicknie! Baby Maxine drank it all” I will always miss breastfeeding though!!!

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