The right time to wean is different for every mother-baby pair.
For some mother-baby pairs, child-led weaning is what feels right.
This is where the mother continues to breastfeed her child whenever her child wants and the child decides when she wants to wean.
All children eventually wean. However, particularly for some mothers with a very avid breastfeeding toddler, the end to breastfeeding may seem like light years away.
So, if this is true for you, yet child-led weaning is still what you want, how do you cope with this?
Here are 5 tips that can help you deal with a toddler who is boob obsessed:
#1: Take Time Out For Yourself
Being the mother of a boob obsessed toddler can feel all-consuming. It could mean you are a significant source of comfort and security for her. Breastfeeding may be the way she goes to sleep and falls back to sleep at night.
You may feel so many mixed emotions on a daily basis and even within the course of a day. Some breastfeeds may make you feel immense love for her and you may revel in the closeness breastfeeding provides you and her with. You may feel a strong sense of empowerment due to the importance of breastfeeding (see below) and because breastfeeding is the one thing you, and only you, can provide her. Other times, you may feel a strong resentment to breastfeeding. Rest assured, many mothers don’t love breastfeeding all the time.
Hence, taking time out for yourself is very important. What do you like doing? What are your hobbies? What provides you with the best stress relief? Whatever it is, ensure you make time for it. Sometimes it can seem as though the effort involved with organising to be able to take time out for yourself negates the benefit of it. However, many mothers find the effort ends up being well worth it and makes them feel re-energised.
#2: Surround Yourself With People Who Support Your Parenting Decisions
Breastfeeding a boob obsessed toddler can be hard enough without people around you telling you things like, “You're being selfish”, “Just give her a bottle”, “She’s just using you like a dummy”, “Just give her real food” etc. Ignorant comments like these can really hurt.
This is why it’s important to balance out this negativity by surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of your parenting decisions. If you are lucky enough to have family or friends who fill this role, that is great! If you are not so lucky, joining a breastfeeding support organisation such as the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League and going along to local support group meetings can be an immense source of support. Even calling to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor can help a lot.
#3: Remember Breastfeeding Is Important
One of the main reasons why some mothers choose child-led weaning is due to the importance of breastfeeding for their own and their child’s health.
Leading health organisations recognise the importance of breastfeeding. For example, the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and then for breastfeeding to continue alongside complementary foods for 2 years and beyond.
Many of the health outcomes associated with how a child is fed are dose dependent, meaning the less breastfeeding, the higher the risk.
Sometimes remembering why you want to breastfeed until you child wants to wean can help you think more positively again, especially on the hard days.
#4: Know Secure Attachment Is Important
Children feel more secure and confident their needs will be met when their parents respond to them in warm, sensitive and responsive ways. Unfortunately, some children miss out on developing a secure attachment.
Obviously there are many ways a secure attachment can be formed with your child. You don’t have to breastfeed for this to occur. However, we know that breastfeeding can assist mothers to be sensitive caregivers to their children.
So, each time you respond to your child’s needs, remember you are helping her develop socially and emotionally.
#5: Remind Yourself It Will Not Last Forever
While some days it can certainly feel as though it will never end, your child will eventually wean. A helpful phrase to say to yourself for tough parenting situations is, “This too shall pass”.
Despite all the above, doing what is best given your individual circumstances is important. Some days you may feel like weaning and other days you may not want anything more than to keep breastfeeding for as long as your child wants. It’s perfectly normal to experience ups and downs. What you’ve got to work out is what the overriding feeling/desire is. Only you can truly work out what’s best for you. If continuing to breastfeed is best, hopefully the tips above will help. If weaning is best, you can read our article to find out some tips on weaning your toddler.