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Forced vs. Self-Weaning A Breastfed Child: Which One Is Harder?

I forced-weaned our first daughter and self-weaned our second. While they both took years to fully graduate from the breast, one was definitely more challenging than the other.

But First, What Is Weaning?

Weaning is the introduction of anything other than breastmilk to a baby.

This means that feeding your baby solids is the beginning of the weaning process. Which ultimately means, it can takes months or years to fully wean a child.

What Is The Difference Between Force Weaning And Self-Weaning?

Force-weaning is when the mother decides to move away from the breast.

While child-led weaning, also known as self-weaning, is when the child themself decides to stop nursing.

Forced vs. Self-Weaning A Breastfed Child: Which One Is Harder?

When Did You Start Weaning?

Our first daughter was introduced to bananas at the mere age of 4 months. I listened to another mom who encouraged me to give her “real food” and poor thing got constipated because her new digestive system wasn’t ready for it.

Now I know, breastmilk IS real food. In fact, it’s the only food uniquely designed for their delicate systems and I didn’t need to start weaning her that early.

With our second daughter, I honestly do not remember when I started weaning her, but I know it was within the first year.

If You Started Weaning Them So Early, Why Did They Continue To Breastfeed For So Long?

They both loved breastmilk and enjoyed it at certain parts of the day, such as before naps and when they woke up.

As they aged they also used the breast for emotional and hormonal support like after getting a boo boo.

Developmentally our girls pacified on the breast and woke multiple times in the middle of the night to feed, regulate their bodies, soothe and lull themselves back to sleep.

Did You Use Any Special Techniques In Weaning?

Sometimes I distracted the girls with a bedtime story and other times I’d offer a warm drink like hot tea or chocolate milk, but overall they requested the breast less and less as they aged. They would either go to sleep on their own, ask for a hug if they were hurt, and just use other coping skills themselves.

Breastfeeding Over The Years

When Did They Finally Stop Breastfeeding?

I forced our first daughter to wean at 3.5. Mainly because tandem nursing was overwhelming and I felt uncomfortable nursing an older child.

Anytime she begged for the breast I regrettably told her “no” (yes, this saddens me til this day).

Our second daughter I allowed to self-wean and she finished nursing shortly after her 4th birthday.

So Which One Was Harder In Your Opinion?

They both had difficult moments, but I would say forced-weaning is harder because I feel horrible about making that decision til this day.

Especially now that I know the benefits of breastfeeding older children, I wish I didn’t deny my baby that experience.

There were also times she cried so hard, I wanted to nurse her but feared it would make her regress (yes, I regret that too). So forced weaning was emotionally trying for me (and her).

What Was The Hardest Part Of Child-led Weaning?

Not knowing when she would stop, especially since I was done and she was not.

I’ve read stories of teenagers still breastfeeding (yes literally attaching to their mother’s breast to suckle), and I feared our daughter would never stop on her own.

But she did.

Shortly after her fourth birthday she no longer wants to nurse, but she still has an interesting relationship with the breast. Meaning she loves studying them, smelling them, sleeping and cuddling next to them (but she doesn’t attach to them).

If you are weaning now, I hope it is a smooth transition for you and your little one.

If you feel pressure to wean from family or loved ones, remember to do what’s best for you and your child.

I don’t want you to experience the guilt I did, by making a decision based on what other people may think.

If you’ve already weaned, which one did you do? Was weaning extremely difficult or easy?

Until next time.

Love the journey,

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