Deciding When To Wean: Breastfeeding Beyond One Year

by Chrystal Johnson on January 26, 2011

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Statistics show that breastfeeding initiation is improving (3 out of 4 moms now start breastfeeding according to the CDC). However, as a country, we’re still behind where we need to be when it comes to breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months. The same CDC report shows that only 43% of babies are being breastfed at 6 months, and 22% at 12 months.

With both girls, I have really struggled with deciding when to wean them. Breastfeeding was a struggle from the beginning with Zoë. I only planned to breastfeed for 4 months until I went back to work. Then I planned on “trying” to pump for a couple more months.

I ended up getting laid off while I was on maternity leave, and so I made it my goal to breastfeed for 6 months. Things were finally going well with breastfeeding at that point, so I just decided to see how long we’d make it.

I finally weaned Zoë at 13 months, but she was ready. She had a full set of teeth, including her one-year molars and her ‘I’ teeth (she even got her 2-year molars at around 18 months). She was eating everything we were eating and she wasn’t nursing much—except for at bedtime and for comfort when she went “boom.”

Plus, I got pregnant with Kaylee right about the time Zoë turned 1. While I admire moms who breastfeed through pregnancy, I just wasn’t equipped to take on that challenge. It was an easier transition than I thought it would be thanks to Zoë’s love for her binkie. I also think co-sleeping helped comfort her through the transition.

When Kaylee was born, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed her for at least a year, and then I’d evaluate where we were and move from there. Well, her first birthday is in about 3 weeks—my sweet Valentine baby.

Right now, she’s still getting the majority of her nutrition from breast milk. She nurses around the clock, on demand. She only has 4 teeth, and still doesn’t have much interest in solid food. She loves taking bites, but then she just sucks the flavor out of the food and spits it out. After that, she’s pulling on my shirt for milk.

I was really expecting to start the weaning process in the next month or so, but I just don’t see that happening. I’m surprised that I’m actually okay with breastfeeding her past one year.

Part of me feels a little guilty because I’ll be breastfeeding her longer than I breastfed Zoë. But 13 months is nothing to be ashamed of. And I just remind myself that every child is different, and you can’t adhere to a strict set of expectations or you’ll likely be frustrated.

Plus, this is our last baby—and I’m trying to cherish the bond that breastfeeding has brought to my relationship with Kaylee. Now that she’s older, she gets so excited to nurse. She just smiles and giggles as milk dribbles down her chin. Priceless moments.

How long will I breastfeed her? I don’t know. I guess until she’s ready to transition to solid food and no longer needs breast milk for nutrition. Right now, we’re just going with the flow.

How did you know it was time to wean your child? Did you decide when to wean or did you practice child-led weaning?

About Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal, publisher of Happy Mothering, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former marketing manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life. She enjoys sharing those discoveries with anyone who's willing to listen.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dionna @ Code Name: Mama January 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm

If you need even more of a reason to be ok with bf’ing after a year, let me know, I can find you all kinds of posts/statistics that show how healthy it continues to be :)
(This coming from the mama of a just-turned-3yo who still nurses to sleep!) We are doing child-led weaning, unless something happens before then to take us on a different path.
Dionna @ Code Name: Mama recently posted..Jeremy Draws a Monster- Part 1

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2 Chrystal
Twitter: HappyMothering
January 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Thanks Dionna! I know there are tons of benefits for me and Kaylee. I just start getting the itch to “get my body back” around now. After being pregnant or breastfeeding for the last 3.5 years, I’m looking forward to that happening, but it can wait a while longer :-) I really admire mamas like you who don’t seem to struggle with extended breastfeeding.

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3 Lulua Arrial January 28, 2011 at 3:46 am

I am the mother of 4 children. I was commited to breast feeding but could not do it with my first, because he had a cardiac condition and got too tired. He needed special food, very high in calories to gain as much weight as he can to get ready for surgery. Then came the girls and they were exclusively BF for 8 months, then I added some fruits and soups until about 13 months when they slowly weaned themselves. An then came my youngster, now almost 15 yo. He can say that he never, ever, had rubber in his mouth, he BF for 5 years!!!! of course not solely, but he exclusively BF for more than a year, and he was extremely healthy, strong and a happy baby. As you, we also co slept with all of them and this is a practice I strongly recommend. So, I would say, BF will wean itself with time, so enjoy it and let your baby enjoy it too. There is simply no down side of it.

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4 Chrystal
Twitter: HappyMothering
February 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Lulua! Wow, 5 years! I know I want my body back to myself before then, but props to you!

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5 Shannan Neff February 3, 2011 at 8:37 pm

So far our daughter is 18 days short of 8 months but I am so happy I made it this far. With my son BF was hard because I was only 18 and so his father’s parents felt I could not do it correctly so his mother refused to allow me to keep my son at night, and would usually feed him bottles by day until he just refused to BF at all. The baby boy I carried that my parents adopted (LONG story) nursed for 14 weeks until I got sick with a ruptured gall bladder but was not BF exclusive even then, night feedings were done by bottle usually by my father – his preference as he couldnt sleep well at the time. So with her and a husband to support me I had a clean slate to try and learn to nurse. I planned to work and so to pump and feed her by bottle as well. I made it about 2 weeks and then the combination of broken toes which still have not healed & her refusal- to the point of starvation- to take the bottle. So I am back to being home 24/7 and I love our bond. She takes her naps in her crib so I can get work done but knows that night she can sleep in our bed. She cuddles between us so she can touch her daddy as he sleeps and “grazes” through the night to replace what she sweats out And I plan to keep it like this until she either weans or at least decides she wants to sleep in her own bed and only come lie down in ours to snack (Her new place she likes to BF is in the tub during her bath)

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6 Chrystal
Twitter: HappyMothering
February 4, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi Shannan, I’m so happy to hear that breastfeeding is going better for you this time around. Kaylee won’t take a bottle either, but luckily she will drink water from a cup. You should see if your daughter will drink from a sippy cup. It might give you a little break here and there. Best wishes to your and your family!

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7 Kat
Twitter: Hapamom212
May 1, 2013 at 10:10 pm

This post came at the perfect time. I’ve been struggling with when I should wean my baby girl. She’s 14 months, so a toddler and walking , eating everything, and asserting her independence, but she loves to bf and I love feeding her. She feeds on demand still. I feel like we aren’t ready, but DH wants me to wean and we are trying for a second child. I’m really torn. I’m happy to read others can be too!

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