Breastfeeding is a matter of two, so it’s fine to wean when one of the two parties wants to quit. But what happens when it is not about what you or your baby want but when you are unsure because you don’t know or because of outside pressures? Here are 6 of the reasons why many mothers have felt the urge to stop breastfeeding and the explanation of why it wouldn’t work:
1. So the baby sleeps more
Babies and children’s sleep patterns are different from those of adults until they are about 6 years old. They tend to have a very different sleep rhythm than adults, which inevitably causes sleep times to be a source of conflict.
It is normal for babies to wake up to 10 times during the night to breastfeed, and many babies do not skip those feeds and continue to breastfeed far beyond what we would imagine.
When a mother wonders (or asks) if it is normal for her baby to still breastfeed at night, she is often advised to wean her baby off the breast or even recommended to offer formula during or before night feeds so the baby would be less hungry and would supposedly sleep for longer.
It is absolutely normal for babies to wake up to breastfeed, and it is also normal for them to do so for many months. And when you stop breastfeeding, so they sleep “through the night,” it is likely that this won’t work, and they will continue to wake up asking for something else: water, cuddles, being carried, or food.
2. So the baby eats more
Some babies tend to eat very small amounts of certain foods. And when we say small, we mean outrageously tiny amounts: one bite of bread, a piece of banana, a small piece of chicken, a slice of tangerine (which ends up on the floor).
You might hear this popular recommendation: “Wean the baby off breastmilk to make them hungry so they eat properly.”
When a child eats small amounts of food inconsistently and randomly, weaning them from breastmilk will not make them eat more and better; in fact, quite the opposite. Denying them the most complete food that exists on the market (your breastmilk) puts their health at risk.
More about breastfeeding and introducing solids here.
3. So you can go to work
Often, when mothers have to go back to work, they feel that the end of breastfeeding has come. But does it have to be like this?
Breastfeeding is more flexible and adaptable than you think, and if you like to breastfeed your baby, even if you have to work many hours away from home, you will always be able to breastfeed for some feeds or even on the days you are off. Your breastmilk production quickly adapts to your baby’s demand, and when you are with your little one, they will have the milk they demand. If you both enjoy breastfeeding, there is no need to skip all feeds and wean completely. When you are with your baby, you will be able to breastfeed.
Is it worth it to breastfeed only for a few feeds? Only you and your baby can answer that question. If you feel like it, surely your baby will feel like it, too.
Read more about breastfeeding and the return to work here.
4. Because your baby is already too old
Older babies and children also breastfeed. In most Western societies, a baby is considered an “older baby” from 4 months of age. It seems that once past that age, the baby no longer needs to suckle or to receive breastmilk; it seems that all benefits are already achieved, that the baby is already protected, and that you have already “fulfilled.”
Natural weaning in humans seems to occur between two and a half and seven years of age. So, a 4-month-old baby is not too old to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding already lasts a very short time in a human’s life, and we don’t need to make it even shorter because of societal conventions or wrong information.
5. To make the child more independent
Breastfeeding does not make babies more dependent on their mothers; it’s human babies that are dependent on adults with or without breastfeeding.
Society associates the action of breastfeeding with an unhealthy attachment to the mother, which would not allow the baby to develop normally. It is even suggested that a breastfed baby will not be as independent or as smart as a baby who has stopped breastfeeding. But babies who are breastfed and who also enjoy a secure attachment relationship with their mothers will have less adult anxiety, greater social adjustment, and fewer behavioral disorders.
6. Because I have to take medication or a medical intervention
Before taking such a drastic decision as stopping breastfeeding, we recommend that you find reliable sources to ensure that the medication you have been prescribed is not compatible with breastfeeding. So often, decisions are based on outdated information, and it’s a real shame. You can read more about medication and breastfeeding in this post.
Ultimately, the decision to wean and stop breastfeeding only concerns the mother and baby, and they can do so for whatever reason suits them. That’s why you always need to have up-to-date and reliable information.