How do you know when it’s time to wean your baby? For most, the answer is when your baby is one, but like with almost everything else in parenting, there isn’t one correct answer here. There are so many reasons someone might wean a baby earlier than others and that is a-okay!
With my first daughter, nursing was hard, hard, hard. It became a very stressful and emotional thing for me (and even my husband) as a result of me being crazy obsessed about it. I refused to wean because I wouldn’t accept that it wasn’t going as smoothly as I wanted it to and I was so terrified that I would be judged if I was bottle feeding my baby. But, my mental state was not good.
It eventually got a little better as months progressed, but I never stopped stressing about why my supply wasn't like other moms who were feeding their babies completely from the breast and still pumping extra milk to freeze. My daughter was really low on the percentile charts for weight, and she never seemed satisfied after I nursed her so we were supplementing. I didn’t have a problem feeding her formula in a bottle really, I just couldn't get over my disappointment in myself.
With baby number two, I promised myself I would quit nursing if I became that stressed-out, breastmilk-amount-obsessed person. We had four amazing months of breastfeeding (yay!!) and then my supply started to drop. Baby girl is even lower on the weight percentile charts than her sister was, and she was not a tiny baby when she was born. After discussing options with our doctor, I decided it was time to wean her. I could tell that it was going to quickly become a pain point again, and I didn't want to walk down that road again.
For me, I would rather spend my time loving on and being engaged with her than constantly stressing about whether I was going to be able to fix my supply and keep her satisfied from the breast. I don’t feel an ounce of guilt about this. I want to be a present mom, a mentally clear mom, and I know making this decision helps me to be those two things best at this point.
I have heard stories of friends and friends of friends of the heartbreak they have felt when nursing doesn't go as planned. My sister-in-law suddenly and unexplainably lost her milk after just three months. A friend I worked with had insufficient milk glands. A neighbor had to be put on a steroid medication that completely rocked her milk supply. All of these women went through feelings of sadness, guilt, and frustration.
It seems so self-betraying when the thing you are told forever and ever is the best thing for your baby doesn't work out because of your own body or situation. But, it isn't the end of the world (though it may feel like it)! So if you have had to, choose to, or are contemplating weaning earlier than baby’s 12-month mark, don’t you dare beat yourself up! Baby needs mama to be at her best and that means mama needs to care for herself too!