Our youngest, Callum, started his baby-led-weaning journey at 6 months old. He took to it quickly and enthusiastically. Although messy, Callum is a great eater. He loves almost every solid food I’ve given him. That’s the good news. Unfortunately, that’s about the time he started to lose interest in nursing.
When our oldest, Lyra, was about 8 months old, she also started losing interest in nursing. By 10 months, she was completely weaned.
Trying to Breastfeed Better
This time around, I was committed to making it until Callum was a year-and-a-half old. Or at least a year. I thought my mistake with Lyra was offering her solid food before giving her breastmilk. So with Callum, I nursed him a half hour before each solid meal. But it didn’t seem to matter.
Against my wishes, Callum seems to be weaning himself. I try to nurse him before and after naps, before bed, and in the morning. But he is eagerly distracted and uninterested in latching for long. If he is very sleepy or isn’t feeling well, he may latch, but won’t drink any milk.
The Judgement Surrounding Nursing
Breastfeeding is a hot topic. There’s so much pressure on new mothers to breastfeed and plenty of shame for those who don’t. There’s also shame if you breastfeed in public, breastfeed for too long or not long enough. It’s impossible to feed your baby without overwhelming scrutiny.
Here I am, unable to entice my baby, unwilling to stop trying, but feeling my supply dwindle. And I know I’m failing to meet society’s expectations. It shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks, but it does.
The other day, while lamenting my situation, my friend–who’s never breastfed a day in her life–immediately responded, “It’s too early for him to be weaned.” I was ashamed.
It feels like this maternal failure isn’t just mine to suffer. Everyone will know and everyone will judge me and my inadequacy. Am I a bad mother?
Nursing Isn’t for Everyone
Not every mom enjoys breastfeeding, and with good reason. At first it hurts. You might bleed. You’ll probably cry. Your breasts leak all the time and if your breast pad slips in the middle of the night, you’ll wake up on a soggy mattress.
But there is magic in breastfeeding. I cherish the quiet moments I get to share with my baby. The way his soft little hand feels on my chest and the way he looks at me or falls asleep in my arms is indescribable. I love the contact and the warmth. I love that my body nourishes his. I love providing for him.
There is a psychological pain every time he doesn’t want to nurse. Logically, I know he’s just getting his nutrients through the solid meals, but a little part of me wonders if he doesn’t love me. And again, I feel like I’m failing.
Seeking Professional Advice
I reached out to our pediatrician. He provided the reassurance I was looking for in a not-overly-concerned response that quoted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
“There are a lot of healthy ways to feed a human, even at 7 months. He has had months of breast milk along with any benefits that has provided. Of course, you can always breast feed on a less frequent comfort and convenience basis, since it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, but I don’t think there’s any reason to try to force Callum. It’s a parenting choice more than anything else, as long as he continues to grow properly.”
He provided this reference to backup his advice:
“The AAP supports continued breastfeeding, along with appropriate complementary foods introduced at about 6 months, as long as mutually desired for 2 years or beyond.”American Academy of Pediatrics
The last line from the pediatrician stuck with me: “…as long as he continues to grow properly.” Callum is consistently plotting along the 50th percentile in growth. He’s larger than his sister was at this age (she’s been around 10th or below most of her life). His size is very healthy and his appetite for solid food continues to be excellent.
Still Healthy, With or Without Breastmilk
We feed Callum a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, protein, and grains. He gets vitamin-rich meals and we avoid added salt or sugar. So although he may be getting very little breastmilk anymore, he seems to be managing very well.
I want to continue nursing, but the mutual desire may not be present. After 6 months of exclusive breastmilk, maybe Callum’s ready to move on to different textures and flavors for his food. And though my supply is quite low, he still happily nurses (or at least snuggles) twice a day. And I’ll take it.