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Child Led Weaning: Lily’s Story

Child led weaning: what does it look like? Does the experience make you feel happy, sad, is it bittersweet, or freeing? The truth is, it is all of those things.

Child led weaning is an intimate experience fraught with a wide range of emotions typically charged with a mixture of waning hormones, a rapidly growing independence that is blossoming from your child and the relationship between the two of you morphing into a completely new story.

I want to tell you one of my children’s stories. I want you to know what it meant to me, doing this child led weaning and allowing her to stop when she said it was time.

One mom's experience with child led weaning

I gave birth to a little fluffy bundle of cuteness over 9 years ago. It was a difficult labor due to incompetency on the doctor’s behalf, and a lack of knowledge on my own. I was completely spent when they finally placed her in my arms, yet overjoyed to see her, feel her, and kiss her.

Like her brother, she had a tongue tie that made it very painful to nurse. I also have IGT, a rare condition that means I have less than the ideal amount of glandular tissue, so making plentiful milk was a challenge for the first 6 weeks.

I had no idea it would be so incredibly important to me, this nursing relationship. The enormous effect it had on our relationship was beyond my ability to initially comprehend. I also had no clue how special it would be to her!

She was what we, in our family, like to call a “velcro baby.” She was a prime candidate for the High Needs Baby Presidency. Gloriously though, nursing seemed to make everything better. Sleepy? Have a boob. Hungry? Have a boob. Cold, sick, bored?Have a boob. After the first three months, my little precious whining love decided the world around her wasn’t so terrible. And she began a tentative love affair with other people instead of only my breasts.

The first year went by, adding in solids around 6-8 months. She still nursed through the night, but slowly began to reduce that until she only woke to nurse in the wee morning hours and throughout the day. We chose to utilize real table food from the get-go, which allowed her to control the pace of her solids and ensured she did not overeat, before she was ready to manage the heavier calorie load, and breast milk replacement.

I was so glad to see that first year go by, and to find us still breastfeeding! What a joy to see her growing and changing, but still needing mommy’s milk each day. It was still her favored go-to whenever she was sad, thirsty, hurt, or bored. Early in the morning, we would lie quietly together under the covers, her peacefully drifting in and out of sleep, suckling contentedly. When you see those photos of blissfully nursing mothers with tiny newborns, it really should be with older babies!

Eighteen months, and then 2 years came and went. Lily still loved her “boo-boo’s.” Despite a third pregnancy, she found nursing was still pleasant for her, and I saw no reason to wean.

I pored over literature concerning the benefits of tandem nursing. I believed it would help my third child bond with her, and vice versa, if I allowed them to continue on together at the breast. When Lily was just over two years old, I gave birth to her sister. I still had many difficulties nursing our third. But, with Lily’s help, and lots of extra pumping and supplementing with mommy’s milk, we were able to work all of our issues out splendidly.

The next ten months were a precious, yet trying time. I really began to feel what many breastfeeding mothers refer to as “nursing aversion.” I felt irritated, annoyed, and had a skin-crawling sensation every time one of them needed to nurse. I knew that our time was nearing an end, but I was compelled to allow Lily to make this decision on her own. I wanted her to outgrow nursing on her own terms, rather than making the arbitrary decision to wean for her.

As she neared her third birthday, I brought up the subject of weaning. She had been nursing less and less, a morning cup and evening cup to be precise. Sometimes, she wouldn’t get to nurse when she wanted because I had to care for other children. It was hard, and I tried my best to make time for her as she needed. But, as three years loomed closer, I knew our time was coming to an end.

Carefully, I tenderly brought up the subject, commending her firstly for being a big girl, growing up, and enjoying new big girl activities like eating ice cream cones, swinging at the park, and playing in our fenced-in yard by herself. My little girl was very good at talking at that age, and she beamed at my praise. She smiled and told me that yes, she thought she was really ready! Could it be? Could we be done without a fuss?

I thought about how I would like to celebrate this milestone. We decided on having a party on her birthday–unoriginal I know. It would be her weaning party too. She loved the idea! We had cake, ice cream, games, and so much fun. And that night, she didn’t ask to nurse. The next day when she did ask, I reminded her that she said she was done nursing. She smiled and said yes, returning to her playtime. About six months went by without a single question about breastfeeding when she asked to nurse again. I obliged her, and she quickly realized she no longer knew how to nurse, and decided to forgo the experience with a giggle and a hug instead.

It was the easiest experience of my life. I knew that if she had not been ready, I was willing to continue. But, that sweet girl was ready to let the last portion of her babyhood go.

Looking back, over 9 years ago, I still remember saying goodbye to nursing, stroking her sweet blond curls, my eyes tearing, and love in my heart for this little one. It was the best decision I could have made for us, to nurse and to allow her to call the shots.

Child led weaning changed me, and I know it strengthened our bond. Child led weaning may not always work for each mother and child, but I am thankful it did for us.


This is moi: breastfeeding, birthing, butt-kicking, Jesus loving, woman of God, who happens to be married to a hot Coastie and has four fabulous mammy-hackers. I'm a "boobie doc" and birth junkie(aka lactation counselor and birth doula) and have no plans on weaning, ever. As in, I am thinking college might not be quite long enough for my youngest to gain full independence.

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