Child led weaning/ self weaning vs parent led weaning or environmental weaning

Merry - posted on 01/23/2012 ( 12 moms have responded )




Lately I'm hearing a lot of misuse of these terms, I know that everyone has the right to use whatever term they want but it's confusing when there is specific definitions for these terms and it's usually misused. I have a few examples of misuse:

1---"my 9 month old self weaned yesterday, she just arched her back and refused to nurse. She prefers bottles now anyways and I'm sad she weaned but it was her choice."

With this it's obviously a nursing strike, many moms think that nursing strikes are self weaning. If your child refuses the breast abruptly, and with anger it's a strike. It can be caused by teething, milestones, stress, and other reasons too. Nursing strikes can happen at any age, but right before a year is when many moms mistake it for weaning. Any time your child abruptly refuses to nurse, it is not weaning, it's a strike. They need your help to get over the strike, not to just switch to a bottle.

2--- "my baby weaned himself from breast-feeding at 5 months, he just prefers bottles now"

Weaning from breast to bottle is not child led weaning, it's just that most humans, babies included, prefer the easy way of things. Bottles are portable, fast flow, and 'me do' style. If given the option, many babies will prefer bottles.

3---"my 13 month old self weaned, I guess he is just to busy and independent to remember to nurse!" remember that 'don't offer don't refuse' is a method of parent led weaning. If you are not offering to breastfeed then you are instigating weaning yourself.

4---"my toddler self weaned because she just likes table food more now" many times moms are thinking this is self weaning but if you think back there was probably times when your child came to pull on your shirt to nurse and you redirected her to the table for a meal. Redirecting her from the breast is another way to parent lead wean. And If you only nurse after a meal at the table it's very likely your child is already full and won't wish to nurse more.

5---"my 16 month old wasn't sleeping through the night until I stopped breastfeeding him to sleep and started a sleep training routine. He self weaned the next few weeks." night time weaning can be perfectly ok and compatible with full term nursing, but it can also start weaning prematurely. Nursing to sleep is one of those things that every child loves, and most moms tolerate at best. But when you start refusing to breastfeed at any time this opens the door for parent led weaning. Once your child realized he is ok not nursing to bed he might think why does he need to nurse in the morning? Or he could think that since you refused to nurse at bedtime, why even ask in the morning because it's obvious to him that you wish not to nurse him anymore.

6---"my daughter self weaned when I became pregnant" pregnancy is not parent led weaning, but it's definately not child led weaning. It's something else affecting the nursing relationship. Unforseen to the child it's uncertain how she will react. And if she does wean because of the pregnancy, it isn't of her choosing per say, it's because something interfered in the relationship of breastfeeding. We could call it environmental weaning.

Ok, so to clarify, parent led weaning is not a bad thing! It's not something to be ashamed of at all. And all these examples are of extremely gentle parent led weaning. And this is perfectly fine to do if that is what best suites your child. There isn't anything bad about encouraging weaning, but it's nice to acknowledge that it isn't really the Childs choice, if something is affecting their decision. Like the law of motion

An object in motion tends to remain in motion unless a force acts against it

Children do not wean young, they really naturally enjoy breastfeeding, and unless something interferes, enjoy breastfeeding for years.

It is accepted knowledge that child led weaning doesn't begin until the minimum age of 2.5 years with an average of 4.4 years and a top of 7 years. So while there's nothing wrong with parent led weaning, if you want to practise child led weaning you should be expecting some age within these estimates, and try to avoid these common areas of subtle parent led weaning.

Please feel free to comment about anything I missed or didn't mention that's in the same category, or to respectfully disagree. I do have links to back up my info, as a few months ago I didn't know any of this at all! Remember, there's nothing bad about parent led weaning, especially in such gentle ways as these, but call it what it is, and it will be easier for new moms to know what to anticipate for true child led weaning. Both ways can be rewarding and wonderful, we can all agree on that! I just want to clarify the use of the terms :)


Noreen - posted on 01/25/2012




I was told by someone once that her son weaned himself at 10mo to a sippy cup of cow's milk. I just roll my eyes when I hear or see her post about it on facebook. Her son weaned because she would offer the sippy cup instead of nurse him because her husband was uncomfortable with his son still nursing at 10mo. GRR!!

Amy - posted on 01/26/2012




I agree with this. My 32 month old (2.5ish) daughter is now only even briefly asking for milk every few days, and even then, only if she sees me without a top on, or sees a picture of a baby breastfeeding in one of her books. I'm 5 months pregnant. As I understand it, this means the milk has probably changed in taste, and the let down reflex is probably slower. It's certainly harder to crawl into and sit on my lap, and we've also been talking about how baby will call me mummy, and have milk from my breasts (I'm trying to head off sibling rivalry at the pass!) While I haven't told her that milk is 'only for babies', or that she can't have milk, I think she's taken on that idea a bit herself, and/or has decided that it's not worth the trouble (need to suck harder, harder to rest on my lap around baby). So is this purely child-led weaning? No, not really. But I think she's made up her own mind to some extent, and is happy to cope with circumstances. Not the first way this baby is going to change her life and opportunities! I think moving to a 'big girl bed' had something to do with it - she tends to put on a baby act just prior to asking for a breastfeed, and never ask if she's having an "I'm a big girl / I do it myself!" day Around Christmas, she'd worked out I'd only freely and immediately say yes to a request on a lazy day at home, or before bed time.

So, is this child-led weaning? Maybe not technically. But I feel like her wishes have been important in the process, and her feelings have been fully considered. I think she's happy to take it or leave it now. Maybe I acted subconsciously to bring this about, or maybe she's just being exceptionally easy-going about it (she is generally quite pragmatic in other ways too), but I feel that this way of doing things has been quite natural for us both, and that was my aim all along.


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Emma - posted on 02/07/2012




Thank you for this post. My son will be 3 in June and he does still breastfeed. I have put a stop during the day but I do allow him to breastfeed during the night (when he needs it) and right before bed. It is along the lines of "don't offer" but also along the lines I have distracted him to do other things; like a cup of milk before nap while snuggled into me instead of breastfeeding. When he has been really upset of course I will let him comfort suckle. It is what works best for me and him. I do receive alot of flack from my husband over the breastfeeding issue as I am always saying to him I will stop when our son wants to stop. But I will not force our son to stop. I have found it is too upsetting for him and me.

Amy - posted on 01/30/2012




Yes, exactly. Actually, the full story probably is that I only got pregnant when she was breastfeeding less / able to spot wean. While we were 'trying' to conceive, she had a bout of gastro, and I returned to exclusively breastfeeding her for a few days. My observations suggest that was around the time of ovulation. Needless to say, I didn't get pregnant that month! However, the next month, she was a healthy, happy toddler, happy to wander around the whole house in search of amusement, rather than crawling into my lap (and on to my breast) every time I sat down. I think she, my body and my mind all mutually agreed she wasn't a totally dependent baby anymore.

Merry - posted on 01/26/2012




Amy that's wonderful! Yes you have it exactly right :)

She isn't exactly choosing to stop all on her won because if your body wasn't gearing up for another baby she would still be priority but she is not being refused or told she must stop and she feels happy with the amount she gets and that's what really matters!

Congrats on your new baby! I hope she is thrilled to have a new baby to help with. :) or should I say 'help' lol

Merry - posted on 01/25/2012




Janice my babies also never would take a bottle but I've heard it so much! And saw it first hand with the boy I babysat for, it seems maybe if they have bottles regularly from a young age that somewhere around 9-12 months they start preferring the bottles. Some even younger. Also I've seen moms whose baby goes on strike give the bottle more and then it's a double whammy strike and bottle preference and they call it the baby's choice.

Janice - posted on 01/25/2012




I always laugh when I read that most babies prefer bottles because my daughter refused them and would rather starve. But then again she is a stubborn one who doesn't like anything the easy way. lol

Good info though, I do see they terms used wrong a lot too.

Merry - posted on 01/24/2012




I'd call that breastfed to natural duration, mutual effort in weaning :)

Parent led usually implies before natural duration.

Child led would be the elusive and rare case where mom really never put rules or limits.

And a mutual weaning after natural duration is what I think would be where you and I and many other moms ended up.

But to bring the terms to more simple definitions I'd say any child nursed to 2.5 years, and who had the final say in the last feed, and the end was slow, was child led weaning.

I place limits, I have cut him back too. But I did this when he was already 2.5 and now I feel I've reached the 'goal'

Celeste - posted on 01/24/2012




Great info :)

So, just curious, . as you know Laura, I nursed my twins, and one weaned earlier than the other..

When they were close to 2, I placed limits on them. They were nursing ALL.THE.TIME. and I was starting to feeling touched out. So, I limited their nursing to 3x's a day.

Ronin weaned at 3 1/2. Ryker, however, nursed until 4 1/2 but I actively weaned him..

So, my question is, if you place limits, is it still CLW? By the time Ryker was weaned, he was only nursing once a day. And since I actively weaned Ryker, 'm guessing that's mother led?

In the end, it doesn't matter, but I was just curious LOL

Maree - posted on 01/24/2012




I agree with this Laura,I think people get confused sometimes about what the baby/child wants or doesn't want and sometimes believe that the baby is rejecting them or their milk is bad etc etc when it just isn't true.

Although i can see that when the things happen like what you stated in your post,women feel that the baby is self weaning...i also sometimes think that the woman in fact WANTS to baby to wean so that she doesn't feel that she forced it on the baby. It is much easier to tell yourself that your baby made the choice rather than YOU made the choice for your baby.

Obviously,by so many posts i have seen on here lately,women are very confused about breast feeding,among other things. There are so many people giving different advice which may work or be true for one child but not another...even professionals are giving conflicting advice so i imagine that there would be a lot of confusion after receiving so much advice.

I am very sure of myself and what i want for my baby so i am adamant that i will breast feed for as long as possible. I suppose i don't know what "my baby" will decide to do but i will definately be trying to breast feed her every day for at least 2 years.

Some women are told and believe that it is wrong to feed for that long so they may have that idea in their head and feel like they are doing the wrong when the baby rejects them once or twice,they part because they are made to feel that they are doing something disgusting.Other reasons might be that they want their body back,to be able to leave the child overnight,go back to work,maybe their partner is not supportive etc...and that's fine...however i think sometimes it is easier to say that the baby weaned itself rather than tell other people the real reason as it really isn't anyone elses business.

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