15 Things I Wish I Knew About Weaning

by tinysneakers

Here are 15 things I knew about weaning after almost 20 months of breastfeeding:

People warn you about all kinds of things when you’re pregnant. Things you want to hear and a lot of things you don’t want to hear: “It’s going to hurt so bad!” “You’ll never get a good night’s sleep again!” “Kiss your marriage goodbye.” “Your boobs will never look the same again.” And my least favorite: “Post-partum depression is a bitch.”

I didn’t really care what people said about pregnancy or having a baby. I knew {as best I could} what I was signing up for. But there was one thing I greatly, greatly feared and it wasn’t labor or giving birth. It was postpartum depression. Physical pain is one thing. It’s temporary and you know eventually it will end. Mental pain though? That’s a tough one to get through. I absolutely dreaded the possibility of postpartum depression — that I wouldn’t be able to bond with my baby, that I wouldn’t be capable of taking care of him, or worse, that I wouldn’t want to take care of him. But while there were some lack-of-sleep-induced down days, I managed to escape it. So far. I made it through the newborn period. I made it through the colicky stage. I made it through the “everyone’s back to regular life and I’m stuck home with a baby” stage. I almost didn’t make it through the “okay it’s been a year, when do I get my personal life back” stage, but I conquered that one too. There’s just one more phase I’m hoping to make it through before I consider myself victorious in the name of postpartum depression: weaning.

what i wish i knew about weaning from breastfeeding

I had every intention of breastfeeding right from the moment I found out I was pregnant, but I had no idea how long I would keep it up. I never envisioned myself nursing a toddler, but somehow that’s what happened. And though I never picked a specific age in which I would stop nursing him, I can now tell you how old he’d be: just shy of 20 months. That’d be right now.

I’m one week and five days into weaning my toddler. I knew I’d have a lot to learn about breastfeeding, I just didn’t know I’d have a lot to learn about not breastfeeding. I’d been feeling pressure to stop but I really wanted the initiative to come from my son. I thought he’d give it up when he was ready, only he was clearly not interested in being ready. I finally decided I’d attempt weaning when I had to go back on a restricted diet. He’s allergic to dairy, soy, and gluten, and started having complications with it again after we thought he was off the hook. While I didn’t have any problems giving up those foods for the better part of a year, it was getting harder and harder for me. I wanted to be absolutely sure he wasn’t eating those things and the best way to do that was to take myself out of the picture, because what if I slipped up and didn’t realize it? {Which isn’t hard to do – soy is in everything.}

Last weekend I was out of town sans toddler for 3 nights, the longest I’ve ever been away from him. He was completely fine without me and my milk, so my husband and I just thought it might be a good time to continue without it and see what happened…

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Your baby might get really angry.

crying baby

Most of the weaning experiences I’ve heard from friends have gone something like this: I just stopped and she was fine. The end.

Not mine.

The night I got home from my weekend away, I tried to give my son a sippy cup of milk instead of nurse him. He flipped out. My husband had to take him from me, sobbing, and put him to sleep. When he woke up in the morning, I scooped him out of bed the same as always and handed him a banana instead of sitting down to nurse. He was a little confused: he kept going over to the chair we usually sit in and saying “Ma? Ma? Ma? MAAAA?!” squeezing his fist open and closed repeatedly in desperation with the sign for milk. I sat in a different chair, turned on the TV {I know, I know} and he happily ate his banana, then moved onto breakfast as usual. The next few nights my husband had to put him to bed, but mornings were okay.

2. It can be emotionally devastating.

While most people think about postpartum depression in terms of the early days of motherhood, it can happen anytime after giving birth. Though it’s not well-researched yet, that includes weaning. According to Kelly Mom, “It’s not unusual to feel tearful, sad or mildly depressed after weaning; some moms also experience mood swings. These feelings are usually short-term and should go away in a few weeks.”  When it doesn’t go away, that could be a sign that it’s more than just the blues. Moms are more likely to suffer with depressive symptoms if they are forced to wean rather than wean by choice, but a dip in mood can still happen during weaning no matter the circumstances. It’s thought to be due to yet another change in hormones. Prolactin and oxytocin are the “breastfeeding” hormones. Oxytocin in particular is what’s responsible for “feel-good,” happy sensations. It’s often dubbed the “love hormone.” When those hormones drop during weaning, it can lead to sadness and depression. As hormones start to regulate and balance out, the depression may ease. {Regardless of the source of depression, treatment can help!} It’s too soon to tell whether my hormones will do me wrong during weaning as they did in pregnancy, but my fingers are crossed.

3. You might have to lie.

At times weaning has felt wrong, selfish, and unjustified. Other times it’s been okay. The hardest part is the lie I’ve had to tell. “There’s no milk left, all gone!” Truth is, it’s not all gone. Not at all. I thought it’d be gone by the time I got home from my long weekend. It wasn’t. I thought it’d be gone a day or two later. It wasn’t. I thought it’d be gone after a week. It’s not. It’s weird to have milk and not be breastfeeding. I feel like much less of a liar when I try to explain to him that “Big boys don’t need mommy milk” and then list all of the other big boy things he does: go to school, pee pee in a potty, run down the street, ride a bike … and then I get sad that he’s growing up too fast.

4. Routines can be lifesavers.

baby routines

I think the bedtime routine that we’ve been doing since our son was a tiny little baby is what has gotten us through. It seemed silly when he was little to always do the same thing in the same order, but during this time of abrupt and significant change, I think it’s brought comfort and reassurance.

5. It’s ok to stray from your routine.

Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with changing your routine. I had to stop offering bedtime milk for a few days because my son just doesn’t like to take a cup of milk from his momma. Once he realized he wasn’t going to be nursing, we added bedtime milk back in after we started reading books. The change in routine let him be okay with the fact that something else was different.

6. You may think it’s going smoothly … and then it’s not.

The first night I was home by myself I decided not to try to replace nursing with a cup of milk. I just made sure he’d eaten and had some milk before he took a bath, then used our nursing time to read a couple extra books and try to steal a few snuggles. The first couple nights I put him to bed myself he woke up 20 or 30 minutes later wanting milk, but would then go back to sleep for the night.

7. The embarrassing stuff may not end.

toddler hand in shirt

While one of the reasons I was partly ready to wean was because a certain toddler’s hand was going down my shirt at inappropriate times, weaning didn’t put an end to that. Now he just sticks it down there, not expecting milk but just to comfort himself. I’ve seen non-nursing three-year-olds do this too, so I guess I shouldn’t expect it to end.

8. There’s always a bright side.

To every negative there’s always a positive. We’ve been able to snuggle without him assuming he was going to get milk; we get to read more books together before bed time; our bed time routine can be the same whether it’s mommy or daddy; mommy doesn’t have to be the one to get up at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. Okay, scratch that last one — pretty sure I’ll still be doing that. But at least it’s an option.

9. Daytime may be worse than nighttime.

While it seems like it went pretty smoothly, there were definitely some random daytime battles. He’d fight for milk in the middle of the day even though he hasn’t nursed during the day for months, clawing at my chest and shoving his hand down my shirt. One day he successfully completed a sneak attack mission and hopped on for a few minutes. I didn’t want to pull him away, but I didn’t want to confuse him and send mixed messages. Not knowing the morning I left on my trip would be my last nursing session, it didn’t affect me emotionally. This time though, it was tough, making the conscious decision not to do it anymore.

10. You may go through puberty for a third time.

Speaking of hormones, I don’t know which ones to blame, but it’s the same ones that didn’t give me that supposed pregnancy “glow.” Instead they gave me pregnancy acne and it was back with a vengeance in a matter of missed feedings. Oh joy. A third round of that awful stage of puberty: teenage torture years, pregnancy, now weaning.

11. You can eat whatever you want.

It’s been a big adjustment, but a nice one, to realize that I’m not nutritionally responsible for another human being for the first time in over two and a half years. I don’t have to worry about something I eat making him sick, or not eating enough healthy nutrients to help him grow and develop. Of course, I should treat my own body with that same respect, but I’m sure I’ll come off my cheese and soy latte bender soon …

12. You might feel nostalgic.

sleeping baby

Even though on the surface I’m okay with it, I still miss nursing my son. Granted it hasn’t been that long since we’ve weaned, but I don’t see the feeling going away. Those early mornings and last few moments together before bed were ones I cherished. Not being able to comfort him the way I always have when he gets hurt or sick is hard. I know these moments will be replaced by other things, but for now I’m feeling a little nostalgic about them.

13. Pregnancy side effects may rear their ugliness again.

Those nasty acne hormones are probably also to blame for the “pregnancy mask” I got while breastfeeding instead of during pregnancy. Pregnancy mask, technically called melasma, is darkening of the skin. Mine’s the worst on the most unfortunate place, my upper lip, plus less obvious spots covering my checks and the rest of my face that make me look closer to 60 than to 30. Let’s hope that fades when my hormones gain control of themselves again. {They will  gain control of themselves again, right?}

14. It may take along time for your milk to go away.

Almost two weeks later, it’s still there. I’m leaking and having phantom let downs that I didn’t even have while breastfeeding. All those months of being terrified to skip a nursing or pumping session and I guess I didn’t really have to worry after all.

15. You won’t necessarily feel engorged, but it might hurt.

Likely because I’ve only been nursing twice a day for a few months and don’t need to pump if I skip a session, I didn’t experience any engorgement or feelings of fullness like I did when my toddler was just a tiny little thing. I do, however, feel pain that feels eerily like the start of mastitis {which is an awful, awful experience}. So far it hasn’t gotten that bad, but I’m guessing it’s a blocked duct or two. Unfortunately the easy way to cure a blocked duct is to nurse … Now I guess I just have to deal with the discomfort for a little while.

Feeding Healthy Kids

//it’s interesting reading this now, not quite a year a later, seeing how things have changed. I might have to write an updated version. 😉

Did weaning go the way you thought it would?


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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Madeline @ Food Fit and Fam July 1, 2014 at 8:26 am

LOVE this. While I had a really easy weaning experience with Emmie I have no idea how things will go with Bryn 🙂


Linz @ Itz Linz July 1, 2014 at 8:53 am

thanks for this! breastfeeding is much more difficult than i imagined (yet i love it now that we’ve gotten the hang of it!) and everyday is a learning experience – i know weaning (when the time comes) will be a whole new ballgame!


Trisha F July 1, 2014 at 11:56 am

I completely agree with you! A lot of moms don’t share the weaning process. I even asked my overly open friends and they wouldn’t share a lot!
It has been almost a year since I weaned- I still desperately miss it.
And I still feel like I have let down every day!


tinysneakers July 3, 2014 at 9:02 am

I still feel it too!


Heather July 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

I am so happy you are posting this. I never hear anything about weaning. My little one is going on 11 months. I was also not sure how long I was doing this (originally thought I would last to 6 months was max) and I have no idea when I will be done. I already know that once we hit a year I will go to still nursing morning and night and just thinking of weaning to that makes me cry so thank you for posting 🙂


Amanda N October 6, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Thanks for this post! I’m down to just the night feeding with my 15 month old and thinking of weaning her soon. It makes me sad, but I’ll be glad to have a few months to myself and be able to go away with my husband without having to think about pumping. Although I probably won’t stop producing since I’m pregnant with #2.


Jessica January 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

I weaned both my kids a little shy of 2 years old. My daughter was very easy, my son however was extremely difficult. It got so bad that I finally I had to ace bandage my boobs for about a week and tell him they were all gone. I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that with my current little guy but I have a feeling I will be ace wrapping these babies once more when the time comes.


Carisa December 8, 2015 at 11:34 am

This was a beautiful post to read. I teared up several times. My son is coming up on 20 months and is mainly nursing for comfort and in the evening as he is at daycare all day. I feel like I only see him for a few hours a day now and for those few hours I love cuddling with him, reading and he will take a quick swig from the boob now and then. His vocab is progressing really well though, so on top of the hand down the shirt he cries out, “Boobie, mommy, please.” which kind of broke my heart when I’d tell him, “No, you can drink milk from the bottle right now.” He would sob and keep whining boobie. It didn’t bother me until my mother in law felt it necessary to keep making comments. Like just sitting in the living room going, “Good lord, you just need to stop. Oh my god, you have to do it cold turkey”. It infuriates me because we have tried weaning and it is hard enough without people’s comments. To be honest I thought I would have run out of milk forever ago now. I have been back at work for a year (not pumping for 9 months) so from 4 am to whatever time late at night there was no nursing. I am an athlete and back at the lower body fat percentage I was at pre pregnancy, training hard and still….full of milk? I also have a very strict, regimented diet as I am eating to train at this point and not to breastfeed. I feel like on chicken and broccoli I am starving through out the day myself….how is my body still ready to feed someone else? I thought this would be a lot easier. On top of all of this, my closest support (the husband) has not been helpful in the weaning process at all and complains about our son still nursing. Oy, right? I wish I had helpful advice for ladies out there, but thank you for this comforting blog…so far my one other parent friend said, “My baby just stopped, right at 12 months didn’t want to nurse anymore. No fight, it just happened.” Meanwhile my 19 month old screams as if he’s being tortured. And, it feels like I am torturing him, it has been traumatizing for us both and no one understands or cares. I may try Jessica’s trick of bandaging the boobs….”all gone!” hahaha. Awesome.


Mamak October 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Just started with the ace bandage and right now I feel like a liar. He just wants comfort & I have told him the fist lie at 29 months 🙁


may chieu August 12, 2016 at 6:52 am

Weaning is really a difficult thing for me. Finally, I succeeded and my baby is already much good!


Mamak October 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Sorry, 19 months


Jan January 6, 2017 at 11:50 pm

I’m sitting here reading this and getting teary…at 68! With a lot of misinformation my milk dried up at 3 months it was the rainy-est November ever.lots of depression. When she was 13 months I found out about LA Leche League went to meetings so I would know what to do the next time.
With my son it was very nice. (Had to get permission from the head pediatrician Navy hospital in 1973) to nurse on the on the delivery table. He latched on immediately ! I felt like a good mother,I know I know, things went really well until an ear information at 5 months.From then until 22 months he would be awake 3 to 4 hours in the middle of every night…nursing of course. Finally decided I couldn’t do this any more. So I started telling him nursing was for daytime and nights were for sleeping. Boy did he get mad…but soon started sleeping the whole night. Around 26 months I had loss weight way and the milk was going away he started to leave tooth marks just to keep the nipple in his mouth .we were down to just twice a day by then but I still loved the feeling . A month later we moved from Hawaii (got out of navy) to Georgia. I started having his dad put him to bed at night and then we were weaned. I didn’t know how to comfort him without nursing. At 43 he is still the most affectionate child of the 3.
(I went back to college and got my BS in nursing worked in labor and delivery, nursery special care nursery helping new moms start breastfeeding for 20 years.)
When the older kids were12 and 10 you we had a surprise pregnancy happily. I had to work and got very sick then had to have a c/sleep 5 weeks early.she had a lot of trouble latching on. After 3 months of blisters on my nipples, things finally got better. She weaned her self at 21 months but still wanted my underline bra off so she could cuddle. I’ll stop now. They’re all successful adults with families of their own . very proud of them..
Well thanks for allowing me to have my story told. Love to you all.


Jonelle November 14, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Thank you for this. I am on day 11 of not nursing my son (26 months). We had been on two feedings for about six months. I went away for the weekend a week before his 2nd birthday and the before bath feeding was dropped. All that was left was the morning after wake up feeding. My husband went out of town, and the rush of getting myself and two kids ready in the morning by myself caused the am feeding to be missed. It didn’t seem to faze my son, so I didn’t offer (plus, this feeding was also rushed and he had started to rest his teeth around my nipple…ouch). I’m not sore or feel engorged, but for some reason today I could just cry. Not necessarily from not nursing anymore, moreso an overall anxiety of messing up my kids because I don’t feel like “the cool Pinterest” mom…stupid, yes, but it made me tear up.
I really want to shout from the rooftops that I nursed my son for the first 25 months of his life, but I’m afraid of alienating some of my friends who I know had a hard time nursing and had to stop after a few months.
Thank you again.


Heather May 1, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Experiencing t anxiety pretty bad. My son has ramped up eating to where I can’t keep up. I’ve introduced food to try and help anxiety by cutting back. Not sure if better or worse. It’s really messing with my head. All the side effects of nursing or weening are nothing compared to what the hormones do to you mind. It was not like this with my daughter. 🙁 help anyone?


Spoo July 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been experiencing the same anxiety after weaning my 18 month old son.It started out of nowhere.


Andrea June 22, 2018 at 2:10 am

Thank you. This is my third child and she is my child that is most attached to nursing. I nursed my 1st until he was 12 months, my second until he was 2 and 3 months, and Lela is 2 and 2 months. I tried to limit nursing and eliminate most day feedings all at once, but it made her more fussy and cli gy and confused and she wanted to nurse all day. She refused to eat anything else or drink from her sippy cups. So, i gave up the fight and comforted her and nursed her and didnt say much about stopping to her anymore. I waited a week and put garlic on my breasts. She smelled them and did not want to have anything to do with them. I can tell shebthinks about it because she will say “chi chi and then will remind herself, “chi chi yucky”. She jas been far less fussy because she is choosing not to nurse. However, she misses it too. I, on the other hand, feel very sad and almost regret this. I am hoping it is just because of my hormonal change. I have been exhauseted and achy as well as crampy. I did not feel the emotional toll of weaning with the other two. I feel so sad And i have been extra agitated and moody. Thank you for this explanation because it helps me to understand what is going on. I need to add in more hugs and excercise to boost my happy hormones.


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