Weaning 6-12 Months
From first foods to first steps, the second half of baby's first year is jam-packed with milestones. For many babies, weaning is yet another leap forward on this path of independence. Kari Poucher, of Orange County, California, had her heart set on nursing for a full year, so she was surprised when her son opted out at only 9 months. "I was sad that our breastfeeding relationship was ending sooner than I expected," says Poucher, "but ultimately I wanted him to have the freedom to choose, and that's what he did."
According to Bengson, babies often seem to lose interest in nursing between 8 and 10 months. "It's a time when they're taking in a lot of sensory information," she explains, "and this often leads to babies constantly pulling off the breast to look around." So if you're thinking of weaning, it might happen more easily during this window.
Of course, while some older babies are determined to break the nursing ties that bind, many tots want that physical connection more than ever. "Separation anxiety tends to show up at about 9 months," says Lerner. "If you notice that your baby's really clingy, wait to wean until he's weathered this anxiety a little bit."
"Clingy" doesn't begin to describe Laura Ada Garafalo, says mom Jennifer, of Staten Island, New York. "No matter what we did, she'd never take a bottle, so I couldn't be away from her for more than two or three hours," Garafalo recalls. "After a year of this, I started to hate breastfeeding."
Garafalo tried to cut down on nursing sessions gradually, but Laura's frantic sobbing always crumbled her resolve. So, right after Laura's first birthday, this exhausted mom decided to wean cold turkey. "It was really terrible," she remembers. "Laura screamed nonstop for a week, and my breasts were lumpy and leaking all over the place. But I had no choice -- I had started to feel like a slave."
"I want my body back!" is a sentiment echoed by many nursing moms of older babies. Whether it's a matter of wanting to conceive another child, being pregnant again, or just being weary of breasts that wax and wane, moms often wean to free their body of a physical drain.
Whatever the reason, whenever you wean -- and whoever gets the process started -- only one thing's for certain: you're bound to run into some surprises. "Just like every other aspect of motherhood, weaning very rarely happens the way we think it's going to," says Bengson.
Perhaps the most important part of getting ready is preparing yourself to be a little unprepared. It'll all turn out all right in the end, though, no matter how rough it may seem in the thick of things. "Weaning can feel really monumental," says Bengson, "but it's just one part of a loving and lifelong relationship with your child."