Weaning, or phasing out breastfeeding in favor of bottle- or cup-feeding, can be a complicated issue for any mother. To help, here's a rundown of the basic -- and not-so-basic -- factors for you to consider.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urges mothers to breastfeed for their baby's first year, but only about 16 percent of nursing moms reach that goal. "Going back to work, a big vacation without baby coming up, and a feeling of 'I want my body back' are some of the explanations I hear," says Marianne Neifert, MD, a pediatrician and the author if Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding (Plume). "And all of those reasons are valid."
For many women, however, weaning is something that "just sort of happens," Dr. Neifert says. The most likely scenario, she explains, is that a mom starts supplementing breast milk with formula, and her baby regularly gets both the breast and the bottle. "The mother's milk supply then lowers in response to the decrease in breastfeeding. The lower supply frustrates the baby, who gradually realizes that the bottle is the most reliable source of milk. Then he 'self-weans,'" Dr. Neifert says. "But really, he only stops nursing because he isn't nursed often enough."
Some moms do make -- or surpass -- the goal of breastfeeding until baby's first birthday. Stephanie Nakhleh, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, breastfed her daughter for two years. "I'd wanted Julia to wean herself," says Nakhleh. "By her second birthday, she'd feed very frequently. But only for a couple of seconds at a time." Nakhleh, who was also considering getting pregnant again, decided to take the lead in weaning Julia.