Will my child still love me if we wean?

February 2 | Guest post by Gillie Easdon

He won't have any use for me when I wean him.

He gets way more focused attention from his dad. He gets way more silly fun time from his sitter and my friends and my mom. How on earth will I chill him out when I can't just chuck him on?

Will he still know I am his mom when I wean him?

Why am I having these thoughts?

Is anyone else? Has anyone else?

When I wean him, why would he feel close to me? What do I have for him? "Oh good. The milk is here," is what they said. What if they are right?

I am scared. When I think about it. Like I am right now. Not all the time. But yes, right now. What if I am just a walking dairy rack … what if?

I need to breathe. But I also need to acknowledge this fear. Let it in … to hopefully let it out.

Thank god I have girlfriends who don't and never did breastfeed, for myriad reasons. I love you ladies. I love you even more right now when I am scared and worried and I have seen you with your bebes and of course they know you are the mama. This ghoulish phantom is just my own little intimate invention to keep me feeling frayed.

It is funny because it is not that Le Boeuf aka Felix is hanging off ma mamms 24/7. It is not as if we don't go on hikes, eat real food, read books, explore, laugh, bathe and do stuff together. And yet, here it is. This fear that I won't matter as just who I am.

Right? Someone else knows this fear. Don't get me wrong. I am not a huge amazed conscious breast feeder. We both zone while Felix is feeding, as if we're hooked up to a cable. But I like that. I love that. No one else can do that. That is my thing. My trick. Oh god.

It's handy. He is a little bit grumpy — POP IT IN THERE. I can't remember the last time he ate POP IT IN THERE. We are having a little sweet cuddle on the couch POP IT IN THERE. It's just always been there. That easy street. That no-fail. Like I'm cheating, and the "real" parenting skills with have to surface once I don't have this gimmick. And now I can feel vexed that I don't think it is sacred enough. How deep a pit am I willing to dig for myself? There is always a bigger shovel about for the willing, I know that much.

I know I am over-thinking. Again. It is nutrition, "Breast is best," … blah blah blah. Breast is nice. Wonderful and healthy. I will miss his little fat eyes on me while he is suckling. His fist bashing away at my breast to try and speed that damn thang up. I am not thinking about nutrition: I am having an insecure egocentric meltdown blast.

So there it is. I am afraid. But we'll find out. Not today or tomorrow, but soon. I hope I'm wrong. That's all I've got until then.

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  1. you will be fine. he will be fine. he will find other ways of comforting himself. i nursed all my kids and they all quit before the age of one on their own. they all found other ways of comforting themselves. there will come a time when he will be too busy looking at everything to nurse. he will nurse for ten seconds, and then look away… and then he will nurse then look away. you could use that time to find other ways to comfort him like holding him, rocking him, patting his butt, offering his binky, his favorite blankie… that kind of thing. i was always sad when my kids stopped too, but i realized that they still knew i was mamma and there were a lot of other ways i could show them love. they loved to sit on my lap and have their hair played with while i read them stories or while i rocked them in my arms and sang silly songs… he will love you if you quit. he will love you if you don't quit. but no matter what, he will know you are his mamma because you love him. he will still come for you for comfort and when he is tired. he will still come to you when he wants to be held. whether you are nursing or not. in his head you mean comfort and love and acceptance and touch. you can still offer those things even when you stop nursing.

    4 agree
  2. So beautiful. I don't know that I have precisely the same fears, but I do love the snuggles that come with breastfeeding, and it's sad for me to think that it's coming to an end (which it surely is, as my son does love to eat his regular food and is nursing less and less these days)

    I think it does help that my sister only nursed for about 6 weeks, and yet every time I see her and her daughter (now almost three) they are SO close. I mean, yeah, I still think that I will no longer be the favourite all the time once I don't nurse and my hubby can get on the ground and wrestle with him (my son is fast approaching 10 months old, so he's still little for that yet), but I know deep down that when he's sick or tired or just feeling particularly snuggly, my son will probably still come to me. ^_^

  3. I just weaned in December — I was terribly sick with Strep Throat, and Tavi decided he was over trying to get milk out of sick breasts. It was a pretty painless weaning process (we were both ready, I guess) but the biggest surprise for me was how much more affectionate with me he has been since weaning!

    My theory is that when he was still nursing, he was getting passive snuggles. There was no need to seek out physical contact with me, because he'd get it with every meal.

    But now he very actively seeks me out and gives me hilarious clumsy 14-month-old hugs. It's really sweet and totally soothed any worries I had that our relationship would feel less close after weaning.

    7 agree
    • Oh my god you just lightened my load 100%. I know you can't promise that my little monkey will do the same, but the mere possibility of it makes me smile. I've had the same kind of circular/rambling fears/thoughts as Gillie lately (my daughter is about to turn 1), mostly about the close and snuggle time as my daughter isn't a super snuggly kid at this point. Thanks for planting this seed.

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  4. The same fear followed me when we decided to wean our son at 18 months. To this day (he is now 2.5) my son places his hand down my shirt as almost a security blanket. Your child will always love you and starting them out with that skin to skin contact is like signing their name on a dotted line.

    • My son sticks his hand down my shirt too! (And my partner's shirt and his grandma's shirt and great aunt's…) It only started after we weaned (gently, easily, and without even really meaning to) at 13 months but he does it when he's tired, scared, happy, out in public, etc. I've mentioned it to a few people but not yet come across anyone else with a pawing toddler. Glad to know we're not so weird!

      OP, my son was an avid nurser, and I used nursing as a cure-all too. I thought the weaning process would be horrendous. I decided to stop offering during the day though because I was exhausted from his constant night-nursing and I figured maybe I could at least get a break during the day. I would nurse though if he "asked." Well, within a few days, it was as though he'd totally forgotten about it. Even at night, when he had nursed to sleep every night from his newborn days and woken up at least 3-4 times a night every night for a snack for all of his 13 months, he went to sleep just snuggling with me as though this were no big deal at all! Within a week, he was sleeping longer and longer stretches and not even asking to nurse when he woke up. It was AMAZING.

      And he still needed me just as much. My partner may provide much of the fun and playtime, but I'm always my son's go-to when he's hurt or tired or worried. If anything, my relationship with my son improved after weaning because I felt less like an object to him and more like a person whom he adores.

      4 agree
      • "I felt less like an object to him and more like a person whom he adores."

        This sums up exactly my experience too. When I was nursing, during darker moments, I felt like The Mothership, a vehicle that dispensed food and transportation from place to place.

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    • Funny thing is my 18 month old never successfully nursed, but she still gropes my boobs on a regular basis, and gets really mad if I'm wearing a crew neck, because it's harder to access my chest. She also likes to shout the word "boobs!" in front of various grand parents while pointing.

  5. I TOTALLY empathize with the "I’m cheating, and the “real” parenting skills with have to surface once I don’t have this gimmick" feeling.
    Every once in a while the thought has crossed my mind that we should find out a different bedtime routine or maybe it would be good to get him attached to a "lovey" that he can use to comfort himself when I'm not there or maybe Dad should take over the early evening wake-ups instead of Mom's Boobs….and yet we never change a thing. Partly because if it ain't broke… and partly because well, I think it comes down a little bit to laziness for me. It's sooo much easier to just let him nurse!

    Finn's always been so easy for the most part that I don't feel a great need to change what's working. But yeah, every once in a while I mildly panic about not having the mammary arsenal at hand…

    7 agree
    • Nooo! It's not cheating at all! Those "real" parenting skills? You've been using them all along… unless you have magical boobs that can fix everything from stuffy noses to poop-splosions, I guess. All you need is creativity and improvisation, and you're set.

      Breastfeeding is a great tool to teach our children how important they are to us and we are to them, so that when it ends they have that confidence in us as mothers to trust in whatever new routines or techniques we introduce. I know it sounds sappy, but I just went through it–and I never intended to wean my son! (Getting pregnant again made it excruciating, but I persevered for almost five months.) And having the will to wean has really boosted my confidence, since it went relatively smoothly and my son is just as amazing as ever.

      *Only caveat to my "go weaning!" outlook is that this is my son's third winter, ahd he's been sick ten times as much this time around; maybe there's something to be said for the beneficial antibodies in breastmilk even in the small quantities older kids get?

      1 agrees
  6. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, know the time is coming to wean my little Harper and have similar fears, worries, insecurities. Thank you for voicing them.

    1 agrees
  7. I love the "POP IT IN THERE" part. My husband is often jealous that I have this instant almost guaranteed fix-all. I tell him it's the payback for carrying the baby for nine months AND THEN birthing him.

    I think we all share these fears yet I don't see many people nursing as adults and most have an enormous love for their mothers. :)

    p.s. I also love the passive snuggles and big nursing eyes

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  8. babies are also drawn to their mothers' smell and the sound of their voice….your baby knows and loves you for those reasons too!

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  9. I can not imagine how I will get M to go to sleep in the evening. Without boob?? I can't imagine that, it's too difficult to contemplate

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  10. I totally had these fears with my son. I was working 80 hours a week and felt tremendous guilt about that, which I salved with "at least I'm breast feeding, at least we have that connection." We have a fabulous nanny and I was pretty much certain that when he weaned he would prefer her to me, now that I had absolutely no value to him.

    He weaned pretty naturally on his own at 10 months which was the right time for him and I was so tired of pumping that given that up wasn't the end of the world. He's now 2, and I look back and laugh at myself, worrying about it. He is totally connected to me, asks me to "nuggle" or "have hugs."

    I have had to change things a little bit — become a little bit more active in how I play with him, as I don't have that easy fallback of nursing. But the deep connection we made in our nursing relationship I think enriched our interactions now, as he is a busy two year old.

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  11. this is why i go to bed with my mp3 player every night, listening to sickly sweet vampire storys, to stop the overthinking. otherwise i lie there and worry and get angry for worrying and start to get anxious ´cause of the anger and all the worrying all the while knowing that this is ridiculous and then…the baby sighs in his sleep and it´s not that bad anymore.
    but still, i sooo get your point and loved the post!!!

  12. I nursed my son until he was just over age 2. He is 4 now and is incredibly affectionate. When I pick him up from preschool, he screams, "Mamma!!!!" and runs to me and just about knocks me over to jump on me and hug me. :) He still sits in my lap. He kisses and cuddles. Even though Dad makes better sound effects during playtime and knows the names of fighter jets, he still comes to me for cuddles. :)

  13. I weaned around 15 months. I do miss it, but I'm glad I'm not doing it anymore. It was a bummer to gain weight after I stopped breastfeeding, though. Dang it! I gained about 10 pounds. And I can't legitimately call it baby weight…

  14. "It’s handy. He is a little bit grumpy — POP IT IN THERE. I can’t remember the last time he ate POP IT IN THERE. We are having a little sweet cuddle on the couch POP IT IN THERE. It’s just always been there. That easy street. That no-fail. Like I’m cheating, and the “real” parenting skills with have to surface once I don’t have this gimmick. And now I can feel vexed that I don’t think it is sacred enough. How deep a pit am I willing to dig for myself? There is always a bigger shovel about for the willing, I know that much."

    Haha, this, especially the developing "real parenting skills," I'm right there with you, along with "the boobs are here." I'm still feeding my daughter, who's almost two, and I use my superpower, ugh, any time it will get things done with less screaming which include nap time, cranky time and so on. I think we'll be fine. I do have some of the same thoughts, but I try to over ride them with "we'll be fine."

    1 agrees
  15. "Like I’m cheating, and the “real” parenting skills with have to surface once I don’t have this gimmick." made me laugh out loud. That's exactly how I feel!

  16. This made me cry. I can relate to every bit of this. Although I LOVE having breastfeeding as a comforting tool, I also hate feeling that it's all I have. But I know he's mine no matter what by the morning cuddles. We co-sleep to breastfeed but he doesn't eat right away upon waking, just wants to smile and play with me at first.

    • This also made me cry! And couldn't have come at a better time. My husband and I have just started talking about weaning our 18 months old son. I originally wanted to nurse for 2 years but we are starting to think he's becoming too attached. He signs milk milk milk all day and gets really upset when mama says he has to wait. I've started offering him some goats milk in a cup at times when he has nursed recently and it works for a bit. At the very least I want it to get down to only nursing twice in 24 hours and maybe wean at 2 like I originally thought. Also though we are trying for a second and I dont know if I'm going to be down for nursing while I'm pregnant. Does anyone have an experience with that?

  17. I feel you. At 15 months my son was acting like he was ready to wean, and I did nothing but panic about if I was ready. It ended up not happening, but it made me take very serious stock of what the whole thing means to me and my identity as his mother.

    I promise, though; we'll both be okay. 😀

    1 agrees
  18. I have been SOOOO sad as my 8 month old has been weening. For the last two days she has CRIED when I offered her my breast. It's good to be reminded that there are other forms of affection. Also, my husband reminded me that I am free to have a glass of wine when ever I feel like it now!

  19. Thank you for this. I am struggling with weaning questions, too. My daughter is 6 weeks old, and eats like a champ I nurse her at least 12 times a day. She's unfortunately not gaining weight, and we are talking about supplementing with formula and/or switching to formula entirely. I make plenty of milk, but have been told that it doesn't have enough milk fat in it, and there really is no way I can change that with diet. My husband doesn't want us to use formula at all, and I'm torn between a fear of losing that contact, and the freedom that would come from my daughter knowing me as a person and not a food source (as the previous commenter so elegantly stated). I never had any idea that so much emotion could be tied up in something so simply and biologically basic. Good luck with your transition, and thank you so much for sharing your feelings in such a beautifully written post. I think many of us had/have the same feelings.

    • Please know that breastfed babies go through growth spurts and plateus. Listen to your doctor, but also please do your own research and trust your instincts. You would know if your baby is hungry and not getting enough. The weight gain may pick up in a few days, or even a week.

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  20. I'm a little different than other commenters here, because still nursing my 21 month old, and I love it. He has cut back, sure, but my little boob-a-holic is not going to self-wean anytime soon (I'd be surprised if it was before kindergarten, lord help me). I do have mixed feelings about nursing sometimes, and I know it won't continue forever, but I generally love that it's an easy fix for everything! I'm a lazy mom! I have no intention of trying out my non-boob-related parenting skills anytime soon – I know a good thing when I see it! Heehee.

    P.S. It's totally normal for babies to go through boob-obsessed phases and less boob-obsessed phases. So that keeps changing up too. And to the mom who has been advised that her milk doesn't have enough fat, that sounds very suspicious to me! Definitely seek a second opinion, and think about finding a good lactation consultant, I hope you can continue nursing since you are enjoying it!

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  21. I felt this way when my daughter went on (permanent) nursing strike at 3 months old. I was devastated. I felt that our whole relationship was based on her nursing, and if we didn't have that, what did we have?

    I went about forming a relationship with her that was based on my love for her, and her love for me, and it turns out that is longer lasting than the relationship based on breastfeeding.

    She is now 18 months, and is so bonded to me, I need a crowbar to remove her!

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  22. I intentionally didn't use my breast as a comfort tool or allow my daughter to fall asleep on the boob, and I think that helped drastically when she self-weaned around 7 months. She was more interested in "real" food, though we gave her supplemental bottles until 12 months. She was never very huggy with me during breastfeeding but as she got older she became Mama's little cuddler, and she cuddles me all the time. And she most often calls out for me in the night or if she is hurt, etc. but her father goes to her even if she calls for me – since he wants to comfort her too. I don't think boobs are really that necessary when it comes to love and comfort or even to go to sleep. We got by and get by fine! :-)

    1 agrees
  23. My baby is going to be a year old at the end of the month and I have no plan or intention on weaning him yet. I realize that part of this desire to let him self wean is selfish; my body has royally fucked up for 20 years, given that one of its major organs konked out on me when I was 16. So sometimes it's been kind of unreliable, especially when I've needed it to perform its best. Not so with breast milk. I have consistently been able to produce a lot breast milk, that, when pumped, leaves a creamy layer of fat at least an inch and a half deep on the bottle. So yeah, I guess I'm proud of my body for rocking it in the milk department, especially considering my disease and the number of nightmares I literally had while pregnant about my milk not coming in.

    Beyond that, my walrus milk has helped to produce a very healthy, very active, very strong little boy who is a joy to be around. And now that we've *almost* gotten over his biting stage (dude had 8 teeth by 10 months), I think we're ready for wherever the nursing takes us. If he decides that he's done in the next month or so, I will definitely be very sad. But I know that I've always had a hard time with transitions, and raising a child seems to be the ultimate test of transitions, and learning how to work gracefully through accepting them.

  24. as a mom who was unable to breastfeed, i might suggest doing some lactation consultant-style, conscious bonding techniques while you wean so you feel less freaked out (and hey maybe the baby will like it, too). i learned these things as ways to bond while trying to get my baby to BF and trying to get my boobs to make the walrus milk flow, ultimately without success. but we still do them, and i think it's nice.

    skin-to-skin time is built-in with nursing mothers' relationships to babies. bottle feeders can do it consciously. every morning after changing my son, i leave him in a diaper and take off my shirt. the first (bottle) feeding, we are smushed together, skin to skin, his head resting on my boob and arm. then we dance for a while. sometimes i work a few minutes of this into the day or as part of the evening routine, esp if it's been a fussy day.

    remembering to take quiet time alone with the baby, same as you might to nurse… using an airflow style bottle with a nipple that mimics your own, and starting the baby with very slow bottle feeding (chances are your own boobs don't just fire the stuff out like bottles do)… might help you guys with the transition.

    overcoming the mama's bad feelings about bottles is hard sometimes, if we're feeling like we'd rather be breastfeeding. i have taken a bunch of cute photos of him (bottle) feeding, especially with other people, who can now enjoy this kind of intimate moment with him, but also with me. and i've been sewing "bottle socks" that make the bottle exterior funky and fun, and able to absorb wayward milk, and easy to attach to my belt loop when we go for a walk…

    1 agrees
  25. I can relate to this. We did a very organic and painless weaning at 12 months, he was ready to move on to the sippy and never complained when I offered it instead of the boob. I however, was not so ready. I missed the no brainer, no effort bonding time. I also worried about other more "fun" people in his life edging me out when it came to my babies affection. After all I don't stand by the dryer for half an hour like Grandma does letting him twist the knobs. It was Grandma (my Mom) who reassured me. She said, you are the constant, you are the always, you are the one that has been there from the get go as the ultimate word in comfort. That will never change, you will always be Mommy. Even though you might have to do more active stuff (reading, talking, playing) once you stop breastfeeding, you will do that stuff and you will want to do that stuff cause you are Mama. That will never change.

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  26. My thoughts are, that…EVERYONE weans. Yet toddlers and people obviously still have great relationships with their mothers. So, you are probably fine. 😉

  27. I had very little milk, and a gruesome time getting breastfeeding going, so now, at 15 months, I am inclined to think that I will never be the one to initiate the end of something I fought so hard to get going. Women among my group of friend have weaned at all different sorts of ages and for all different sorts of reasons, and they all report that their kids continue, months and years later, to have very positive associations with their mother's smell and embrace — and those are things you never have to give up.

  28. I think about this all the time! My son is 6 months, and while I don't foresee weaning in the immediate future, I do wonder what makes me different aside from the boobie connection we have. Will he then clearly prefer his grandmother over me? Or his dad? Or any other loving woman? No, of course that's silly. But it's still in my head.

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