This Breastfeeding Celebrity Mom Is Gently Weaning Her 3-Year-Old

breastfeeding toddlerWhile the good majority of breastfeeding literature states that children should be allowed to self-wean, this doesn't mean what many sarcastic commenters take as "letting them nurse until they're in college." An understanding of biology makes that hyperbolic statement rather irritating anyway, but the real point is, there is an equally recommended way of initiating weaning that is still child-led and respectful of the child. It's also gradual, which helps prevent any problems for the mother that too quick of weaning can cause, like clogged ducts, mastitis, and engorgement.

So when a famous mother of two talks about how she is weaning her 3-year-old, I want to know all about it. 

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Mayim Bialik, mother to a 6-year-old and nursing 3-year-old Fred, recently wrote about her experience with gently, slowly reducing Fred's nursing sessions on her blog, Kveller. A main part of her focus is her child's emotions and well-being, as well as, of course, avoiding any repercussions of her own. If you're not familiar with her, she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience ... oh yeah, and played a young Bette Midler in Beaches and, even more famously, was "Blossom."

With her degree, she focuses a lot on the hormonal and mental benefits of breastfeeding, even for the mother and her attachment, but also says gentle discipline is really important, because "we're starting to see more and more research substantiating that children hurt when you hurt them." Bialik refers to it as the "no ask, no refuse" method, but I've generally seen it said as "don't ask, don't refuse." But that's just semantics.

Bialik's first step was to stop pumping at work. Since she was only pumping 3 to 4 ounces, quitting cold turkey didn't have too much of an effect. For moms who pump more, weaning from pumping should generally be a little more gradual. Her son decided he still wanted water in the bottle, which I wince at, but she says that's a hurdle they'll jump at a later time.

During the day, though, it's pretty simple: she doesn't offer to nurse him, but if Fred asks, she doesn't turn him down. See how it's still a child-led weaning solution, but one that is parent-initiated? Rather than nursing him in the morning before work like she was used to, she'd get ready and leave, without breastfeeding. She says right now, he generally will make it until 5 p.m. or so before he even asks and is basically "day weaned."

The biggest thing to remember is that this is a process -- with steps forward, and steps back:

This is not a linear process. There are weeks when Fred asks to nurse in the middle of the day, and days when he takes a big fall and cuddles up next to me as he sobs, gazing at my breast and then at me, silently asking if it’s okay.

Sometimes a mom who is gentle guiding weaning will think her toddler is finished, which can be bittersweet (sometimes emphasis on the sweet), but a week later, her child asks again. Some mothers will choose to redirect; others will allow the rare nursing session until the child no longer asks. But just like anything, the whole process is all about allowing normal mental and emotional development for the child and can be a slow process, but one that is done lovingly and with respect.

And really, I think Bialik is an awesome, amazing woman. TV star, neuroscientist, and gentle, sweet mother. What a great example she sets for working and non-working moms alike!

Did you use the "don't ask, don't refuse" method of weaning? What do you think of it?


Image via stockerre/Flickr

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