Self-weaning

What is self-weaning?

Self-weaning is allowing a child, usually a toddler or older child, to decide when and how to stop breastfeeding. It is relatively rare in babies less than a year old and usually happens at between two and four years old. Self-weaning is often the easiest and safest way to wean. It is gentle and happens gradually as the number of feeds per day slowly decreases. It prevents painful breast problems and may be easier for the child than other forms of weaning.

A) Describing self-weaning

Self-weaning is allowing a child to decide when and how to stop breastfeeding. It usually happens after the first year of life and commonly at between two and four years of age. Nearly all children have stopped breastfeeding by the age of seven.

Situations in which self-weaning is more likely to happen under the age of one are when the mother:

On occasion, a baby under the age of one may suddenly refuse to breastfeed. This is called a breastfeeding strike. The baby may or may not return to the breast.

Self-weaning should not be confused with short feeds, which are normal as the baby grows and are not a sign of weaning.

This is different from baby-led weaning (self-feeding) which means allowing the baby to eat solids with no or minimal help.

B) Advantages

Self-weaning is often the easiest and safest way to wean. It is gentle and happens gradually as the number of feeds per day slowly decreases over weeks and months. This prevents painful breast problems caused by fullness and avoids having the baby become upset from being forced to wean. The last feed before complete weaning is usually the feed before bed.

C) Disadvantages

Self-weaning happens on the baby’s schedule and not the mother’s. Some mothers may need to or choose to wean before the baby self-weans.