Breast is best for babies, but what about toddlers? Actress and nursing mom Mayim Bialik stirs the debate on how long is too long to breastfeed—and shares her four-step weaning plan.
"I believe in child-led weaning, and as Fred rounded the 2-year mark, I was still experiencing a milk let-down, I was still leaking, and since I had a child with some food allergies, I was fine with continuing nursing. I loved nursing and so did [Fred]. I loved nursing Fred. Around 2 1/2 years old, though (about 6 months ago), I started wanting a little bit less of loving nursing Fred," she writes in a post entitled, "It May Be Time to Wean My Three Year Old."
The Four-Step Plan
Bialik, who is also a passionate advocate of gentle discipline, does not want Fred to feel like he is being punished by having the comfort of nursing taken away. With the help of her La Leche League leader, Bialik is currently following a four-step plan to achieve her goal of gentle, child-led weaning:
- Stop Pumping: Bialik notes that "... the first thing I did was that I stopped pumping. I was pumping about 3 to 4 ounces a day, so this did not lead to a huge shift in demand. I made sure to watch for engorgement or plugged ducts (which some women experience when the demand shifts), hand expressing as needed to relieve pressure."
- "No Ask, No Refuse": Bialik no longer offers to nurse before she heads off to work and her husband (who is at home) is prepared for Fred to sometimes ask for milk and cry for Bialik. "Fortunately, this only happened a few times, and Fred is now effectively day-weaned, often lasting until 5 PM before asking to nurse, which I am happy to do (that's the 'no refuse' part of the equation)," the former Blossom star details.
- Accept a Bottle ... For Now: According to Bialik, Fred now wants water in a bottle a few times a day. "I am not thrilled, but it seems like an OK transitional step which we may end up having to wean him from at some point. My trepidation about bottles is that in the past, we only wanted bottles to contain breast milk, since that's what we think they are for."
- Continued Night Nursing: For now, Bialik is still nursing Fred to sleep and breastfeeding when he wakes during the night. His night wakings seem to be tapering off right along with breastfeeding, however. "Some nights in the past few months, we have had 'only' two wake-ups, and on those nights I find myself still waking up two or three more times, wondering if I should stay awake.
The process is ongoing, says Bialik, but "I never ever believed that I would be nursing a child over the age of 3. But now that I am, I believe when he is done, he will be done."