Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughts on Weaning

In the Montessori tradition, weaning generally happens between 10-14 months, as children start eating more solid food. Weaning is considered to be an important part of helping children cultivate their independence.

That timeline fits with my own preferences for weaning. Once we got over the three rocky months at the beginning, breastfeeding has been much easier. And it's been awesome knowing that I'm nourishing Henry with the healthiest possible thing. But I'm eager to reclaim my body and my independence.

Last week, Henry and I seemed to come down with a yeast problem. He had thrush in his mouth, and I think he passed the yeast infection to my breast (sorry to be graphic, but it felt like shards of glass getting sucked through). It caused me to cut back his milk feedings from five times a day to three. As I am away from the house more and more with my work, I imagine Henry will be breastfeeding less and less until he stops altogether. We've decided not to give him cow's milk to drink every day and instead give him his fat and calcium through other dairy products (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc.), since the protein in milk can be difficult to digest.

There's a wonderful ritual in the Living Passages for the Whole Family book. The author weaned her child at age two, so the ceremony makes sense in ways that don't really make sense for Henry as a one year-old. But I enjoyed reading the ritual and reconnecting with the bigger picture vision of what it means to be a mother.

Here's an excerpt from the poem:
Rise now--you have been nourished well.
Rise now--you have been made strong.
Rise now--knowing life courses through you.

And an excerpt from the script:
"From the time you were a tiny seed inside me, you were fed from my body. When you were born into this world as a baby, you were fed from my breasts. Now, I give you this cup, so you can feed yourself."

I am so thankful for my year of connecting so intimately with my sweet boy and nourishing him through me.

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Rachel said...

I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks and really enjoy it. I'm sorry if my first comment is a little bit negative, but you have a very wide audience and I think it's important to be careful in a discussion of Montessori and weaning, especially since you plan to be involved with Montessori schools. While nursing until a year is awesome and there's nothing at all wrong with weaning at this point because you are done, I don't think that really fits into the Montessori philosophy. Maria Montessori believed in science and evolving knowledge and every international organization/scientific body today is convinced that nursing past a year is good for not only health but social development of the toddler. There really is absolutely no evidence that nursing past a year decreases independence (in fact, it's quite the opposite). While there is the teaching of Maria Montessori, there is also the evolving body of knowledge created by the Montessori community, and that consensus encourages nursing as long as the nursing relationship is working for both baby and mother.

Which is to say, you should be so proud of nursing this long, especially with a rough start, and by all means wean if you are ready, but please don't chalk it up to Montessori-encouraged independence.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks for your feedback, Rachel! Do you mind posting some links to the evolving Montessori theory you're referencing? I would love to read it. I'm at a training right now so I can't look back at the information I'm referencing. I'll try to do it later. Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue.

Onnie said...

Hi Sara - I also thought you might be interested to read this particular post on Maria Montessori and a modern interpretation of her take on what we now call "attachment parenting":

It has relevance to the Montessori "weaning & child independence" discussion because it seems to me the long held tradition has been that Montessori promoted weaning after 9 months. However, my limited understanding is that the infants Montessori herself worked with were orphans, and were weaning from a bottle. Bottles aren't really good for tooth development anyway, so anyone who is using one should probably try and move toward a cup at this age or earlier (like you and Matt worked on with Henry). Note that the most important quote MommyBahn mentions in regards to breastfeeding & extended nursing references Montessori's talking about following the child's social needs - as I'm sure you're aware, feeding from the breast is about more than nutrition!

Personally I'd think extended nursing offers a chance to teach a valuable lesson about respect for other people's bodies - where else can you learn better about privacy, good/appropriate touching, and the importance of sharing something so unique and precious? Nursing toddlers seem ripe for understanding these sorts of lessons. But if you're following the "natural laws" of breastfeeding, your most important cue is whether Henry himself is ready to wean - and of course ever since he started solids he's probably given you cues as to his own amazing growing independence, including learning to nourish himself (that cup drinking video is fantastic!).

Jenny said...

Congratulations on making it to a year nursing! Many women aren't able to and you should feel proud.

Anonymous said...

There's a donor milk bank in Austin for sick babies. Seems like the kind of thing you'd be interested in.

MBD said...

Hey Sara - there's a post today on A Cup of Jo about her experience with weening and an onset of depression that came along with it. Obviously I hope you don't have a similar experience, but I felt the need to share the post.

And congratulations on a successful year of breastfeeding!

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