Weaning with Attention

The following was taken from a discussion on the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of parents.

Hi dear parents,

I am hoping to hear from those of you who have weaned a child. My daughter is almost two, and we are still nursing two to four times a day.

Nursing is one of many ways that she and I are close to one another, but I can tell [perceive] that for her it is sometimes also a way to escape hard feelings—maybe about being separated from me or about her birth.

I have enjoyed this time of nursing, but I’d like to make room for her to discharge more. I would also like to be finished with this piece of the labor of mothering and find even more ways to connect with her.

I have two older children. The first was unable to nurse, which was a big disappointment. The second seemed to lose interest in it after her dad and I separated and we regularly spent two to three days apart. This last child and I have had the longest opportunity to enjoy nursing, and I have treasured it. I cry as I write this, so I guess I know where to discharge!

I would love to hear about how nursing has gone for you. People talk and offer strong opinions about so many “methods”—a huge part of parents’ oppression, no doubt! How did you set it up? What worked for you?




Thanks for writing with your question about weaning. It sounds like you have already figured out that we moms need to discharge our separation feelings when we stop nursing. That’s great! The discharging helps us to notice what our child is going through when we’re weaning and to have the attention to give sessions, particularly about separation.

I would suggest that you wean slowly and allow your daughter to discharge as you go. You could start by cutting down by one nursing time a day. You could talk with her about how you are cutting back because she can eat other food now, and how you both still get to be close, and ask her what she thinks about it. Even if she is agreeable, you will need to pay attention to the feelings that might come up for her.

As you know, nursing is a lovely way to be close. Also, heavy feelings—of separation, for example—can get mixed up with it, so weaning is an opportunity for your daughter to discharge anything she might have put aside during the period when she was nursing. Spend a lot of time with her during the times she had expected to nurse and see if she misses it. She may cry. Or you can play games with her about not nursing and see if she laughs. Or you can just play and laugh with her about anything.

Doing more special time is also a good idea, to give her the security to be able to show you her distress.

Probably the last time of day to stop nursing is bedtime, when all the feelings from the day tend to come up. I would play and be close to her at bedtime, as much as you can. You can eventually say, “We’re not going to nurse right now,” and see if there’s a session there. If she has a good cry, you can also nurse after that.

Stretch the process out for as long as you can and see what your daughter can tell you. You can get closer in the process.

Marya Axner

International Liberation Reference Person for Parents

Somerville, Massachusetts, USA


It has been great to read the posts about nursing and weaning and remember my days of nursing my son, who is now eleven. I want to add another element to this discussion, from the perspective of a USer.

U.S. society separates and divides us every step of the way and puts a premium on [values highly] a particular picture of independence. People started asking me if I had weaned my son when he was six months old. The underlying message was that he needed to be independent and start separating from me and that it was “good” for him and “good” for me to stop nursing.

In general I would let my son nurse for as long as he wanted. At times I would tell him that we were not going to nurse at that moment and that we could be close in other ways or he could have a session about wanting to nurse. I needed lots of sessions about closeness and separation to be able to counsel him. There were also probably plenty of times when he nursed primarily for comfort and closeness. It’s true that feelings about closeness and separation get mixed in with nursing, but it’s also a wonderful, human way to be close.

When my son was about two and a half, he gradually stopped asking to nurse, and I stopped offering.

Now he is eleven and is still welcome to sleep with my partner and me in the same bed. I have had to stand my ground on this [persist with this in the face of opposition] with my male partner. My son has chosen to stay in bed with us and snuggle every night and most mornings. Lately he’s been experimenting with sleeping on a separate mattress in the same room. I get to have my own sessions about separation and loss and then marvel at how smart he is in finding his way.

The pressure to be separate from others is so fierce and persistent in U.S. society. Both my nursing and sleeping decisions have been based on fighting for closeness with my son in the face of what the society deems is “acceptable” and “good” for families. I have a different understanding: that self-confidence and independence come from having a solid base and home and that my job as a parent is to nurture and preserve that.

Different things are possible in each family. I think it’s useful to think about how, given what our lives are like, we can preserve and fight for closeness with our children while at the same time giving them (and ourselves) opportunities to work on the feelings about separation and closeness.


(Present Time 193, October 2018)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00