Breastfeeding can be such a sacred time in our lives. While we cherish the breastfeeding journey, it is rare in our culture to commemorate the end of breastfeeding with little more than a note in the baby book. If breastfeeding was important to you, consider celebrating your experiences and remembering this special transition with a weaning ceremony.
Your weaning ceremony can serve multiple purposes. If you choose to involve your child, it can be an event to mark the end of nursing – something that mother and child gently discuss and plan in anticipation of weaning. For mothers and their partners, a weaning ceremony is a way to honor the transition from breastfeeding to nursing beyond the breast, and all of the emotions that accompany that change.
Some children may not benefit from a definite, marked end to the nursing relationship. If a slow, natural end to breastfeeding is more comfortable for your child, you can still hold a quiet ceremony by yourself, with your spouse, or with other mothers who can understand and support you through this transition. Don’t be afraid to mourn the end of breastfeeding – it is a normal and healthy response to this change. But after you’ve given yourself time to mourn, consciously meditate on the joys of mothering a child who has weaned. A weaning ceremony can help you mindfully navigate this change.
Below are 12 weaning ceremony ideas that you can adapt to meet your own needs and those of your nursling. If you have other ceremony ideas, please share them in the comments so I can add them to the list.
- Write your nursling a letter. Include anything you’d like to share about your nursing relationship, what this change means to you, your hopes and dreams for them, etc. I found two examples of weaning letters: one at Mothering.com, the other from a Jewish mother at ritualwell.
- Anoint yourself with herbs for weaning. Herbs can help with physical discomfort and emotional healing. Kellymom lists several herbs to help decrease milk supply, including sage and peppermint. Earth Mama Angel Baby makes a No More Milk tea that includes some of these herbs. And because you will experience a drop in prolactin levels during weaning, it may also help to prepare yourself with herbal remedies for depression.(1) Herbs to help alleviate depression that are safe to use while breastfeeding include St. Johnís wort, Evening primrose oil, Motherwort, and Blessed thistle.(2)
- Write your breastfeeding story. Start with those milky newborn memories – the pursed lips nursing even after they’ve unlatched, sleepy rooting at all hours of the day and night, the newness of life and the awe of continuing to grow your baby with your own body. Continue on through infancy – those milky smiles, dive bombing for your breast, the day your little one first starts babbling or signing in a recognizable way for milk. Write about the joys of breastfeeding past infancy – nursing gymnastics, manners, nursing away every hurt, the special words and phrases you and your nursling share.(3) Share the highs and lows of your nursing experience and the emotions you’ve gone through along the way. Here are two stories to get you started: one at Kellymom, another at La Leche League International.
- Throw a weaning party. For little ones who need a celebration to mark the occasion of weaning, consider having an intimate party – just you and your nursling and partner. Make special foods, bake a cake, whatever makes it special for your family. Here is an example of a weaning party.
- Write a book. Create a personal book for your child about their breastfeeding journey, their babyhood, and their transition into a “big kid.”
- Hold a special ceremony for your nursling.Sometimes breastfeeding pairs need to wean when neither mama nor child is ready. In these situations, a special ceremony may help mark the day of weaning, helping the child clearly see the end of nursing while beginning the grieving process for both in a bittersweet way.Jessica of The Leaky B@@b was pregnant, gaining very little weight, and felt pressured by her care providers to wean. To help give closure to her 21 month old nursling, Jessica, her husband, and the big sisters all wrote a special note for the nursling. After eating a special meal together, the family gathered around a candle. Jessica invited her nursling to climb into her lap for one last nursing session. As her nursling snuggled in, the family read their letters to the child. They also gave her several sweet gifts. When she was finished nursing, she blew out the candle.
While your weaning ceremony will be memorable and sweet, be prepared for nurslings to continue to ask to nurse. They simply do not understand what it means to wean forever, and you will very likely have to soothe many tears in the weeks to come (as Jessica did).
- Give yourself (and/or your child) a gift. Find something special that represents this transition. I highly recommend Hollyday Designs breastmilk jewelry – it is beautiful.
- Create a breastfeeding scrapbook. Gather pictures and/or video of you and your little one snuggling and nursing and compile them into a keepsake scrapbook (a virtual one or one that you can hold).
- Go on a date. Take your nursling somewhere special. Make it an event that represents how “grown up” they are.
- Tell your child their nursing story. Regardless of whether you write it down, tell your little one about your nursing journey as you’ve lived it. Telling them this story over the years will help normalize breastfeeding for them, and it will help you both retain sweet memories from their nursing years.
- Choose a special time to be together. If you or your little one are missing a regular nursing time, find something special you can do together every day at that time instead. Think about snuggling, reading, yoga, meditation, art, or some other activity you will both enjoy. For as long as you need to throughout and after the weaning process, take a few moments at the beginning of your special time to check in with yourself and truly be present with your child.
- Design your own ritual.Several cultures and religions have weaning ceremonies. Research them and design a ceremony that will be meaningful to your family. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Did you do something to mark the end of your breastfeeding relationship? Please share in the comments.
(1) From Kellymom: “Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects.”
(2) Safe herb list found here. It also says that St. Johnís wort should not be taken in conjunction with any other depression medication.
(3) And if you’d like to share your nursing past infancy story, consider submitting it to my series. See my Contributor Guidelines page for more details.
Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of two amazing kids, Kieran and Ailia. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with little ones. Dionna is also cofounder of Natural Parents Network and NursingFreedom.org, and author of For My Children: A Mother’s Journal of Memories, Wishes, and Wisdom.
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