Is 7-month old ready to wean?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 29, 2009 06:00 AM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Question: Is my seven-month-old son weaning himself or on a nursing strike? He's just gotten his top two teeth in and combined with a stuffy/runny nose, is biting but not willing to nurse. Though he is teething a bit and likes to chew on things, he never seems really bothered or in pain. I pump at work to keep my supply up as high as possible but he's supplemented with formula as its not enough and my supply is crashing into nothing as I can't get those night nursings in. Now every time I try to nurse, he BITES HARD and is more interested than cooing, smiling, and chewing on me than really feeding. He does this even when he's hungry and sleepy which used to be his favorite time to nurse, he will happily accept a bottle after these episodes and gets right down to eating. Everything I've read regarding this keeps telling me that its "extremely rare" for a baby this young to wean himself and that I should keep trying to get him back to nursing, it's really important, "breast is best" and so on, enough to make me feel really guilty. But the pain is incredible and after two bites on each side, I've had enough. I've tried saying no, using a nipple shield, nursing only when hungry, keeping a finger ready to get him off, pressing his face into me to get him to stop, not feeding for 30 minutes after a bite. So how long should I keep trying? It's been a week and I'm getting anxious about the pain of the biting every time I try to nurse and my supply is falling fast!

From: Sarah, Acton

Hi Sarah,

We all feel your pain, emotional and physical, and I know that your question will elicit lots of responses from nursing moms who have been there, done that. I'm also certain there will be lots of good advice as well as plenty of women telling you not to give up. But I get to weigh in first!

So let me say, first of all, that I am an advocate of breast-feeding and I've written many times about why, if it's at all possible, it's important to breastfeed. That said, having nursed for more than six months, you have already given your son a gift of immunity along with lots of other good things. So, yes, I do understand the guilt, and nursing longer might be nice, but it isn't always possible. Some babies (mine included), are done sooner than others, and so are some moms. I was determined to nurse for a minimum of six months and I made it to seven and that made me very happy. Even though there are many reasons to continue, it just wasn't happening with my little duet. And that may be the case with yours, too. So don't beat yourself up.

If your baby was younger, I would say this is not likely a message that he's ready to wean. But developmentally, between 6- and 8-months, the typical baby loses interest in nursing because he or she reaches a heightened level of cognition and becomes more interested in what's going on around him and less interested in focusing on nursing. So nursing becomes more a way of nourishing the relationship than the body. Sometimes when moms are able to stay with it and express enough to keep the supply up, a baby will show renewed interest in the breast.


I answer a question from a reader every weekday. If you want help with
some aspect of child-rearing, just write to me here.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

18 comments so far...
  1. Breastfeeding is best ONLY when it truly works for both mom and baby. If it's causing you undue stress, it's no longer working for you. If you are willing to keep trying, that's awesome, but if you don't, please don't feel guilty about it. If you do want to keep trying, please contact a lactation consultant or your local chapter of La Leche League for advice. Regardless of what you choose, your baby will get what he needs to grow.

    Posted by akmom October 29, 09 10:34 AM
  1. I second #1. The most important thing for a happy baby is a happy mom. If breastfeeding is stressing both of you out too much, the majority of the benefits of breastfeeding have already happened.

    Posted by C October 29, 09 11:34 AM
  1. I feel your pain. My son was 9 months old when he started biting me everytime he nursed. I put up for it for about a week, and then I stopped. I was way too painful, and I think he could sense my anxiety when I would try to nurse him again.

    I continued to pump, until he was about 14 months old, and mixed breast milk with formula and then with regular milk when he turned 12 months. 2 reasons I continued to pump for so long: 1. my supply was very high, and I was in so much pain if I didn't pump, 2. GUILT!!!
    I am now pregnant again with my second, and I have promised myself that I will not guilt myself into prolonging breastfeeding if it's not working for me or for baby. I will of course breastfeed my second one, and will go for as long as I can, but I will not continue to try to nurse if this baby starts biting me and causing me pain, discomfort, anxiety, etc.

    Try not to feel guilty. As Barbara said, you have gone 7 long months, which has greatly benefitted your baby. Congratulations for that!

    Posted by mamabear October 29, 09 11:42 AM
  1. You should try again with nursing after a few days. Your son might be more willing to nurse after the current round of tooth pain subsides. Your supply might be diminished, and you may not get it back to what it was before, but once he's nursing again, you can nurse every two hours over the weekend to get your supply up.

    This is what happened to my little girl when she was 8 months old (she's 1 now): she wouldn't take a bottle and nursed exclusively even though I worked full time (she would just nurse a lot in the evening and at night). She went on a nursing strike at 8 months old after she bit me and I cried out in pain (even though I know better, it hurt!) It caused a lot of anxiety because for the 2 or 3 days of the nursing strike, she really wasn't drinking a lot. But she finally started up again and we nursed for a couple more months until she got used to drinking milk out of a sippy cup.

    Good luck!!

    Posted by Alisa October 29, 09 11:44 AM
  1. Personally, I weaned at around 5 or 6 months because my mother's supply was low and I was supplemented anyway. I plan to nurse for the first 6 months and then take it as it comes. Barbara is right -- you've already given your baby a huge gift and you've made it this far and that's excellent for him!! I hope you will give yourself a break (and some credit!!) and not feel guilty because he's losing interest. It doesn't sound like anything you are doing is incorrect or causing this. Plus, the biting sounds painful -- ow!!

    - also from Acton :)

    Posted by ExpectantMom October 29, 09 11:45 AM
  1. I'm fairly sure it's a nursing strike, that is very typical for 7 month olds. Please keep trying. Even just keeping up that nursing relationships once or twice a day (maybe at bedtime) will be invaluable for you and him. Once you wean, you can't go back. I weaned too early (12 months) and I still regret it.

    Posted by Edi October 29, 09 12:04 PM
  1. My son did the same thing at 7 months. I wasn't as nice as you are about the biting. I just shrieked in pain, which made him cry, then I put him down. He did go back to nursing after about 8 days or so, but he did not try to bite me again, so I was able to continue and get my supply back up.

    You need to decide if it's worth it. Right now, your son has figured out that the bottle gives him milk faster and with less work than the breast, so he may prefer to stick with that. If you really want to continue nursing, you will need to take away the bottle for a while to make it clear that milk only comes from mommy.

    But if you are working and aren't with him all day, or if you decide it's just too much aggravation and pain, then it's fine to call it a day. You've given him your best, and there are lots of formula-fed people running the world these days!

    Posted by Ashley October 29, 09 12:37 PM
  1. When kids grow teeth they are clearly ready for somthing more than a nipple. Far too many moms nure too long.

    Posted by Sandra October 29, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Call it quits, m'dear!

    My daughter got her teeth in early--first one at four months! She started biting in earnest at six months and I called it a day at seven. I felt guilt then but no longer. I wish I'd known how common it was to stop after the biting problem. But my doctors were all very supportive and thought it was great we'd lasted that long.

    Edi, nursing only works if YOU'RE NOT IN PAIN!

    Posted by mom of a biter October 29, 09 01:15 PM
  1. Sandra, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends one year of nursing (6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and 6 more months of breastfeeding supplemented by other foods). It is not that "too many moms nurse too long," it is that the medical establishment promotes nursing as the healthiest way to go for the first *year* of a child's life. I think in general, moms handle breastfeeding just fine.

    But to the OP, nursing is wonderful as long as it works for you. I commend you for trying even though your baby seems to have lost interest. It is okay to stop if it has become painful. You've done him a wonderful service by nursing him as long as you have.

    Posted by jlen October 29, 09 02:20 PM
  1. I feel so bad for you moms who feel so guilty about everything. Don't call the lechers league or get otherwise guilted into continuing to try when it's so painful and unnecessary.

    He's got your immunities, your bonding time, and your nutrition. He will be just great, and you'll feel better when you're not stressed.

    I just spent a weekend with a breastfeeding friend with a 3 month old, and I was so over it after 2 days. I really don't know how you can all stand it! No one could ever appreciate what it takes unless they're there. Hats off to all you ladies!

    Posted by rukidding October 29, 09 02:21 PM
  1. It is admirable that you made it seven months. Give yourself a pat on the back, follow baby's lead, and switch to the bottle. This won't be the last time your son tells you he is growing up and ready to move on before you're ready.

    Posted by geocool October 29, 09 02:23 PM
  1. Supplementing with formula will naturally make your baby wean earlier because your supply decreases, making it a lot more work for the baby. With your dedication, you have made it to 7 months. Dont' feel bad for taking cues from your baby!! Let him nurse when he wants, stop when he bites. You're doing fine.

    Posted by Christine L October 29, 09 04:56 PM
  1. I breastfed my son until he turned three and to think I'm cup size 32a (or less) foolishly thinking I won't have enough milk....even I myself couldn't believe I was able to do it. I had stopped working and was determined to do it for at least a year as recommended or for as long as my son and I enjoyed it. I still recall sacrificing sleep (an understatement), the difficulty of using the pump & the excruciating pain if I had stopped which was worse than working overtime in a corporate job but it was all worth it & never regretted it one bit. (never even attempted to use formula) I found my son in toddlerhood not clingy, more mature, confident, trusting, no bedwetting after graduating from diapers, sleeps soundly, & most of all he didn't have any tantrums nor any hint of a sniffle until he started preK at 3 1/2. I'd say if you & your child no longer enjoy it, by all means stop and and don't feel guilty but be happy that you've done it. And yes, I attribute all the positive things to breastfeeding. I did try to introduce cow's milk at 18 months but he won't even smell it.

    Posted by persevereifyoucan October 30, 09 12:48 AM
  1. Here's a shock for all you ladies...I breast fed my daughter until she was 4.5. That would have made me ill before I had her, but in the end it was quite normal feeling. Obviously it wasn't as much as when she was a baby, but mostly at bed time. It was really helpful when she went through the chicken pox and any illness...instant comfort and anti-viral food.
    I think the problem is supplement feeding with formula. It means it is easier for him to eat, so why would he bother trying to nurse, and it means that your supply goes down. I think it is better for both of you if you could continue at least a year, but if you can't or don't want to, that's your own business.

    Posted by Milky October 30, 09 04:29 AM
  1. My eldest nursed until she was nearly two. My youngest stopped at seven months, no matter what I did to try to keep her on the breast. Both are now grown, smart, healthy and successful young women. What's right for one isn't right for another. Your son may have what he needs from you right now. You're doing fine as a mom!

    Posted by martha October 30, 09 06:26 AM
  1. I've nursed my 3 children to over 1 year each (my middle one until almost 2 1/2!) but I'd say you are fine to call it quits with this story! Each mom/baby pair is different. At 6 mos. they start getting nutrition from food and at 7 mos. they get more interested in the world around them. No reason to beat yourself up, you've done really well nursing this long! I'd give it a rest for a day or two, see if he wants to start again, and after that drop it if he isn't interested. I'd also stop trying to use nursing as nutrition, maybe go to the bottle for everything except the "comfort feeds" before bed and when he wakes up in the am. Don't worry about your supply ... it is well established now and can handle that (unless you worry about it!)

    Oh, and with biting, definitely put him down immediately but with no reaction (no ow! or getting mad if you can help it). He'll come to associate food stopping with biting rather than a fun game that gets a reaction from you :)

    Good luck, please enjoy your baby rather than worrying! He will grow up fine regardless of what you do right now, I promise!

    Posted by Cathie bf'ing mom to 3 October 30, 09 12:12 PM
  1. Thanks for all the wonderful comments, I really appreciate everyone's feedback. To clarify a few things for other who may be reading through all this, I had major problems when we started breastfeeding with correct latch. I was working with a lactation consultant who is very experienced and competent and we must have had 6-7 sessions within the first two months trying to get it right. Ultimately, we latched with a nipple shield and gradually weaned off at 3-4 months. I also pumped 30-40 minutes EVERY THREE HOURS with a hospital pump, and I'm NOT EXAGGERATING for the first two months when I was on mat leave and then loads at work and then after every feeding. I also took fenugreek (and experimented with LOADS of other herbs) and finally ended up on domperidone to try and boost my supply. After all that, I only got 10-14 oz pumped at work and maybe one good night feeding and a few tiny snacks during the night. I had to supplement with formula, there was no other option. I've also kept him on a super SLOW nipple (playtex naturlatch) and we had him on the Breastflow bottle until around 5 months which is an amazing bottle to help with breastfeeding and actually helped us wean off the nipple shield.

    We are also on day 10-11 of this "strike" and he's not even a tiny bit interested in my boobs. Thanks again for all the wonderful support.

    Posted by Sarah November 2, 09 11:34 AM
 
18 comments so far...
  1. Breastfeeding is best ONLY when it truly works for both mom and baby. If it's causing you undue stress, it's no longer working for you. If you are willing to keep trying, that's awesome, but if you don't, please don't feel guilty about it. If you do want to keep trying, please contact a lactation consultant or your local chapter of La Leche League for advice. Regardless of what you choose, your baby will get what he needs to grow.

    Posted by akmom October 29, 09 10:34 AM
  1. I second #1. The most important thing for a happy baby is a happy mom. If breastfeeding is stressing both of you out too much, the majority of the benefits of breastfeeding have already happened.

    Posted by C October 29, 09 11:34 AM
  1. I feel your pain. My son was 9 months old when he started biting me everytime he nursed. I put up for it for about a week, and then I stopped. I was way too painful, and I think he could sense my anxiety when I would try to nurse him again.

    I continued to pump, until he was about 14 months old, and mixed breast milk with formula and then with regular milk when he turned 12 months. 2 reasons I continued to pump for so long: 1. my supply was very high, and I was in so much pain if I didn't pump, 2. GUILT!!!
    I am now pregnant again with my second, and I have promised myself that I will not guilt myself into prolonging breastfeeding if it's not working for me or for baby. I will of course breastfeed my second one, and will go for as long as I can, but I will not continue to try to nurse if this baby starts biting me and causing me pain, discomfort, anxiety, etc.

    Try not to feel guilty. As Barbara said, you have gone 7 long months, which has greatly benefitted your baby. Congratulations for that!

    Posted by mamabear October 29, 09 11:42 AM
  1. You should try again with nursing after a few days. Your son might be more willing to nurse after the current round of tooth pain subsides. Your supply might be diminished, and you may not get it back to what it was before, but once he's nursing again, you can nurse every two hours over the weekend to get your supply up.

    This is what happened to my little girl when she was 8 months old (she's 1 now): she wouldn't take a bottle and nursed exclusively even though I worked full time (she would just nurse a lot in the evening and at night). She went on a nursing strike at 8 months old after she bit me and I cried out in pain (even though I know better, it hurt!) It caused a lot of anxiety because for the 2 or 3 days of the nursing strike, she really wasn't drinking a lot. But she finally started up again and we nursed for a couple more months until she got used to drinking milk out of a sippy cup.

    Good luck!!

    Posted by Alisa October 29, 09 11:44 AM
  1. Personally, I weaned at around 5 or 6 months because my mother's supply was low and I was supplemented anyway. I plan to nurse for the first 6 months and then take it as it comes. Barbara is right -- you've already given your baby a huge gift and you've made it this far and that's excellent for him!! I hope you will give yourself a break (and some credit!!) and not feel guilty because he's losing interest. It doesn't sound like anything you are doing is incorrect or causing this. Plus, the biting sounds painful -- ow!!

    - also from Acton :)

    Posted by ExpectantMom October 29, 09 11:45 AM
  1. I'm fairly sure it's a nursing strike, that is very typical for 7 month olds. Please keep trying. Even just keeping up that nursing relationships once or twice a day (maybe at bedtime) will be invaluable for you and him. Once you wean, you can't go back. I weaned too early (12 months) and I still regret it.

    Posted by Edi October 29, 09 12:04 PM
  1. My son did the same thing at 7 months. I wasn't as nice as you are about the biting. I just shrieked in pain, which made him cry, then I put him down. He did go back to nursing after about 8 days or so, but he did not try to bite me again, so I was able to continue and get my supply back up.

    You need to decide if it's worth it. Right now, your son has figured out that the bottle gives him milk faster and with less work than the breast, so he may prefer to stick with that. If you really want to continue nursing, you will need to take away the bottle for a while to make it clear that milk only comes from mommy.

    But if you are working and aren't with him all day, or if you decide it's just too much aggravation and pain, then it's fine to call it a day. You've given him your best, and there are lots of formula-fed people running the world these days!

    Posted by Ashley October 29, 09 12:37 PM
  1. When kids grow teeth they are clearly ready for somthing more than a nipple. Far too many moms nure too long.

    Posted by Sandra October 29, 09 01:09 PM
  1. Call it quits, m'dear!

    My daughter got her teeth in early--first one at four months! She started biting in earnest at six months and I called it a day at seven. I felt guilt then but no longer. I wish I'd known how common it was to stop after the biting problem. But my doctors were all very supportive and thought it was great we'd lasted that long.

    Edi, nursing only works if YOU'RE NOT IN PAIN!

    Posted by mom of a biter October 29, 09 01:15 PM
  1. Sandra, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends one year of nursing (6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and 6 more months of breastfeeding supplemented by other foods). It is not that "too many moms nurse too long," it is that the medical establishment promotes nursing as the healthiest way to go for the first *year* of a child's life. I think in general, moms handle breastfeeding just fine.

    But to the OP, nursing is wonderful as long as it works for you. I commend you for trying even though your baby seems to have lost interest. It is okay to stop if it has become painful. You've done him a wonderful service by nursing him as long as you have.

    Posted by jlen October 29, 09 02:20 PM
  1. I feel so bad for you moms who feel so guilty about everything. Don't call the lechers league or get otherwise guilted into continuing to try when it's so painful and unnecessary.

    He's got your immunities, your bonding time, and your nutrition. He will be just great, and you'll feel better when you're not stressed.

    I just spent a weekend with a breastfeeding friend with a 3 month old, and I was so over it after 2 days. I really don't know how you can all stand it! No one could ever appreciate what it takes unless they're there. Hats off to all you ladies!

    Posted by rukidding October 29, 09 02:21 PM
  1. It is admirable that you made it seven months. Give yourself a pat on the back, follow baby's lead, and switch to the bottle. This won't be the last time your son tells you he is growing up and ready to move on before you're ready.

    Posted by geocool October 29, 09 02:23 PM
  1. Supplementing with formula will naturally make your baby wean earlier because your supply decreases, making it a lot more work for the baby. With your dedication, you have made it to 7 months. Dont' feel bad for taking cues from your baby!! Let him nurse when he wants, stop when he bites. You're doing fine.

    Posted by Christine L October 29, 09 04:56 PM
  1. I breastfed my son until he turned three and to think I'm cup size 32a (or less) foolishly thinking I won't have enough milk....even I myself couldn't believe I was able to do it. I had stopped working and was determined to do it for at least a year as recommended or for as long as my son and I enjoyed it. I still recall sacrificing sleep (an understatement), the difficulty of using the pump & the excruciating pain if I had stopped which was worse than working overtime in a corporate job but it was all worth it & never regretted it one bit. (never even attempted to use formula) I found my son in toddlerhood not clingy, more mature, confident, trusting, no bedwetting after graduating from diapers, sleeps soundly, & most of all he didn't have any tantrums nor any hint of a sniffle until he started preK at 3 1/2. I'd say if you & your child no longer enjoy it, by all means stop and and don't feel guilty but be happy that you've done it. And yes, I attribute all the positive things to breastfeeding. I did try to introduce cow's milk at 18 months but he won't even smell it.

    Posted by persevereifyoucan October 30, 09 12:48 AM
  1. Here's a shock for all you ladies...I breast fed my daughter until she was 4.5. That would have made me ill before I had her, but in the end it was quite normal feeling. Obviously it wasn't as much as when she was a baby, but mostly at bed time. It was really helpful when she went through the chicken pox and any illness...instant comfort and anti-viral food.
    I think the problem is supplement feeding with formula. It means it is easier for him to eat, so why would he bother trying to nurse, and it means that your supply goes down. I think it is better for both of you if you could continue at least a year, but if you can't or don't want to, that's your own business.

    Posted by Milky October 30, 09 04:29 AM
  1. My eldest nursed until she was nearly two. My youngest stopped at seven months, no matter what I did to try to keep her on the breast. Both are now grown, smart, healthy and successful young women. What's right for one isn't right for another. Your son may have what he needs from you right now. You're doing fine as a mom!

    Posted by martha October 30, 09 06:26 AM
  1. I've nursed my 3 children to over 1 year each (my middle one until almost 2 1/2!) but I'd say you are fine to call it quits with this story! Each mom/baby pair is different. At 6 mos. they start getting nutrition from food and at 7 mos. they get more interested in the world around them. No reason to beat yourself up, you've done really well nursing this long! I'd give it a rest for a day or two, see if he wants to start again, and after that drop it if he isn't interested. I'd also stop trying to use nursing as nutrition, maybe go to the bottle for everything except the "comfort feeds" before bed and when he wakes up in the am. Don't worry about your supply ... it is well established now and can handle that (unless you worry about it!)

    Oh, and with biting, definitely put him down immediately but with no reaction (no ow! or getting mad if you can help it). He'll come to associate food stopping with biting rather than a fun game that gets a reaction from you :)

    Good luck, please enjoy your baby rather than worrying! He will grow up fine regardless of what you do right now, I promise!

    Posted by Cathie bf'ing mom to 3 October 30, 09 12:12 PM
  1. Thanks for all the wonderful comments, I really appreciate everyone's feedback. To clarify a few things for other who may be reading through all this, I had major problems when we started breastfeeding with correct latch. I was working with a lactation consultant who is very experienced and competent and we must have had 6-7 sessions within the first two months trying to get it right. Ultimately, we latched with a nipple shield and gradually weaned off at 3-4 months. I also pumped 30-40 minutes EVERY THREE HOURS with a hospital pump, and I'm NOT EXAGGERATING for the first two months when I was on mat leave and then loads at work and then after every feeding. I also took fenugreek (and experimented with LOADS of other herbs) and finally ended up on domperidone to try and boost my supply. After all that, I only got 10-14 oz pumped at work and maybe one good night feeding and a few tiny snacks during the night. I had to supplement with formula, there was no other option. I've also kept him on a super SLOW nipple (playtex naturlatch) and we had him on the Breastflow bottle until around 5 months which is an amazing bottle to help with breastfeeding and actually helped us wean off the nipple shield.

    We are also on day 10-11 of this "strike" and he's not even a tiny bit interested in my boobs. Thanks again for all the wonderful support.

    Posted by Sarah November 2, 09 11:34 AM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.

Child in Mind

Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Child in Mind

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives