To some Leaders, baby-led weaning seems to imply that mother does nothing, or should do nothing, and that total responsibility for weaning must be given to the child. Now I will agree that with an infant, the control of how long and how often that baby should nurse really does lie with the child alone and rightly so. We cannot begin to know or guess when the baby will be hungry, or how much he needs at each feeding, or whether or not he just wants to nurse for comfort.
However, as that child grows, develops, discovers, and expands his capabilities, our relationship changes and it should change. We begin to know the child and can often anticipate his needs. We can tell by his actions when he is hungry, tired, overstressed, or bored. We can recognize whether he needs to go potty, when he needs to be held, or whether he needs to be given attention in other ways. I can often tell that my son needs a nap even though he says he is not tired. I lie down beside him, maybe read him a story, perhaps rub his back or nurse him, and within minutes this child who said he was not tired is fast asleep.
As a child grows and develops, we can sense when he is ready for various new steps. We do not force these steps, but we are active in leading and encouraging change and progress as the child shows readiness and capabilities for these changes. We do not expect a child to learn to walk, use the toilet, or ride a bike totally on his own. We give him help and encouragement and teach him the skills he needs to use while we lead him gently step by step. It would be cruel to just say "you're on your own kid and you have to learn how to do this by yourself," without offering our encouragement and support along the way.
Some people mistakenly think that baby-led weaning does not include substituting, limiting, or encouraging the weaning process in any way. Yet when we do things to encourage walking, or buy special panties for toilet learning, or become involved in leading the way for other stages of growth, we can see that we are doing the right thing as long as we keep in mind the capability of the child and always consider his feelings.
Considering and validating children's feelings does not always mean that they should do everything their own way. This touches on the topic of loving guidance as well as baby-led weaning. Perhaps that's why both subjects are often misinterpreted.
As a child grows from baby to toddler to child, we do limit many things, out of necessity, or convenience, or even personal convictions. We limit the amounts or kinds of sweets the child eats, how much television he watches and which shows he is allowed to see, how far from the yard he may go, with whom he can play, whether or not we nurse at grandma's or the shopping mall, etc. The child may be happy to go along with some of these restrictions and not happy about others. Sometimes we make exceptions, depending on the circumstances, and sometimes we stick to our limits. We keep the feelings of the child in mind, but we do not necessarily give in just because the child does not like our restrictions. Some may think that setting limits should not apply to nursing, just as we would not limit the number of kisses, or hugs, or "I love you's" we give to our children. But when a mother is feeling frustrated by nursing a three- or four-year-old, particularly if she is tandem nursing, there should be freedom to do some limiting without feeling guilty or feeling that this is somehow going against LLL philosophy. If your toddler wants to nurse all day long or every time the baby does, it may be up to you to change that pattern, for your benefit as well as the child's. We as mothers may be the ones who set up certain nursing patterns in our toddlers. Recognizing these and taking steps to change them does not mean mother-led weaning either. What it means is that we have recognized where changes can be made, substitutions can be offered, or attention can be given in ways besides nursing without denying the child's feelings. This is usually possible with children over the age of two or three who are able to understand and communicate more.