When it comes to weaning, everyone will be different, but in general, there are some actions you can take to start the process of weaning your child off breast milk, such as checking for indicators your baby is ready to stop nursing. Setting a routine, starting out gently, giving your infant various ways to calm down, and getting assistance with feeding your baby can also be helpful. We’ve compiled tips on how to stop breastfeeding and wean your child off breast milk. Here are 10 simple strategies for stopping breastfeeding your child.
Recognise the signs that it’s time to stop breastfeeding your child
When your baby is prepared to wean, they will offer you some hints. Look out for these signs!
Decide when to wean the baby
To effectively stop breastfeeding, give yourself a full month. This provides you and your baby more time to overcome challenges and difficulties. These things take time and you have to be realistic in your expectations – it is not going to happen over night!
Weaning can be introduced gradually so that both you and your baby can get used to the change. For instance, you might skip one breastfeeding session per week—probably the one that’s the most difficult or that your child doesn’t seem to enjoy—and reduce the number of feedings until they’re only getting bottles and solid foods. (Note: It’s preferable to wean your child directly to a cup if they are 9 months or older so you don’t have to deal with weaning them off the bottle in a few months.)
You’ll produce less and less milk if you proceed gently, which will make weaning more bearable for you. Additionally, since your baby will gradually become used to nursing less and drinking more from the bottle or cup, it will make weaning easier for them. Importantly,, you might avoid inducing an episode of mastitis, a painful infection brought on by plugged ducts that can happen during engorgement.
Comfort your child in other ways
When you’re weaning, it’s crucial to offer comfort in other ways because breastfed babies enjoy intimate physical contact with their parents. Spending meaningful one-on-one time with them can involve engaging in activities that keep them emotionally engaged, such as cuddling up and reading a book or singing a lullaby together, playing together in the garden, or giving them a gentle massage.
Think about allowing your child to take the lead
When given the chance, some babies wean themselves with ease. Use the tried-and-true “don’t offer, don’t deny” strategy if you’re okay with allowing your infant to make the decisions. In essence, you nurse when your child shows an interest in doing so, but you don’t start the process. Although it takes longer than other weaning techniques, it guarantees that your baby’s demands are addressed.
Modify your feeding schedule
La Leche League International advises using someone else to give the bottle while you’re in another room if your baby won’t take a bottle from you. This may be your partner, an older sibling, a grandmother, or a babysitter. Alter your routine if you’re the one giving the bottle; for instance, if you usually breastfeed in your bedroom, try nursing in the living room and holding the baby in a different way. If altering your schedule doesn’t help, go back to your old habits and try again in a couple of weeks.
When you stop breastfeeding, be prepared for resistance
It’s common for infants to fight weaning. Just know that most young children will start eating solid meals and drinking liquids from a bottle or sippy cup without any issues after “mourning the loss of the breast” for a day or two. Regardless of how much they would like to nurse, healthy babies and toddlers usually eat when they are sufficiently hungry.
Recognise how to avoid or treat engorgement
When nursing ends abruptly, you may have breast engorgement. Why? Your milk ducts don’t get the message that they need to produce less milk, thus there is nowhere for it to go. Use cold packs to relieve pain if you are engorged. Alternately, use your reliable breast pump; the milk you produce can be served in bottles or combined with your child’s cereal.
Consider mixed feeding
Not everything has to be all or nothing. Many working parents choose partial weaning, in which you nurse your child at night and a carer bottles feeds them during the day.
When they are with the infant, combination parents breastfeed, but the carer gives formula. To prevent engorgement, this can entail breastfeeding shortly before you leave for work and as soon as you get home. If your milk supply is low on the weekends, you might wish to use formula as a supplement.
Some parents pump breast milk at work so that their carer can give their child a bottle of it. You pump as frequently as your child would breastfeed, which is typically three times a day for a total of 15 minutes.
Recognise your own feelings
It’s not just your infant that has to get used to weaning; everyone else must as well. You have to navigate a roller coaster of emotions, such as some parents wanting their bodies back while others feeling rejected when their infant refuses to latch on to the breast. It’s very normal to experience pangs of nostalgia as your baby gets older, even though you may be happy to put a stop to breastfeeding for good.
Your best option? Weaning is an emotional process, so embrace your independence, be aware of it, and talk to other breastfeeding mothers who can understand.
For more support talk to your health visitor or contact La Leche League