8 Tips For Weaning Your Baby
As a mom, you made the decision to give your baby the amazing benefits of breast milk. Just like every mom and every baby is different, every breastfeeding journey is different – and each journey begins and ends under unique circumstances. No matter what factors have gone into your decision to wean, know that it can be a very emotional time – you may feel relieved, sentimental, sad, or a combination of all these emotions. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished, whether you breastfed for 2 weeks or 2 years. You gave your baby the best nutrition possible for as long as you could – and that’s an amazing thing.
Whether you decide to let your child decide when to wean (baby-led weaning), or direct the process yourself (mother-led weaning), here are some tips for weaning to make the process easier on both you and baby.
- Replace or distract
Try to anticipate when your little one will want to nurse and plan distractions or substitutions that he or she enjoys. For example, during a routine feeding time, offer your baby’s favorite snack or game instead.
- Shorten or postpone
By adjusting the amount of time you spend nursing or by delaying it, you can gradually help your baby grow less interested in breastfeeding. If your little one asks to nurse, you can either say “not now, but later,” or “only for a few minutes.” The hope is that later they will get busy and forget about their desire to breastfeed, or they will grow more comfortable nursing for a shorter amount of time.
- Proceed gradually
Going “cold turkey” can be challenging for your little one, emotionally draining for you, and may lead to uncomfortable and serious physical complications like plugged ducts and mastitis. One of the most helpful tips for weaning is to remove one feeding at a time, rather than all at once. For example, try removing the nap-time feeding first. When that’s okay, remove the morning nurse session. And if that goes well, tackle the night-time feeding.
- Make time for cuddles
Many children nurse for comfort as well as nutrition, so as you’re weaning, make sure you’re still having some one-on-one cuddle time with a favorite book, or snuggled in a rocking chair.
- It’s OK to say no
It’s important for your own sake to give yourself the freedom to say “no.” While you want to respect your child’s feelings and desires, you should also do what works for you. This is especially true when your little one gets a little older and has a tendency to pinch, roughhouse or otherwise be forceful with your breasts. If you want to say “no” to nursing, it doesn’t make you a bad mom!
- You can be sad
It’s ok to feel a mix of emotions, and even a bit sad about the end of the special intimacy breastfeeding provides. Your breastfeeding journey is ending, but so many exciting adventures are ahead for you and your little one!
- Plan for the unexpected
Sometimes an illness or injury forces separation from your baby, and brings about an abrupt weaning process. Having a supply of frozen breast milk on hand will help ease baby’s transition.
- Relieve the pressure
During the weaning process, as your body adjusts to making less milk, your breasts may feel full. To relieve fullness and engorgement, you can express milk – just enough to be comfortable. Some moms use ice packs or cabbage leaf compresses to offer some relief.
The decision to wean is a personal one based on the relationship between you and your little one – and you know when the time is right. No matter when it happens, or how long your breastfeeding journey has been, celebrate your accomplishment!