If you have decided that the time has come to stop breastfeeding, you will be looking for ways to wean your baby that will be the least traumatic for you and your child. Weaning is the beginning of another era in your relationship with your child, and is therefore the end of an era too.
Although there hasn’t been much research into the subject, it seems to make sense that abrupt weaning from the breast could cause problems. There are plenty of examples of animals that can suffer physical or emotional health problems in later life due to being weaned from their mothers milk too young or too quickly.
However, there are a few occasions in which it is unavoidable to wean your baby quickly. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t beat yourself up. Human beings are incredibly resilient and your baby will surely thrive no matter what.
In this post, I am going to try my best to offer you some tips to gently encourage your baby to wean from the breast.
Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse
This technique is most often used with toddlers who are old enough to not need replacement milk feeds. It is successful, but it can take time. If the child is starting to wean themselves gradually from the breast, this can help speed the process some.
It’s just as easy as its title — don’t offer your child the breast, but don’t refuse to let them feed if they ask for it. If you wish, you can offer distractions at usual feeding times to gauge their willingness to go without a feed. This is a very kind and gentle method and works with the child’s own readiness to wean.
For younger babies who still need to have regular milk feeds, it is best to gradually replace the nursing sessions, rather than stopping them abruptly. Stopping feeding suddenly, even if your baby seems fairly willing to, can cause you to become engorged which can be very uncomfortable. Try dropping just one feed over the course of a week (it’s best to start with the daytime feeds, as it’s easier to distract your baby in the daytime) to let your body adjust. This will be kinder to your baby, too. Make sure you wear a good, supportive bra whilst you are weaning your baby and try not to express any milk unless you absolutely have to. If you are only dropping one feed at a time, you shouldn’t find yourself becoming engorged and you can just let nature take its course.
You may find that your baby becomes clingier during this period of time. This is normal, and is a natural reaction to the loss they are experiencing. They will be fine, for sure, but it is important to replace the comfort and security they got from the breast with something else. Babywearing in a good, supportive wrap sling is a wonderful way of feeling close to your baby, and the prolonged physical contact will help your baby adjust.
And, of course, give yourself a big pat on the back for the time you spent breastfeeding your baby, no matter how long you did it for. It is an investment in their future health, and you should be very proud of yourself for that. The bond you will have created with your child will never go away, no matter how long you chose to breastfeed for.