The Do's and Don’ts of Weaning Your Baby From Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding (chestfeeding) is a time when you spend more hours in the morning, lunch, and evenings than usual. Your little one will love you more than you know.

This is a great thing. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you breastfeed your baby exclusively during the first six months. After that, it's recommended to gradually introduce solid food. AAP recommends that breastfeeding be continued for at least two years. Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization for the same time.

Your toddler or baby will soon be ready to wean. Heidi Szugye is a pediatrician and the medical director for Cleveland Clinic's Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic & Center. She says, "Weaning can seem a little difficult." Every baby and each parent is unique.

Dr. Szugye shares practical advice to ease the transition for you and your baby.

When is it time to stop breastfeeding your baby?

Sometimes your toddler or baby will tell you when they are ready by stopping breastfeeding. Perhaps your child is independent and will decide if you want to wean them.

However, you cannot always count on these outcomes. "Researches have found that it is very uncommon for infants or children to wean themselves before age 2-4," says Dr. Szugye. It's usually a parent who chooses to wean the child earlier than that.

Dr. Szugye stresses the fact that every family is different in their decision to wean.

Baby's may have a preference for a bottle if their parent goes back to work. "That makes breastfeeding more difficult," Dr. Szugye said.

Breastfeeding becomes difficult is not a sign that you should stop. Dr. Szugye says that 60% of parents don't breastfeed as often as they would like. And they wean as they face some type of breastfeeding problem.

We want doctors to understand why weaning is necessary. We want them to be able to work it out if that's what they need.

What to Do When You Are Don't Want To Breastfeed

Everyone's experience weaning is unique. Dr. Szugye has some tips for parents to help make this transition easier.

Be patient

There are times when a parent has to stop breastfeeding immediately because of medical reasons. You will need to consider your milk supply when determining the timing of weaning. According to Dr. Szugye, a person with an excessive milk supply will take longer to wean than one who has a smaller amount.

It is better to go slow and steady if you can. You run the risk of getting mastitis or plugged milk tubes if you wean too fast.

"There have also been studies showing that weaning quickly can affect your mood," states Dr. Szugye. You are at greater risk for depression and anxiety if your baby is weaned quickly. This is because hormones involved in making milk play a role in our mood stability.

However, she insists that everyone's experience with weaning is unique. Some people are able to wean faster than others. Your comfort level will determine where you want to go.

Are Babies able to change their routine?

When you try to wean a baby younger than you, it is possible to have control over the environment.

A parent, relative or friend can offer a bottle to help with the transition. A bottle can be offered in an alternative location to where you breastfeed, without you being present. Changes in routine can make your baby less susceptible to the triggers that come with breastfeeding.

It's best to start gradually introducing bottles if you already know when you will need them. To ease the process, choose a nipple that is closest to your breast size.

Don't use distractions or time-limiting tricks

It can sometimes be harder to wean older children. It is common to start with the least favourite feeding, and then drop another one each week. Your breasts will have time to adapt to the decreased demand.

You can distract an older child by playing outside, reading, or even going on a walk to stop them from eating.

To reduce feeding times, you can use time-limiting techniques. To reduce the time it takes to feed your child, set a "timer". This is a way of telling them that you will not allow them to nurse after the song ends.

Healthy snacks and water can be offered to the patient shortly before or after normal nursing hours. You can reduce or eliminate the need for a nurse by doing this.

Choose a simple time

There are times when weaning can be more difficult, such as when your baby has teething problems, is sick, or is fussy. Things are going well in your child's world, so it is easier to wean.

Do not give up on the closeness

You will remember what breastfeeding was all about in the beginning. You should provide your baby with as much physical contact and attention during this time of transition as possible.

Do not fully empty your breasts

You can pump your hands or use hand gestures to relieve discomfort or engorgement that you feel when you are weaning. You can use ice packs to help if your stomach is feeling uncomfortable.

Dr. Szugye advises that you don't want your breasts to be empty. If your breasts appear empty, it's a signal that your body is making more milk.

You don't have to make it all or nothing

It is impossible to change the preferences of your baby, or any other person with a simple button click. The transition will take time.

Remember that it doesn't take forever to wean your baby. This process is most effective when it's done slowly and flexible.

Dr. Szugye says, "There is a common misconception that breastfeeding must be continuous or you can stop." It doesn't have to be either or. If you aren't interested in breastfeeding anymore, that doesn't mean you should stop.

Perhaps you decide to stop breastfeeding but then choose to continue pumping. Breastfeeding doesn't mean you have to do it eight times daily. It is possible to breastfeed at night prior to going to sleep. "A lot of parents love that bonding experience between their baby and them," she says.

What to do if your child isn’t ready for weaning

Do not be discouraged if your child is not ready to wean. Every baby will eventually wean - but some babies take longer.

Talk to your pediatrician, or Ob/Gyn if your questions are not answered. The assistance of lactation consultants is also a great help. Dr. Szugye says, "As healthcare providers it is our responsibility to support you through difficulties and provide you with all options and alternative that are available,"

Every family is different in how they decide to wean and what the reasons are. We are healthcare professionals and can help you at every stage.