How To Wean Your Child From The Breast

15 Tips For Weaning a Breastfed Baby

Tips For Weaning Your Baby From Breastfeeding
Replace breastfeeding with other activities like games, reading, and cuddling. JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images

15 Tips For Weaning Your Breastfed Baby

Women wean their children for many reasons. The end of breastfeeding may feel like a relief, or it could be a time of great sadness. Every child, mom, and family are different and will handle it in their own way. Some children will give up nursing easily, making it a smooth transition. However, others will have a much more difficult time letting go.

Weaning can be quick and happen suddenly if there is a medical issue or an emergency.Or, it can take weeks, months, or years to complete.

If it's possible, don't rush. Weaning will be much less traumatic for you and your child if you take your time and try to wean gradually. Here are some tips to help you through it.

#1. Choose Another Source of Nutrition

When you decide it's time to start weaning, or if you believe that your child has started self-weaning, be sure to talk to your child's doctor. As you wean, you will need to replace breastfeeding with an age appropriate source of alternative nutrition. If your child is under the age of one, you can either provide your expressed breast milk or an infant formula. At one year of age, you can usually begin giving your child whole cow's milk. After your child turns two, the doctor may recommend low-fat or skim milk.

#2. Eliminate Breastfeeding Sessions One at a Time 

If you can, wean your child slowly by removing one breastfeeding session at a time. You can wait anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before taking away the next feeding.

First, omit the feedings that your child will miss the least such as the daytime feedings. You can leave the feedings that your child will miss the most, such as first thing in the morning and bedtime, as the last ones to be taken away.

#3. Substitute Other Comfort Measures In Place Of Breastfeeding

Nursing is a time when your child is not only receiving nourishment but also comfort and one-on-one time with you.

As you devote less time nursing, you can spend more time doing other activities with your child. Give your child that special attention and extra affection by playing games, reading, singing, going for a walk, or cuddling.

#4. Get A Little Help 

Your partner, another family member, or another caregiver can take over a feeding or help distract your child. If your little one usually nurses as he falls asleep, have someone else put him to bed or down for his nap.

#5. Let Your Older Child Lead The Weaning Process

Instead of offering to breastfeed your older child, wait for her to ask to breastfeed. You may find that she asks to nurse only a few times a day, once a day, or even only once every few days.

#6. Distract Your Child's Focus Away From Breastfeeding

During the times of the day when you would normally breastfeed, try to redirect your child's attention. If you can engage her in another activity, she may not even realize it was her usual nursing time.

#7. Shorten The Amount Of Time You Keep Your Child At The Breast 

Many children want to stay at the breast even after they finish breastfeeding.

If your child likes to linger at your breast, don't let him. Start taking your child off of your breast as soon as the feeding is over. 

#8. Change Your Normal Routine

If your child is used to a routine that includes nursing, it will be more noticeable when you leave a breastfeeding session out of the schedule. When you change up the routine and begin making a new routine that includes other activities in place of nursing, your child may not even realize that you eliminated a nursing session. 

#9. Have A Snack 

Offer your little one a snack or a drink in a sippy cup a little while before it would be time to nurse. Your child may not feel the need to nurse if she's not very hungry or thirsty.

#10. Don't Sit Where You Usually Breastfeed 

If you have a particular place where you sit with your child when it's time to nurse, avoid that spot. If your child sees you there, it may trigger his desire to breastfeed.

#11. Wear Clothing That Makes It Difficult To Nurse 

Put on long dresses or blouses and outfits that make it difficult for your child to access your breasts. At night, wear long nightgowns or pajamas that keep you covered especially if you bring your child into your bed with you or if your child makes his way into your bed during the night.

#12. Encourage Your Child's Independence

Let your child use a spoon and fork, feed herself, drink from a cup, and even help to prepare her own plate or pour her own milk. Get excited and praise her each time she helps out or shows signs of independence. As you help to build her confidence and make her feel like she's getting bigger, she may want to continue to do “big kid” things and breastfeed less often.

#13. Have a Conversation With Your Child

If your child is older and can understand, talk to him about weaning and nursing less often. You can also agree on some rules about when and where breastfeeding can take place such as only at home, or only at bedtime, etc. By allowing your child to participate in the decisions about nursing, he may be more willing to cooperate.

#14. Be Flexible 

If you have decided to wean, but then your child gets sick or is having a hard time, you may want to wait a little longer. Stressful events such as moving, starting daycare, or your return to work can be tough times to wean. Try not to be so set on weaning by a particular date. Allow time for you and your child to adjust.

#15. Partial Weaning Is Always An Option 

If you or your child are not truly ready to fully wean, you can see if partial weaning would work better for your family. Many moms choose to wean their child during the day but continue to nurse first thing in the morning and at bedtime. Breastfeeding continues to offer many health and developmental benefits for children as they get older. You can continue to breastfeed your older child in this manner for as long as you feel comfortable.

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Susman, VL., Katz, JL. Weaning and Depression: Another Postpartum Complication. American Journal of Psychiatry. 1988;145: 498-501.

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