Partial Weaning and Partial Breastfeeding

What Is It and When Is It a Good Choice

Baby drinking bottle
Partial breastfeeding and partial weaning are an option if you're not able to breastfeed exclusively. Tom Merton/Getty Images

Partial Weaning and Partial Breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding is the recommended way to feed your baby for the first six months of life. But, how long you breastfeed your baby is up to you and your circumstances. If you have to go right back to work or school, or you just want to breastfeed some of the time and bottle feed some of the time, then partial breastfeeding or partial weaning may be the right choice for you.

Remember, breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing. Partial breastfeeding and partial weaning are a great alternative for many families. Here are six reasons that you may choose to partially breastfeed or partially wean your child.

#1. You Are Going Back to Work 

If you need to return to work but want to continue to breastfeed, you can. You can choose to pump while you're at work and breastfeed when you're home and on the weekends. Or, you can just breastfeed when you're home and provide your child with a different source of age-appropriate alternative nutrition while you are away from your baby.

#2. Your Child Is Getting Older 

Partial weaning comes naturally for older children. As older child begin to add more and more foods into their daily diet, they need don't need to breastfeed as often. Now, that doesn't mean that breastfeeding is no longer beneficial. Breastfeeding continues to provide your child with many health and developmental benefits for as long as you decide to nurse.

In fact, the longer you breastfeed, the better it is for you child. For this reason, partial weaning is a fantastic choice for your growing child.

#3. You Are Feeling Overwhelmed 

If you feel as though breastfeeding is too much for you and think you need to wean your baby, you may want to try partially weaning instead of fully weaning.

When you begin to breastfeed less often, it may feel more manageable. Plus, your child will still be able to get the benefits of your breast milk.

#4. Your Breast Milk Supply Is Low 

A low breast milk supply is often the result of a poor latch or not breastfeeding frequently enough. If you're concerned about the amount of breast milk that you're making, you should talk to your baby's doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding support group for assistance. However, if you have a true low breast milk supply as a result of certain breast conditions, a previous breast surgery, the return of your period, stress, smoking, hypothyroidism, or other health problems, you may have to give your baby a supplement. But, the need to supplement doesn't mean you have to wean your baby. You can continue to partially breastfeed along with supplementation for as long as you wish to.

#5. You're Not Ready to Give Up Breastfeeding 

You may decide to wean your child as a result of pressure from family, friends, or your partner.

Then, as you begin to wean, you might realize that complete weaning is not what you or your child really want. At this point, you may choose to continue to breastfeed first thing in the morning and again when you put your child to bed. In this way, you can maintain your breastfeeding relationship with your child, but since your child is not nursing during the day, you may not feel as much pressure from others. 

#6. Your Child Isn't Ready to Wean 

You may find that when you're ready to wean, your child isn't. If your child is having a tough time giving up the breast, partial weaning may be the answer. Breastfeeding is not only a source of nutrition, but it also provides comfort and security. Every child is different, and while some will give up breastfeeding easily, others still need the warmth and closeness that breastfeeding provides.

 

Sources:

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

Canadian Paediatric Society. Weaning From The Breast. Paediatric and Child Health. 2004 April; 9(4): 249–253.

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

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