Breastfeeding and Temporary Weaning

What It Is and 9 Tips

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What Is Temporary Weaning?

Temporary weaning is a situation that occurs when breastfeeding is stopped for a short period of time and then restarted again. It is sometimes necessary if a mom or a child is having a major health issue. During most of the common illnesses, such as a cold or the flu, nursing can continue. However, if you or your child need to be hospitalized or require surgery, breastfeeding may not be possible.

If you know in advance that you will need to temporarily wean your baby, you can prepare. However, if temporary weaning occurs due to an emergency, you may have to wean suddenly. Abrupt weaning can be very hard on you and your baby.

9 Tips for Temporary Weaning

  • If you know ahead of time that you will be hospitalized, having surgery, or away from your baby for a short time, you can pump and store your breast milk in the days or weeks leading up to your separation. This way your baby can continue to have breast milk while you are away.
  • If you are not able to provide breast milk for you child during a temporary wean, use an age appropriate source of alternative nutrition.
  • If your baby does not take a bottle, you or your child's caregiver can use an alternative feeding method for supplementing a breastfed baby.
  • After your illness or surgery, be sure to talk to the doctor about when you can begin to nurse your child again. You will need to make sure that any medications you were given during your surgery or illness are no longer in your body, and any medications that you may need to continue to take are safe to use while you are breastfeeding.
  • If your child is the one who needs to be hospitalized, talk to the doctor and try to continue to nurse as much as possible. Breastfeeding a sick child will provide fluids, nutrition, comfort and antibodies that may help your child recover more quickly.
  • If your child is unable to nurse, give her as much extra love, hugs and cuddles as you can.
  • Pump or hand express your breast milk every 2 to 3 hours while you are not breastfeeding. This will help you to keep up your milk supply.
  • If your temporary wean occurs suddenly and unexpectedly you could develop a fever, as well as engorgement, plugged milk ducts and mastitis. If you can, pump or use hand expression to remove breast milk and relieve pressure in your breasts. You can also use cabbage leaves or cold compresses on your breasts to help relieve the pain and reduce the swelling.
  • You may experience a decrease in your milk supply during a temporary wean, especially if you are not able to pump. However, if you nurse frequently once you begin to breastfeed again, your milk supply should rebound within a few days.

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 Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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