Recently, I have often been asked about weaning. So, before I give you my best suggestions, ask yourself these Questions:
+ Is your baby at least a year old?
If not, reconsider weaning altogether. Remember that a 6 month old who has begun solids is already starting the weaning process."The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant." What's more is that the World Health Organization affirms that "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."
+ Is your baby teething or going through growth spurts?
If so, consider that the discomfort he is experiencing may drive him to the breast more frequently throughout his day. Nothing soothes physical and emotional discomfort like mommy's breast milk and cuddles.
+ Do you see that your baby/toddler seeks out nursing when she is out and about or with other friends/relatives?
If not, that is a good indicator that you can successfully begin fully weaning her from the breast without too much adverse affects on or reactions from your toddler.
+ Are you and/or your family making big changes to your life, routine, etc?
If so, consider that your child may be more resistant to weaning as it is his place of comfort and normalcy in his new, unfamiliar day. Maybe wait a month or so for things to settle down and for the new changes to become more routine.
So, Are you really ready to wean completely?
Sometimes just cutting back on the amount of times you breastfeed can really improve your experience and how your overall weaning process goes. If your baby is under a year, you will still have to supplement a bottle or cup feeding for a missed breastfeeding.
If weaning is your decision, it's best for you and your baby to do it gradually, and with love. If you wean "cold turkey," your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, and you might develop a breast infection or other complication. Your baby will probably fight the switch from your warm, soft breast to a plastic substitute. He might mourn the loss of "his" breasts. Keep in mind that babies nurse for more than just milk, and a bottle or cup will not comfort or support his development the way breastfeeding does.
An older baby may accept a drink from a cup, a nutritious snack, or just a distraction in the form of a game, a toy, or change of scene.
To wean a baby under a year, if the baby won't accept the bottle from you, (he knows the breast is near!), see if Daddy or Grandma can succeed. Let the baby have a few days (or weeks) between each time you substitute a breastfeeding session with a bottle. If you become engorged , express a little milk from your breasts to your own comfort. Don't express a whole feeding's worth of milk; just take the pressure off. Your body will get the signal to make less milk over time.
A useful resource is The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich, available from the LLLI Online Store.
-A lot of extra love and attention in other forms will be needed now. Try getting out more: to the playground, a friend's house, shopping, museums, anything your child will be distracted with and stimulated by.-Talk to your child about what's going on. She may understand more than you think.
-Read stories, rub or scratch his little back, sing and dance. It's a whole new stage in your growing child's life. You will still be needed, just in different ways.
-Substitute her least favorite feeding first.
- At mealtimes, try to offer food first, with a short session at the breast for later.
-Avoid sitting down in your special favorite "nursing chair." Put away your favorite nursing pillow, if you have one.
- Substitute a cup of water, juice or cow's milk (if tolerated), or solid food, for your toddler's least important feeding.
- Dad (or another relative) can help by taking the baby to the kitchen for a good breakfast--Daddy style. This can become a special time for both of them. (And maybe you get some extra sleep!)
- To wean a baby who is about a year, or older, all you may need to do is stop offering the breast. "Don't offer, don't refuse" may work for you.
– The nighttime feeding is usually the last to go. Completely change the order of bedtime routine items to confuse him/her, creating less demand to nurse when it is not part of a new routine.
-Make a bedtime routine not centered on breastfeeding. A good book or two will eventually become more important than a long session at the breast. Your child may be content just to rest his head on your breast instead of feeding.
-Instead of breastfeeding, give him a bottle with just water. He will learn that it’s pointless to wake up at night, just for water.