Weaning. It's the word that every breastfeeding mom dreads, but one that has to be dealt with eventually, in some form or another. Whether you stay home with your baby or are going back to work, your baby is younger or you're nursing a toddler, there comes a time in every child's life when it's time to wean. Luckily, there are a few tips to help you wean your baby that'll ensure the process is as smooth and trauma free as possible.
Although experts recommend that you exclusively nurse your baby for the first six months before introducing solids, any mom knows that life happens and sometimes you have to adjust your plan. This does, however, affect the weaning process slightly. Parents notes that if your baby is younger than one year, the weaning process may be more difficult than if you're nursing an older baby or toddler, who generally wean more easily on their own.
For my first daughter, I had grand aspirations of nursing her for well over a year (maybe even for two). But after I got pregnant with her sister, the combination of nausea and lower milk supply caused us to stop at 13 months. I'm still nursing my second daughter and, just as before, have no plans to stop, but I know that when the time comes, it will be a smooth and easy transition, with the help of tips like these.
Most children will gradually drop feedings on their own, making the process much easier than if you were to forcefully drop them. However, some parents need to wean their babies sooner than others, if that's the case for you, the next tips will help make the process as trauma-free as possible. But no matter your opinion on how long to breastfeed, you will have to wean them off the breast eventually. And these tips will come in handy regardless of the age of your child.
1. Let Them Take The Lead
Most things in parenting don't work if they're forced. Parents reminded readers that babies, as well as toddlers, need routines. When that routine is abruptly changed, it causes them to feel unsafe. No matter the age of your child, taking cues from them as they gradually drop feedings on their own will ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.
2. Take It Slow
Aha Parenting recommends thinking of weaning as a gradual process that may take months. Think of it like you and your child are "moving towards weaning" instead of weaning all at once. Start with one dropped feeding for a week or so before dropping anymore.
3. Drop Mid-Day Feedings First
Kids Health notes that the mid-day feedings are the ones most easily replaced by solids. If your child already has a fairly consistent diet of solids or other foods, it shouldn't be hard to give them a little bit more to substitute for a nursing session. The feedings at nap times or bedtime are often the ones they rely on for comfort, so those are usually the last to go.
4. Don't Refuse To Nurse
According to the Mayo Clinic, refusing your baby will generally backfire. It will cause them to focus on it more. Instead, try slowly integrating other foods or comforts during the times when you would usually nurse. This will keep them distracted and teach them that there are other ways to be comforted.
5. Give Them A Replacement
Instead of quitting cold turkey, offer your child a replacement snack or drink that will slowly replace your breastmilk. Genevieve from Mama Natural explains how she offered her toddler "hot tea" (a mixture of organic milk and honey) as a replacement for the times when they would be nursing. Playing it up and getting your child excited about their special snack will help them slowly choose it over a nursing session.
6. Get Others Involved
Up until now, breastfeeding has pretty much been between you and your baby. But when you want to wean, it can help to have the support of your partner or family to make it easier. Have your spouse offer them the replacement snack or take over bedtime duties, that way they're not as focused on you and the fact that they could be nursing.
7. Commit To The Process
Committing is half the battle. Once your mind is made up, it will be much easier to gently say no to nursing, or to offer them the replacement you've chosen. Though it isn't always easy, when you and your baby decide it's time, stick with it.