How to Wean Off Breastfeeding
“When should I stop breastfeeding?”
“How do I stop breastfeeding?”
These are two of the most common questions we get from mothers. We all know the incredible benefits breastfeeding provides to the baby: It helps baby’s fight off infection better, lowers risk for asthma and allergies, and creates a special bond between the baby and mom. When is it time to stop though, and how do you get the baby weaned off the breast milk they have grown to know and love?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. This means not giving the baby anything else other than what you produce. After 6 months, you can begin to introduce you baby to solid foods, but should continue regular breastfeeding until they are at least one year old. After this point, you can continue breastfeeding as long as you and your child continue to want to. It is going to depend on your child and how much they like the breastfeeding process. Some toddlers are going to be fine breastfeeding, while others won’t want to sit still that long.
Other reasons to stop breastfeeding may be personal, such as the time commitment it requires for both mother and child. It is completely dependent on your lifestyle and the needs of your child; no ones situation is the same, so don’t compare yourself to other families.
When you have made the decision to stop breastfeeding (hopefully after a year), you may begin a gradual weaning process. You may want to postpone this process if you or the baby is not feeling well, if major changes in the home are occurring, or if you are concerned with allergens. All of these things will cause unnecessary stress to both the mom and baby, as this is a major change for both.
Weaning off of breastfeeding should be exactly that: weaning. Cutting breast milk off cold turkey will be bad for both baby, and painful for mommy. Make the process gradual by cutting off just one feeding per day. Typically, children are more attached to the morning and night feedings, so those should be the last to go.
If your child requests to be fed, don’t deny it from them. Eventually they will be distracted enough throughout the day with different foods and activities, that they will forget all about your breast milk! The time it takes to completely wean your child off breast milk is going to vary from person-to-person. Some women do it within a week, while others take months. Be perceptive about what your child, and you, need.
During the weaning process, ensure that your child is still getting love and affection with mom. Breastfeeding is an intimate experience between a mother and baby, so you don’t want yourself or the baby to feel like they are losing out on affection when the breastfeeding stops.
Nutrition After Weaning
You want to ensure your baby is getting proper nutrition once they begin to wean off of breast milk. If you are weaning before the child is one year old, you want to replace it with a formula. Your baby should not have cow’s milk until after their first birthday.
You also have to consider how the child was drinking prior to the weaning process. Is he/she used to a bottle? A cup? Your baby will have to be weaned off of the breast and learn to use a bottle, and then a cup.
Remember, each family is different and each baby has different needs. Trust yourself and your instincts, along with our recommendations, when it comes to the weaning process. Contact your obstetrician if you have more questions about the breastfeeding and weaning processes to ensure you are doing what is right for you and baby!