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The time has come to wean your baby, switch from breastfeeding to bottle feeding or a diversified diet? A transition not always easy … The advice of our specialists to successfully wean.
For your baby, weaning means that it will go from the breast to the bottle, or, if it is a little bigger, to a diversified diet. In the strict sense of the word, it is the complete cessation of breastfeeding. This stage, physiological and psychological, sometimes raises of concern. Do not hesitate to talk about it with your midwife, the pediatrician or a nursery nurse, as well as with the dad. Meanwhile, the responses of our two specialists, Drs Marie Thirion, pediatrician, and Karine Garcetti, a pediatric gastroenterologist.
What are the mechanisms of withdrawal?
- To achieve a complete cessation of breastfeeding, milk production must decrease, and the body must adapt. To “inform” your breasts that the need for milk is less, it is necessary to reduce the number of feeds and the volume of milk absorbed by your baby. By assimilating change, the milk-producing cells will regress.
- That does not mean that milk will disappear overnight. It is even frequent to secrete it for several weeks or even several months. It will gradually be reabsorbed into the bloodstream.
How much “ideally” should this period last?
- It all depends on your situation, your desire to continue, your baby’s or just the end of the maternity leave … Withdrawal is considered progressive from a fortnight. However, you can gradually reduce the number of feeds over several weeks or months.
- Physiologically, each woman reacts differently to the decrease in milk. If your breasts become painful, slow down the pace of suppression of feedings: wait for a little before removing a new one. As for your baby, it may no longer appreciate the new taste of your milk. In fact, when milk production decreases, it becomes saltier.
How to proceed in case of abrupt withdrawal?
- If you have to suddenly stop breastfeeding because you are forced to do so (for example, hospitalization), the doctor will prescribe antiprogestins (prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk production) and anti-inflammatory drugs.
- This brutal weaning is not easy to live. Physiologically, your breasts may become engorged for a few days. It is better not to pull the milk except a little bit for the comfort of the breasts.
Some mothers have a hard time living this “separation.” How to deal with this?
- If you feel that weaning is the end of a period filled with you and your baby, it will be done without the impression of restraint.
- On the contrary, if you feel it imposed, because of the necessity of resuming work too soon to your taste, or for some other reason, this period will be experienced as the amputation of a free time.
- The important thing is to come to live this step not as a loss, but as a positive step in the evolution of the relationship with your baby. If it is too hard to live, do not hesitate to express your feelings, with friends, dad, a midwife or your doctor.
- Also, note that at each feeding corresponds a peak of oxytocin. These peaks have soothing, anti-stress, very positive effects on mood and morale. When you stop breastfeeding, the drop in oxytocin can set you up in a somewhat depressed climate or wake up problems that are dormant during the breastfeeding period. However, this stage is above all a moment of evolution.
How can weaning succeed when work is done at the end of maternity leave?
- The more gradually you proceed, the smoother the weaning will be. Adjust this progress to the time you have before returning to work and your desire to keep the feedings in the morning or evening.
- If you start three weeks before returning to work, for example, remove a feeding in the day, it is up to you to choose which one. Replace with a 120 ml milk bottle. In general, babies do not drink the entire bottle right away. If yours still claims, you can add a little more.
- Continue to remove this feed for three or four days. From the fifth day, remove the second feed in the day and replace it with a bottle, and so on, at the rate of three or four days or once a week.
- You can keep the feedings of morning and evening as long as you wish to breastfeed your child.
My baby refuses the bottle, what to do?
It is quite common that breastfed babies refuse the feeding bottle at first. We must persevere, continue to propose it. The dad may try to give it to him, but preferably not in your presence. If he continues not to drink, change the teats of the bottle for physiological tests, the shape of which is more like the nipple. If your baby just takes a little bottle-fed milk, do not give in to the temptation to give him the breast right after to complete, he may get used to it.
How do you know if it is the baby bottle that a baby does not like or if it is infant milk?
It is rare that a baby does not like infant milk. As a general rule, it is not for this reason that a child is difficult to wean. When the case arises, they are babies intolerant to cow’s milk proteins, but it is quite exceptional. If you have any questions, discuss them with your pediatrician. He can prescribe milk without cow’s milk proteins, which your baby will take in principle without any problem.
By switching from breastfeeding to infant milk, some children suddenly have very firm stools.
Is it constipation?
- With the change of milk, the slowing down of the transit is normal. The frequency and appearance of the stool changes. They become firmer. A baby can pass from six very soft stools per day to a single rather healthy appearance. This change remains a frequent reason for consultation.
- Your baby is constipated if he has very hard stools, in the form of marbles, or very irregular stools, responsible for pain or discomfort. In this case, your pediatrician will recommend another milk, often rich in lactose, which promotes the transit. On the other hand, infant formula too rich in casein tends to cause more constipation.
What happens when the bottle changes causing bloating and gas in the baby?
- Your child must adapt to his new milk, which can take a good week. If this is prolonged, your pediatrician will suggest a more suitable milk. Milk enriched with lactose cause less fermentation.
- Above all, do not choose infant milk alone, but in agreement with the doctor. Your baby may also regurgitate while not doing so with breast milk. See your pediatrician if he should prescribe a thickened milk.
How can we give dad a place?
If the father is ready to accompany you during weaning, it will happen even better. Ideally, he or she will assist you with your baby’s second-month consultation with the pediatrician. Often, mothers choose to begin weaning by suppressing the feeding in the evening so that the dad can give the bottle.
At the time of dietary diversification, how to wean her child?
- When weaning is linked to the switch to diversification, weaning is better. It is a somewhat different stage, experienced as a normal evolution of the child, not as a separation. For example, you can start by giving a spoonful lunch at noon and ending with a breastfeeding dessert. After a few days, do the same to taste. After several weeks, replace the breast feeding with a dairy. Do this as long as you want to breastfeed.
- If you want to take advantage of the diversification to make a complete weaning, replace the breast feeding by a bottle or a dairy. After a few days, do the same to taste it, and gradually substitute the feeds of morning and evening by a bottle.
- It is up to you to adapt the change of feed to the speed of your baby, as well as to yours.