weaning from breastfeeding
When your decision to stop breastfeeding is made, give yourself the time it takes to live that transition smoothly. Stay flexible and stay as attentive as possible to your child. It may take longer for you to do it or, on the contrary, it will be faster than you thought. This will depend on your child’s age, temperament, feelings of withdrawal, and your approach.
How to wean your baby
If he is less than nine months old
- Be weaning gradually to avoid clogging your breasts and the risk of mastitis, but also to prevent rushing your baby. Allow about four weeks for complete and gentle weaning.
Replace the “less loved” breastfeeding of the day.
- When you do not feel any more engorgement (often after 3 or 4 days), replace another feeding, if you wish. The important thing is not to eliminate two consecutive feedings. Gradually, you will replace as many feedings as you want.
- Cut morning and evening feedings last, as these are often the ones children prefer. You can also keep them very long. Many moms even get there after going back to work.
- Despite gradual weaning, your milk production may cause discomfort. Express a small amount of milk (by squeezing your breasts to let out some milk) at the time of the skipped feed to relieve you.
- If, a few days after the last feeding, you feel a waterlogging, do not hesitate to draw a little milk or to give back your baby for a few minutes.
- During the weeks following complete weaning, a slight flow of milk may occur when you see your baby, belongings, or when you think of him.
Your baby may have a “feed strike” and suddenly refuses to drink from the breast. He is not ready to be weaned. There are several reasons for his attitude: a tooth thrust, an ear infection, an illness, the beginning of your period, a change in your diet, your soap or even your deodorant … If you think he is too early to wean your baby, try to remedy the cause of this strike and try to continue breastfeeding.
If he is older than nine months
- Without “refusing” the breast overnight, stop offering it.
- Delay breastfeeding if he is not too impatient. This will help to space them and reduce their number. Change his ideas by proposing other activities.
- Offer him a nutritious snack.
- Shorten the duration of feedings.
- Change the context of feedings (do not install with him on the usual chair, at the same times, etc.).
Do you hesitate to wean your baby?
If you’re not sure how to wean your baby, try to find out why you’re ending breastfeeding and what’s bothering you. Then evaluate if you can change some things that will allow you to breastfeed longer, for your benefit and that of your child.
Breastfeeding can be maintained or changed without weaning your child. By the way, the older your baby is and the more malleable the schedule. Some babies can wait for mom’s return to drink their milk.
We recommend reading the article: Care of your breasts after breastfeeding
What to give instead of breast?
If your baby is less than nine months old, your breast milk needs to be replaced with iron-fortified infant formula. Around nine months to 12 months, your child can drink milk homogenized with 3.25% fat.
Serve infant formula or milk with your child in a bottle, cup or glass with or without a spout. In general, breastfed babies who are older than six months prefer the cup.
It is normal for your baby to drink only a small amount of milk at a time. Offer him so often. If your child does not drink enough milk by the glass, give him the bottle too.
Baby does not want to be weaned.
If your child refuses the bottle, goblet or glass, do not force him or her to drink. Instead, change the ideas and try again a few minutes later. If he still refuses, consider postponing weaning for a few days and, in the meantime, shorten the duration of each feeding.
Some babies refuse to be weaned or have to be detached quickly (e.g., if their mother is sick). Here are some tips that might help you if this is the case for your child.
- At first, put your breast milk in a bottle or cup.
- Offer him the bottle or goblet when he is in shape and not too hungry.
- Warm the bottle nipple under warm water to recreate an illusion of human warmth.
- Give the bottle in rooms, positions and times (e.g., during the snack) that are not associated with breastfeeding. Your spouse could also give it to him.
- Keep caressing your child so that he/she does not feel that it is not because you are depriving him of the breast that you will deny him of love.
Regardless of age, breastfeeding is more than just a meal for your child: it’s a moment of intimate and comforting contact that the bottle will have a hard time replacing. Reassure your baby by sticking it well against you so that he receives the same affection that you gave him when you drink. For example, you can rock and massage him to prevent him from feeling abandoned and lacking warm contact. It is weaning off the breast and not hugs!
Once weaning begins, it is always possible to change your mind and return to breastfeeding. You only have to put your baby back to the breast several times a day to boost your milk production.
If weaning is complete, restarting breastfeeding may be possible, but you will probably need professional support (e.g., lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist).
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