When you need to wean

Weaning from breastfeeding is a different journey for each mother-baby, as everyone has specific needs and styles. However, here is some information and links on how-to and doing so in a gentle way that makes the process a little easier for both of you. Remember that it can be an emotional stress on not just your baby but also yourself, especially if you’re not ready to wean emotionally but need to do so for physical or your circumstances make weaning necessary. Also, if you’re able to wait until 18 mos, it will be easier than starting before 18 mos. A baby 18+ mos. old has a better understanding of waiting than babies under 18 mos of age. And finally before starting the weaning process, keep in mind there are many benefits to extended nursing you may want to consider before weaning.

Most important thing to remember when weaning — it’s a process that takes time. Be gentle, be patient, keep in tune with your child, and wean gradually. It can take a month or more to wean a child. Also, avoid weaning when there’s been a drastic change in your baby’s life (a move, a change of childcare, a recent vacation, etc) or when your baby is sick.

Weaning from breastfeeding

  • Start by reducing the amount of feedings one at a time. Drop the easiest one to drop, which is usually not the nursing to sleep and the first waking nursing. It may be the second nursing session of the day or the middle of the day, or whatever other time is easier for you and the baby to drop. Some babies nurse all day long (or so it seems) so you’ll first need to keep track of the feedings (can be mental notes) and then decide which one seems best to drop first. Drop one nursing session every week and remember to take time to let baby and your body adjust to less feedings.
  • During the weaning process and at the missed feeding, offer substitutes such as water, solids (assuming your baby is over 9 mos old) or do things such as playing favorite game, heading outdoors or other forms of distraction that include things baby likes. If your baby is under 9 mos you may need to feed baby either donated breastmilk (through a local milk bank or organizations like Human Milk for Human Babies) or formula. Consult first with your pediatrician.
  • When you’re weaning, you’ll want to increase cuddles, kisses, hugs, special bonding times and quality time. Nursing provides more than nutrition – it provides comfort and security, so as you reduce nursing, you’ll want to increase in other forms of comfort and security for your child.
  • If your baby strongly resists not nursing and other measures of comfort or distraction are not working, then nurse during that session and try again another time that day or wait until the next day.
  • Watch for signs that you’re weaning too quickly. These include reactions such as increased crying, seems withdrawn, increase in night wakings, increase in separation anxiety. If you notice these, take a step back and slow down the weaning process or continue at another time if possible.
  • As you gradually wean, your body will adjust accordingly and you’ll produce less milk during the weaning process.
  • Continue slowly dropping nursing sessions during the weaning process until you reach the last nursing session. Again, remember this is a process that will take time and patience is needed while weaning.

Additional weaning information –

How weaning happens

Signs you’re weaning too fast

How to wean (LLL)

Weaning from the Pump

Nursing when baby is sick

Weaning Tips

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