How to Wean from Breastfeeding.
This is a subject that is very complex and filled with emotional, practical and social variables. Are you considering stopping breastfeeding because you are returning to work? Is the child of an age that you feel it is no longer acceptable and you must stop breastfeeding because of social pressures? Is your husband pressuring you to stop? Or has it just become inconvenient?
If you’ve decided it is time to wean you baby there are other things to consider.
- Will you be weaning from breastfeeding to formula?
- Are you planning on expressing breast milk and feeding your baby with a bottle?
- Is your baby eating solid foods yet, or is your baby still on liquids only?
When talking about weaning there are really two issues at work. The physical needs of mother and child. And the psychological needs of both. When the baby first latched on to the nipple it was because of the need for food. Later it was the need for both food and affection. For the mother, it started out knowing that breastfeeding was the best for the baby. Later the mother needed to relieve the discomfort of overly full breasts and also had the emotional bonding with her baby. The feeling of closeness that comes from knowing that a little life was completely dependent.
Weaning a baby from breastfeeding is something that should be done gradually. If you are weaning to formula or expressed breast milk take things slowly. There should not be a timetable, schedule or clear-cut calendar. Nothing should be set in stone. You should have an agenda with an outline. All subject to change. The change depending on your baby’s needs, and your own, and those of your family, your husband and your workplace.
Weaning From Breastfeeding to Formula
There are a lot of choices when choosing the right formula. There are many varieties and types. The thing to keep in mind is what your baby needs at this stage of development. Consult your pediatrician before making up your mind as to what is right for your baby. When you start to make the switch it may be smart to express milk first to get your baby used to the bottle. After your baby learns to like the bottle gradually introduce formula. The baby may balk at the taste of formula. Or it may cause indigestion. So go slowly.
Weaning from Breastfeeding and Using Expressed Milk
Breast milk may safely be refrigerated for up to 24 hours and it can be frozen. It is a good idea to purchase a high quality breast pump. Express enough milk so that your baby has enough for regular feeding. It may be a good idea to express one breast after the bay empties the other.
Tips for Successful Weaning
When you reach the decision to stop breastfeeding altogether take it slowly. It will be uncomfortable. Your breasts are full of milk and your baby will no longer be emptying them. Avoid the desire to express them yourself. Your breasts need to be trained to stop producing milk. Some experts say that binding the breasts with elastic bandages will help. Others suggest wearing a sports bra and using cold compresses to relieve the discomfort. All agree that taking medication is not the best idea. Avoid stimulation of the breasts. Also try and keep your breasts from stimulation or warmth. When in the shower let the water run down your back. When holding your baby avoid the instinct and habit you have of holding them close to your b=body. Put a pillow or blanket between you and your baby.
Let dad chip in. The father needs time with the baby and although he may never understand the bonding that takes place between a baby and a breastfeeding mother he will the closeness is good for him as well. Let him feed the baby as much as possible. The baby will enjoy the dad time and it will help the baby overcome the desire to breastfeed while in your arms.
Remember. Weaning does not have to be cut and dry. Every baby and every circumstance is different. Take things at a leisurely pace. Wean the baby and wean yourself. You may have feelings of regret. That is normal. And those feeling of melancholy will continue. Each milestone a child makes is a bittersweet experience for a parent.
If you are looking for more tips like this on how to gently wean your baby from breastfeeding, check out Wendi Blaire’s “Hello Milk, Bye-Bye Milk: An Expert Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding and Weaning”. Her book will answer all of your questions on weaning such as how to express milk for your baby, how to spot for signs of readiness for solid foods, and how to address the problems associated with weaning such as breast pain and breast engorgement.