Well-done mom, you have managed to breastfeed your child for this long. While some mothers prefer to wean their babies at six months or before, others may decide to breastfeed for longer. But now that you are ready to get your child off the breast, you will discover, this is rather challenging.
Does this sound familiar? Perhaps you’re back at work, but as soon as you walk through the door, your one-year-old goes straight for your breasts. You’ve already introduced solids, but no matter how much your child eats, she may still want to be breastfed regardless. What is a mom to do?
Gradual weaning is best
When it’s time to wean, it is best to do it gradually rather than suddenly. Physical discomfort and potential health complications can arise for mom if she stops breastfeeding suddenly. Your breasts will become overly full and painfully engorged – which could lead to breast infection or a breast abscess. Abrupt breastfeeding is also said to contribute to depression in moms, due to a sudden drop in a mother’s level of prolactin, the hormone released during breastfeeding associated with feelings of wellbeing.
Breastfeeding is a source of comfort and closeness as well as food for your baby. Therefore abrupt weaning may be emotionally traumatic, leaving baby feeling as though mom has withdrawn her love as well as her breast.
Eliminate all unessential feeding sessions
Eliminate all unessential breastfeeding sessions first. These include the times when your child is randomly crying and not necessarily for the breast. When you are trying to keep her quiet while you are on the phone or during rainy afternoons when going for a walk isn’t an option.
Substitute one feed at a time
Start off by substituting feeds, perhaps the least favourite. Use a Sippy cup at this time and keep your child’s attention focused on other things. You may notice that this is easier to do during the course of the day than it is in the morning or evening. Continue this way, substituting one feed at a time. Wait at least 5 days before substituting the next feed. Add in extra hugs and cuddles though. As time goes on, you can stop the morning feeds and eventually the night feeds too.
If your breasts are uncomfortable while you are weaning, express enough milk to make you comfortable. There are also over the counter drugs which can help. Cold compresses or gel packs applied to your breasts can also help relieve pain and other discomfort you are likely to feel.
Don’t send confusing cues
Don’t confuse your baby. If you sit with your child in the same chair that you usually sit on when you breastfeed her, you may want to avoid this chair for a while. Also remember to stay consistent. Don’t stop breastfeeding and then return to it after a few days. This will make weaning even more difficult. Try to not give in to random feeding, but be aware that your child will fuss and fight in the beginning.
Get someone else to feed your child
Someone else may need to feed your child during usual breastfeeding times. This may not always be possible if you are the primary caregiver. However, this could be when you give the Sippy cup. Sometimes your baby just needs to find out that falling asleep is possible in other ways than at the breast.
Wear clothes that aren’t breastfeeding friendly
Your one-year-old is capable of tugging at your shirt and can sometimes successfully find your breast under your clothes. You may find that wearing clothes that make breastfeeding impossible, will help to divert her attention. She may just find your necklace more interesting at this point.
What does my baby want?
An effective way of weaning your baby is knowing what it is they want when they cry. Often, breastfeeding moms will nurse when they sense any sign of distress. To avoid this, try and accurately guess what your child’s most pressing needs are at that time. She may be hungry, thirsty, she may be longing for eye contact, to be held, entertained or in need of a quiet moment with mom.
Don’t despair mom. Your child is already on solids, which essentially means that the weaning process has begun. Your breast milk has helped your child grow, and breastfeeding has strengthened your relationship – providing your child with comfort and closeness which humans need in order to thrive. Shorten the length of the breastfeeding sessions, and allow your child to self sooth. You may be surprised to find out that in time she may just decide that she has had enough breast milk, and is ready to be weaned completely.