When a baby stops receiving breast milk, it is called weaning. It takes patience and understanding on both your part to wean your baby.
When is the right time to wean?
It is up to the mom to decide when she wants to wean. Mothers might feel compelled to wean because of a return in work, their health, or simply the feeling that it is the right time.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. The AAP recommends that babies be fed a mixture of breast milk and solid food until they are at least one year old. Babies can then start to drink whole cow’s milk.
Experts agree that breastfeeding should be continued for as long as is comfortable for both mother and baby. Many mothers choose to wean their baby after the first birthday. Babies are now able to walk, talk and eat solid food. They may lose interest in nursing.
Extended breastfeeding is when a mom breastfeeds for more than one year. Extended breastfeeding is an acceptable option for both mothers and their children, even if they are not ready to wean. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least the first two years of a child’s life.
You don’t have to wean all at once. Depending on their work schedules and personal preferences, some women breastfeed during the day while others choose to wean during a shift.
Your child might have a different time preference than you when you wean. Some children wean earlier than their mother planned, while others are more resistant to weaning once the mother is ready. People who wean later in their lives tend to be more resistant. A 2-year-old toddler might be more attached to breastfeeding and less willing to give up than a 12-month old baby. It’s important to be patient and sensitive when dealing with difficult situations like these.
Signs that your baby may be weaning
Some children are happy to continue nursing indefinitely. Others will signal to moms that they are ready for weaning.
- Nursing can make you seem disinterested or fussy.
- Nursing in shorter sessions than ever before
- Nursing can be distracting.
Playing at the breasts, such as pulling on and taking off, or biting. Babies who bite while nursing should be removed immediately and told calmly, but firm, “No biting.” Biting can cause severe pain.
Nursing for comfort is when you nurse to your baby (sucking the breasts but not the milk).
Methods for Weaning
Weaning should be gradual so that both mother and baby can adjust emotionally and physically to the changes.
You can try dropping one feeding session per week until your child starts to drink all of the milk from a cup or bottle. You will need to pump if you wish to give your child breast milk. You can avoid engorgement by gradually reducing the amount of breast milk you give your child.
It might be worth stopping the midday feed, as it is often the most difficult and inconvenient, especially for working moms. Because it is still an important part of bonding, many mothers give up the bedtime feeding.
Some mothers leave the decision about when to wean their child to them. Children who eat three meals of solid food per day (plus snacks), tend to breastfeed less. If this happens, the mom’s milk supply will decrease due to lack of demand. She’ll have to pump milk to keep it flowing. Make sure your child is receiving enough iron-fortified milk or formula if he or she is breastfeeding less. Talk to your doctor about the amount of milk or formula your child should be receiving.
You will need to feed your baby formula if your baby is born before one year. Talk to your doctor about the best formula for your baby.