Are you ready to wean from breastfeeding? Do you think that your child is ready to wean ?
Oftentimes weaning your baby will happen gradually on its own. But you may need to wean before your child naturally stops on their own. If you need to or want to wean before the natural time it is best to take it slow. Weaning quickly and suddenly can be physically painful for you and emotionally hard for you and your baby.
What is Weaning ?
When you begin to enter foods other than breastmilk into your baby’s diet, weaning has begun. Weaning is the process a child goes through going from fully breastfed or breastmilk fed to when they stop nursing for nutrition or comfort.
When to Wean Baby
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively until your baby is six months old. After six months then you can combine solids and breast milk until they are one year old.
After your baby is one year old, continue to breastfeed for as long as you both are comfortable. Some mothers can continue to nurse well into their baby’s toddler years. Breastfeeding is great for baby and mother at any age.
However, weaning is a personal decision and depends on what is best for you and your baby. You may be returning to work and need a more flexible feeding schedule. Many mothers choose to wean their baby from the breast around four- seven months.
How to Tell my Baby is Ready to Wean
Many children who wean themselves do not usually do so without some warning. The process is usually gradual and slow. If your baby suddenly denies or the breast, it is probably not a readiness to wean but rather a temporary nursing strike.
As your child ages, nursing sessions occur less often. They become more interested in playing, new foods, and new skills. You will notice nursing will go from a few times a day, once a day, and eventually once every few days or a few times a month.
However, if your child is teething or sick they may need the extra comfort of nursing and it may not be the opportune time to wean. The antibodies in your breastmilk can help them fight off the illness and germs as well. The same goes for if your baby is struggling or resisting your attempts to wean, it may not be the right time. If it is possible to wait and try again in a few weeks that may be best.
Baby Led Weaning
Baby led weaning is a method that involves starting with solids and overlooking the traditional pureed baby foods. The parent or care-taker will offer the baby soft cooked foods in tiny portions. Instead of the parent being the one to feed the baby and tell them how to eat, the baby instead makes his or her own choices.
Parents should not give only one thing to baby, but rather give them proper nutrition and portion sizes. It is vital for the parent to still supervise the baby while eating.
Rather than providing their baby with a spoon, most parents allow the baby to use their fingers when eating.
Just being aware of your baby’s curiosity and will help you to know when they are ready to try table food. Most babies are ready around six months of age, especially if they have been exclusively breastfeeding. Every infant will have dislikes and likes, much like an adult. Do not feel the need to rush or pressure your little one to eat certain foods. It is best to offer them different options to determine what they like and dislike.
Keep offering them food even if they do not like it the first time, they may like it later on. Be prepared for the mess that can come with baby led weaning, as many babies will play with the food before it finally reaches their mouth.
Many women choose to begin weaning at nighttime. However, this does not mean taking away the time that you spend with them. The goal with night weaning is to transfer the cuddle and suckle from the night to the day. A great way to go about this is by giving them more feeding times and attention throughout the day. This will help so that they still feel loved and do not wake up hungry.
Establishing a bedtime routine will help. If you want the baby to sleep throughout the night you will have to have a strong breastfeeding session established before its time for bed. A routine will help the baby grow to depend on this every night. It is best to nurse them right before bed so that their stomachs are full when you put them down. Try to avoid feeding them solid foods before putting them down. This may actually cause the baby to wake up more as their stomachs are still learning how to process these foods.
You may wish to cluster feed, or feed more than once within the three hours before bedtime to help ensure that your baby is full. They will start to sleep longer as their belly is full to the max within the hours before sleep.
If your little one wakes up during the night and wants to feed, try other things such as rocking or cuddling them first. This will work to break the habit of eating every time they wake up. If you do nurse them, give them limited access to your breast milk. Feed them for only a few minutes. After you do this routine for a few days, your little one may decide its not worth it to wake up throughout the night anymore.
Tips to Weaning
Here are a few tips that can help the overall process go smoothly:
- Shorten feedings – If you slowly begin to adjust the amount of time that you spend nursing or delay it this will help your little one begin to lose interest in breastfeeding. If your little one wants to nurse, you can say “only for a few minutes” or “in a little while.”
- Take it slow- When it comes to weaning you want to do it gradually. By stopping suddenly you will present a challenging situation for both you and baby. This could lead to emotional issues and perhaps mastitis. Try removing one feeding at a time as you work toward weaning altogether.
- Distractions are key – Try to anticipate when your baby will want to nurse and instead distract them or provide them with substitutions. This could be giving them their favorite snack or having play time instead.
- Cuddles help – A lot of children seek the comfort of nursing. So if you are weaning make sure to have a lot of one-on-one cuddling time to help make the process a little easier. Do not sit in a special nursing chair, but offer extra cuddles or baby-wearing during the day to help allow the transition some more comfort.
- It’s okay to be sad – You may feel a mix of emotions during this time. It is okay to feel sad about your breastfeeding journey ending. Just remember you have plenty of new and exciting adventures to come.
- Relieve the pressure – Don’t forget that your breasts may feel full as your body is adjusting to needing to produce less milk. If you feel full or engorged, you can express milk to help you feel more comfortable.
- Let baby lead – Some babies do best when they are in control of their weaning. If you are alright with this, rely on the motto of “don’t offer, don’t refuse” and let your baby come to you. You will nurse your child when they express interest, but don’t initiate it. This process may take longer than other methods.
- If your baby is less than one year old – you will need to supplement your milk with formula.
- Let your partner help – If your baby likes to nurse to sleep, try letting your partner do the bedtime routine to help establish the break.
The time it takes to wean your baby will depend on several factors. It will depend on their age, the number of times you usually breastfeed each day, and whether they are ready to wean. During the first year of your baby’s life weaning works best if you take it slowly, as breastfeeding is their main source of nutrition. But if they are older the process may end up going quicker. Just remember to have patience and try to follow your baby’s cues.