Breast milk contains all the nourishment a baby needs for the first six months of their life. As we begin to introduce solids to our children they become less reliant on the breast for nourishment, with most breastfeeding Mums finding that their baby or toddler uses the breast for comfort but not as a primary source of nutrition. While some babies self wean easily, others can be a little more stubborn about the process. Here are some tips to make transitioning your baby from your breast as easy as possible for you and your baby.
Encouraged Self Weaning
Some babies begin the process of self weaning, mostly during the day, in the first year of their life. This is generally due to a rise in activity, the introduction of solid foods and other liquids and the beginnings of a more independent little person. This has a natural and gradual effect on Mum’s milk supply as the breasts are stimulated less, in turn they produce less milk. If you are looking to encourage your child to wean, you can begin the weaning process by simulating this natural self weaning stage. This has the added benefit of being a gradual shift, easier for your baby to cope with and will help reduce the risk of mastitis and other complications. Substitute breast feeds during the day with a suitable substitute milk or formula are good options depending on the age of your baby. If you have an older child, offer food and water in a sippy cup. Your child may want your breast for comfort instead of nutrition, so offer plenty of cuddles and affection.
Katlyn says “My son started to self wean around ten months old. He was too busy playing to feed properly and my supply started to drop. We started off dropping a morning feed, then an afternoon feed and before I knew it he was drinking milk out of a sippy cup and not taking the breast at all. I gave him a dummy and rocked him when he was upset instead of offering him my breast.”
While it is best for Mum and baby if you wean slowly, personal circumstances may determine that you need to wean a little faster. Below are some strategies to help you wean your child when you don’t have the luxury of slowing dropping day feeds.
- Replace breast with milk or formula, depending on the age of your child. Establish a new feeding routine with either a bottle or a sippy cup.
- If you usually feed your child to sleep, try rocking, patting or gentle singing to establish a new sleeping routine.
- Your baby may need additional ‘sucking’ comfort. You can introduce a dummy or a new teething toy to help transition from the comfort of breast feeding to weaning.
- If you have been mixed feeding, offer formula or milk before you offer the breast to help encourage the weaning process.
- Use distraction techniques during the day when you would usually be breast feeding. Keeping some toys set aside for ‘feeding’ times is a good way to keep a child entertained. Play with these toys before and after their bottle, sippy cup or food whatever you are weaning onto instead of breast.
If you are experiencing issues with engorged breasts or discomfort, express enough to relieve the discomfort but try not to stimulate your supply this will cause further problems in the long run.
Tanya says “My daughter was seven months old when I went back to work. I needed to wean her quickly so I substituted breast with formula. I found it was easier to get her to take a bottle when I wore a shirt that buttoned up high. Any contact with the skin on my chest would make it difficult for Bella to take a bottle.”
Weaning should happen when you are ready if you feel you’re being pressured, remember that there is no rule that stipulates you should stop breast feeding at a particular time. There are many reasons to choose to stop breast feeding. For some Mums, it is a return for work. For others, it is simply because it has become necessary or they have had enough of feeding. Whatever your reason, as long as your child is loved and nourished then you are doing a great job. Weaning can be a difficult process, there may be some tears from both sides as you navigate a new routine with your child. Be patient and if you have the luxury of time, take it slowly. While weaning can be a bittersweet experience, remember that you are moving on to the next exciting stage with your child and there are many more bonding experiences to come.
What are your tips for weaning babies?