Weaning baby from breastfeeding is a really big decision and can be really hard. Every baby is different, so we have some tips to help with the process.
How to Wean Your Baby from Breastfeeding
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As a mom of 4 kids, you would think I would have this whole breastfeeding and weaning thing down. But each baby is so different! Weaning baby from breastfeeding is uncharted territory and the journey can be daunting!
My oldest LOVED to nurse, but he started solids really young and really loved almond milk, so he wasn’t hard to wean. My daughter was really easy-going and started to lose a lot of interest in it around 9 months old. I still nursed her until she was a year, but by that time it wasn’t a big deal for her when we stopped. My third child, Cameron was really easy to wean too! He really enjoyed table food and filled up on that, and really liked to drink out of water bottles. So, I could put milk or water in a water bottle and he was happy as can be.
All of my children were breastfed until they were 1 year old, except for my youngest.
I have breastfed him the longest, and as I’m writing this right now, he is almost 13 months old! And there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight with weaning this baby from breastfeeding.
Let’s backpedal a little bit.
I love the ease (for me) and connection I have with my sweet little babies from nursing, but I struggle with how time-consuming it can be! As I reflect on the amount of time I have HAD to sit down and take the time to feed a hungry baby, I’m genuinely grateful for that special time I have been able to spend with each one of my children. But, it can be really hard to get anything done when you have to sit down every 2 hours for at least 20 minutes for a feeding (my kids are all pretty fast eaters).
So, here I am! I’m at a point where being done with nursing is totally okay, but my little Mason boy is not having it. Weaning baby from breastfeeding isn’t really in the cards for me right now. But knowing the process for weaning baby from breastfeeding is!
It is a total understatement that each and every mom and child are different.
Everyone’s journey is different.
Every mom is different.
And Every child is different.
The bottom line is that what works for me and what works for someone else may not coincide, but it works!
So, while I may be done with breastfeeding, my son definitely is NOT. So now I get to experience extended breastfeeding, not by my own choice, but because it is what works right now for us.
And while it may be frustrating and hard at times for me, I’m trying to treasure and soak in every single moment with that little baby (that isn’t so much of a baby anymore) because he is the last one I get to snuggle, cuddle, and feed like this.
Goodness, talking like that makes it sound like I want to nurse him forever!
When is it Okay to Start Weaning Your Baby?
There isn’t a set time or way to wean your baby from breastfeeding. Some can only nurse for a short amount of time, while others nurse well into toddler years. Whatever is best for mom and baby is different for everyone.
There are different cues or signals that may happen that are good determinants with weaning. But overall, it’s best to set things up for the smoothest transition possible.
Here are some questions to consider:
Is your child able to consume a decent amount of solid foods? Do they like it?
Is your baby still seeking comfort through nursing? Are they still nursing to sleep?
Does your baby sleep through the night without any feedings? Do they need night feedings commonly?
Is your baby still interested in breastfeeding? Or is it just a habit?
Can baby take a bottle or sippy cup?
Is Mom ready?
If your answers to these questions are pretty solid and in-line with stopping and weaning baby from breastfeeding, then let’s get some good options to help!
Weaning Baby from Breastfeeding
Reduce Amount of Feedings
Trying to limit the number of feedings your child wants can be really difficult! Just try and gradually decrease it. Don’t just take them all away cold turkey. ESPECIALLY the feedings when falling asleep or waking up. Those are most likely comfort feedings that render attachment qualities that you don’t want to disrupt. Letting your baby have their soothing feedings helps them feel more comfortable in the transition.
Drop one feeding at a time and just leave out that one for about 3-7 days depending on what you feel is working. Try to choose the one that is the least favored. That is typically an afternoon feeding. This also will help mom with engorgement and prevent being too full.
If your child seems to be insistent on continuing to nurse at a normal time that you are trying to cut out, distract them! Spend time doing something else with them. My youngest loves cars, so I find all the cars in the house and we do different things like sorting or running them across the couch with motor noises. Do anything that will keep their mind off of breastfeeding.
Give them a snack they can hold. Graham crackers or string cheese are my go-to choices.
Hop over to our post on Baby Led Weaning for more tips with helping babies transition to solid foods.
Cold Turkey Weaning
This is a tricky one! But if you want to be done breastfeeding your child RIGHT NOW, then just stopping the nursing may be the way to go.
You have to be so careful about dehydration! Kids that are 1 year of age can drink water and milk, so be sure to offer it to them frequently.
Try different bottles or sippy cups. My oldest son didn’t care for bottles, but he would do any sippy cup. My daughter on the other hand really just liked drinking straight from a cup. Cameron just liked to use my water bottle with a straw.
Don’t Be Afraid to Test Out Different Products!
What if they still won’t take the cow’s milk? Try adding a little bit of formula or breastmilk to it to make it taste sweeter or more familiar. Sometimes adding a little bit of flavored pediatric drinks help too. Just a little tiny bit though! You don’t want your kids to get addicted to these. Gradually decrease the amount in their milk each time you fill their cup up.
No matter which way you choose to wean, you need to be SURE that your child is getting adequate nutrition. Calcium-rich foods are really important, as well as vitamin D. Leafy greens and other foods like yogurt and cheese are good options to include in your child’s diet.
Tips for Breastfeeding Weaning Pain
Warm showers always help when I’m weaning my babies. It helps me relax and relieves the excess pressure of having too much milk. I usually hand express excess milk while I’m in there so I don’t have to pump later.
Cold compresses are also really great. I love to use the breast therapy pad that I also swear by when I begin the nursing journey as well.
Pump a little bit to relieve pressure. NOT TOO MUCH! You don’t want to stimulate more milk production if you are wanting to stop breastfeeding.
Watch for clogged ducts and mastitis! It can be sneaky, especially when you are already full and are uncomfortable.
And my #1 tip would be to wear a comfortable bra that is supportive. Nothing really beats comfort! Even while breastfeeding, a bra that is too tight can cause major problems! So keep it simple.
Drying Up Your Milk Supply
If you are wanting to actively dry up your milk supply, there are a few different things you can try.
It is recommended to gradually go about lowering your milk supply, but I have a few ideas to help if you are are trying to speed the process along.
My sister-in-law swears by the cabbage leaf method with drying your milk up.
If that’s the direction you want to take, keep a head of cabbage in the fridge and take a rolling pin to them to flatten them out and get the enzymes to break up. Place them around your breast and inside your bra leaving your nipples exposed. Change them often, every 20 to 30 minutes. Try doing it for 24 to 48 hours straight for best results.
Peppermint is said to lower milk supply.
Whether you choose to drink peppermint tea or buy an essential oil capsule, it should do the trick. Breath mints are a great option too.
Sage tea is another great choice.
Anti-histamines are also known to dry up milk, which is why many women avoid them while nursing.
Wearing an extra tight bra is also an option, but not really recommended because of the high possibility of getting a clogged duct and things turning for the worse with infection.
Your milk may take a month or more to really dry up. I have had milk up to a year after weaning my babies. Everyone is different.
While I noted above that I have mixed feelings about breastfeeding my babies, I also have those same feelings when weaning baby from breastfeeding.
IT ISN’T EASY!
Excitement, guilt, and sadness are emotions that I feel when the weaning process happens. But you know what? It’s okay to feel all of these feelings! It’s comparable to seeing your children grow up and feeling like it is taking forever and flying by in the blink of an eye. I would definitely say it’s bittersweet.
Sometimes it may feel like you are losing that special connection with your child that you have literally been connected to in some way for almost 2 years. But there are other things you can do to have those connecting moments.
Try Implementing One-on-One Time.
I find it is easiest to do this at the same times of day I would have been nursing in the past.
Some of my favorite things are going outside and playing with bubbles or rolling a ball around on the trampoline. Going for a walk is also fun!
Whatever you do, take time to enjoy the things you didn’t indulge in while breastfeeding. The bounds are endless when you decide on weaning baby from breastfeeding! You can leave the baby with dad for an entire day, drinking excess amounts of caffeine, or work out as much as you want!
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Michele is a Family Life Educator. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!