Weaning Off Breastfeeding
For a lot of mothers, the choice to wean off breastfeeding (whether yours or baby’s) is bittersweet. You have given your baby nourishment and bonded with them like no one else can. However, you feel like you are tied down to your baby. Don’t feel bad. A lot of mothers feel the same way, I know I did. I was fortunate enough to stay home with my daughter and because of that, I was able to breastfeed for the first year of her life, which is also the recommended amount of time.
Once that first birthday came around, I was ready to be finished. Not that I didn’t love having that quiet time with her, but because I felt it was time. Here are some things that helped me to wean off breastfeeding.
1. DO NOT wean if there’s been a big change in your household (new baby, new house, etc.) It will stress out your baby and you will be stressed in return.
2. Start substituting a cup in place of a breastfeeding session one at a time. By the time she was almost one, my daughter was only feeding 3 times a day from me, morning, lunch, and before bed. She took a cup of either milk or juice (it’s recommended not to give more than 4 oz of juice a day at this age) at each other meal/snack. I started giving her milk at lunch to get the process started. Check with your pediatrician if it’s OK to start whole milk before your child’s first birthday. If not, you may want to hold off until after their birthday to wean.
3. Give your child about a week to adjust before eliminating more feedings. Since my daughter was only feeding 3 times a day, eliminating the daytime feeding was pretty easy. The most important feeds to her were in the morning and before bedtime. Leave those feedings that are most important to your baby for last.
4. Once you are ready to start substituting those last feedings, you may get more resistance from your baby. For me, the nighttime feeding went next. I offered my daughter a cup of milk (warmed up slightly) before bed. She took a small sip, and wanted no more. She didn’t tug at me either. I rocked her and she went straight to sleep. I continued with this routine for another week.
5. If your baby and you are ready, you can try to stop that last feeding. This may cause conflict between you and your baby. That last most soothing feeding is the worst to stop, in my opinion. My daughter loved her first morning milk. She was so upset with me that day, I’ll never forget it. She pulled at my shirt and breasts for about an hour that morning, refusing to drink the milk I had offered her instead. The trick is to distract them. Play a game, sing songs, and watch a favorite video. Whatever you do, do not give in. It will just confuse your child and they will think if they fight it, they’ll get what they want.
All in all, it’s best for both you (your breasts) and your baby if you take things slowly. Your baby will get used to the fact that milk no longer comes from Mommy, but from a cup, and your breasts will dry up (and unfortunately get smaller). You will feel like a person again, instead of a milk machine, and you may enjoy motherhood a little more!
If you are still a breastfeeding mother, check out this Guide to Breastfeeding