How to completely stop your baby from breastfeeding may be a little challenging for some mothers and for others it’s just a walk in the park. Weaning doesn’t have to be difficult, it has to be properly planned in order to make a smooth transition for both mother and child.
When is the best time to start weaning?
World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life thereafter infants should receive complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to 2years of age or beyond. However when to start weaning your child should be a personal decision. When babies are introduced to formula or solids the weaning process starts naturally and gradually and that often happens at age six months or earlier.
Some children initiate weaning themselves, by gradually losing interest in breastfeeding- often gets distracted while nursing and would refuse to nurse again even after the distraction had passed, some overtime prefers other foods and is fascinated at the site of it than at nursing. Some mothers may observe such child and use that opportunity to completely wean while some children would naturally stop breastfeeding because they feel other foods give them what they want.
Mothers also initiate weaning especially mom’s returning to work or moms who feel they are ready. But the question often asked- is your child ready? Weaning has to be a two-way thing, mother and child have to be ready before a child is weaned. However, if a child is not ready and mother is ready, then the mother should take it gradually by reducing nursing time and giving the baby a lot of distraction in food form.
Choose a time that feels right for you (it’s a personal decision) and your baby when you eventually decide to wean. Having your child taken far away from you as possible is not the best approach to weaning as this may be traumatic for the child. All children eventually wean whether they do it at their own pace or mother initiated.
When not to Wean from Breastfeeding?
- Don’t wean when the baby is sick: This is a time the baby needs nutrition, comfort, and reassurance and they find it during nursing. For older babies who have been introduced to solids, they often reject these foods and prefer to nurse.
- Don’t wean when you are under stress: it’s in the best interest of the both mother and child to wean when they are emotionally stable. Avoid weaning when there is a situation that may lead to stress like preparing for a long journey or family relocation. Such occasions are not favorable for a smooth transition.
- Don’t wean when you feel it may affect your child negatively: If you have concerns and doubts about weaning your baby then you should talk to your Doctor about it.
- Don’t wean abruptly when you discover you are pregnant with another baby: I interviewed some mothers and I found out that some who had been pregnant at some point while they still had an infant ended breastfeeding abruptly just on discovering they were pregnant with another baby. It’s a Myth that breastfeeding while pregnant hurts both the fetus and the breastfed baby. Yes, you can continue to nurse while pregnant depending on your medical history according to healthychildren.Org (American Academy of Pediatrics parenting website). However, talk to your Doctor about weaning when you discover you are pregnant with another child.
Tips to Weaning
- Reduce nursing time: Reduce the time it takes for your baby to nurse if he usually takes ten minutes try five minutes and see how he responds to it. Complement with healthy snacks like milk, fruit- banana or his solid foods.
- Reduce the feed: Skip his feeds one at a time by offering another food instead of breastmilk. But make it a gradual process. If he usually feeds 5times a day on breastmilk, reduce it 3 times.
- Serve breast milk in cups: You can express and serve in a cup or bottle for your baby. It helps minimize nursing.
- Nigerian mothers rub bitter leaf on their nipples just at the time of nursing so naturally, some baby’s reject both breast and milk because it has a bitter taste. While it may work for some it may not work for others. Some baby’s still nurse with the bitter taste until it wears off.
- Keeping baby far away from you: Some mothers keep their toddlers away from them like making the nanny spend the weekend with grandma. Though this method may work but it may be traumatizing for the child and would rather be a crude way of transiting.
Whichever way you choose to wean, it’s your choice but it’s to start slowly to avoid engorgement. In such case, you apply cold packs to your breast to reduce pain and swelling.
Before you take any medication discuss with your doctor. Breastmilk dries up within few days to weeks so you don’t need any drug to help you do that; it’s a natural phenomenon.
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