Welcome! If you are new here, please visit the “Start Here” tab up at the top after reading this post. Be sure to subscribe and say hi on social media as well! 🙂 Also- I’m not a doctor. The following advice is through my personal experience in breastfeeding and weaning my children. Please consult your doctor for questions involving your baby’s health.
It can be hard to even think about when it’s time to wean your baby from breastfeeding. I’ve been there and it’s a stage that is very bittersweet.
Breastfeeding has been such a special thing for me. Besides the nourishment and health benefits, I really feel like it’s a close bond between mom and baby.
Even after both of the girls were weaned, I’m pretty sure they had forgot about breastfeeding after the first week, but I missed it every day for months.
There are tough things to go through in the breastfeeding process though.
Erin has started lifting up my shirt in public to nurse, which isn’t the most fun thing in the world. She even gets mad at me when I tell her ‘no’ to nursing, she also likes to throw her head at my chest and scream until I let her nurse. We’ve had some attachment issues and for both of our sanity, we are weaning slowly.
I weaned Charlie right around this time (14-15 months) as well. I’ve had some people ask the best way of weaning from nursing. First I have to say, wean when you and your baby are ready and comfortable. If your baby is still at a stage of needing you for comfort, maybe just cut back some. Whenever you feel is right for you and your baby is the right time.
Here are 7 tips to help gently wean your baby from breastfeeding:
1. Wean Gradually
I have read stories of moms that quit breastfeeding cold turkey. If it works for them, then that’s great. But I do know that going from a regular nursing schedule to absolutely nothing at all can cause problems such as horrible pain, swelling, engorgement, even mastitis.
Not to mention pain for the mother, your baby might be confused as to why they were able to nurse and now it’s all of a sudden taken away. Their world will be turned upside down. Start to wean your baby from breastfeeding a few weeks or even months in advance and just cut back in the length of time for a certain feeding. Then start cutting out a whole feeding.
For example, if your baby nurses when waking, mid morning, lunch time, afternoon, supper, and bed, you can start to cut out the afternoon feeding. Get to the point of being able to slowly cut back on each feeding.
2. Use Distractions
Try not to offer to nurse when your baby isn’t even interested in it. If they are playing during a normal feeding time, just let them keep playing. You don’t need to interrupt them to feed, especially if their mind is elsewhere.
It will be easier to wean your baby from breastfeeding if you have other things to keep their mind on.(This is assuming your child has started solid foods and is getting calories and nutrition from foods other than breast milk. If they are only depending on breast milk right now, do not cut out feedings.)
For example, a fun new graduate sippy cup that will help them with the transition, or a new snack or toy. Keep their mind off of nursing.
I know this is hard because even when Erin is sitting on my lap she knows what’s there and tries to lift my shirt up. I’ve started wearing a tank top under my shirts and sometimes even a hoodie on top of that if I’m cold enough, so that it’s not as easily accessible for her.
3. Offer Affection
Weaning is tough mentally for both mommy and baby. First off it’s hard on us moms, we know our little baby is growing up. Breastfeeding is so much more than the nutrition, as it releases endorphin’s for both mom and baby. It’s relaxing, a great bonding, and something that will be missed when it’s gone.
It’s confusing for the baby, too. They had something there that was nourishment and a security blanket, now it’s being taken away. There might be tantrums or crying or even increased clinging onto you, but remember they are going through a hard time as well.
Offer tons of hugs, cuddles, kisses, even just holding them, talking to them, reading to them. Give them attention so they know they are still very loved and cared for. It will make the rough time of weaning your baby from breastfeeding a little easier on both of you.
4. Prevent Physical Pain
- move positions. I have her lay the opposite way when nursing so that top side tooth doesn’t hurt so much in the same place.
- try pumping and putting your breast milk into a sippy cup to relieve the fullness
- get a head of cabbage from your store! If you are really sore, use the cold, whole, cabbage leaves and put them in your sports bra. (Not just on the front of your breasts– the whole thing!) As soon as the leaves start wilting, change them and put new cabbage leaves in. It will help with the pain of swelling.
- if you have redness, swelling, unbearable pain or even knot-like feeling bumps in your breasts, along with a fever, you might want to call your doctor. Mastitis (infection in the breasts) can happen during the ‘drying up’ process.
- a long, hot bath will actually make the swelling and pain worse. Use cold compresses or ice packs to relieve the pain. Yes, I have learned this the hard way.
- if you are still having pain, I have seen a lot of success stories by women who use essential oils, especially Panaway to help reduce pain and swelling.
5. Avoid ‘Triggers’
In the nursing process it will be easier if you stay away from familiar things that remind your baby of nursing. Try to avoid these triggers by always having a sippy cup, toy or reading to them ready, keeping them occupied. Here are some common triggers to change:
- hold your baby in different positions instead of the common ‘nursing positions’ she is used to.
- try not to sit in the usual chair or room that you usually nurse in. Move somewhere else.
- try not to get dressed or change clothes in front of your baby. If they see it, they will want it.
- try having Dad help with bed time or nap time if your baby associates mom with nursing.
6. Wean When You Feel Is Right
No one else knows yourself and your baby as well as you do. Don’t let parents forums or your next door neighbor convince you when you should wean your baby from breastfeeding. Some people feel like weaning at six months, yet some people wean at age two or beyond.
When you feel like you and your baby are at a place that you can start weaning, then so be it. It’s up to you are your baby how and when you want to wean. If you still need help deciding, talk to you doctor.
- The weaning process is easier for some moms/babies than others. Try to stay patient and don’t give up. If it is just not working at all right now, give it a break and try later.
- Try to introduce a sippy cup months before you start the weaning process. This way they are used to using the sippy and can adjust better.
- Try not to wean them from the breast onto a bottle, that will cause you to wean again, from the bottle, later.
- You can also try some fun finger foods -(if you baby is old enough and ready! Be careful of choking hazards!)
- I have read of herbal teas that can actually help dry up your milk, although I have not tried any of these.
- I have also read of mom’s making up a concoction of a mixture of olive oil, vinegar, and cinnamon, almost like a ‘repellent’ to put on their nipples and when their baby tries to nurse, it is disgusted and turned away. I haven’t tried this either!
- To help with your milk drying up, try to only let your baby eat a little off of each side. Don’t let them empty each breast completely at each feeding in the weaning process. When your breasts get completely emptied, it stimulates them to make more milk, slowing the drying process, and it could take longer to wean your baby from breastfeeding.
Remember to stay calm, and offer your baby plenty of hugs, kisses, and loving.
Next Read: 5 Ways to be A Positive Mom 🙂