Weaning Part 1: How to Stop Breastfeeding

Weaning:  How to Stop BreastfeedingWhen the time comes for breastfeeding to end, you should approach the weaning process carefully.  Breastfeeding has been a mutual experience for you and your baby which means that weaning should probably be a mutual decision as well.  Today we’re exploring how to stop breastfeeding to ensure you and your baby wean healthily and lovingly.

Breastfeeding is a journey like no other in life.  The bond you’ve solidified with your baby and the perfect nutrition with its vast benefits will last a lifetime.  But as they say, “all good things must end.”  Knowing how to stop breastfeeding and when to stop breastfeeding can be somewhat complicated since both of your bodies and your emotions are attached.  Before you wean, consider the following:

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of your baby’s life.  After around six months you can introduce solids but the AAP recommends continuing breastfeeding along with solids for at least one year.  If you have to wean before one year, your baby will need formula and then can switch to milk when he is one.  When making the transition from breast milk to formula, do it slowly.  Try to mix the two together to get your baby acclimated.  Prior to one year, experts only recommend you stop breastfeeding if it is a medical necessity or if your baby refuses to nurse to the point that his health would be jeopardized.

Once you introduce solids at six months, you may notice a change in your breast milk supply.  As your baby becomes more familiar with eating and continues to eat more solids, he will begin getting more and more nutrients from food and might need less breast milk.  However, your baby also will grow a great deal and become more active so breast milk is still necessary and a terrific source of nourishment for your baby.

Experts recommend baby-led weaning, which means that you follow the lead from your baby.  If you find that he’s no longer interested in breastfeeding after he’s gotten the hang of solid foods, this may be a sign he’s ready to wean.  This often occurs at some point around or after 12 months when your baby is getting plenty of nutrients from solids and is more active.  However, keep in mind some behaviors may not actually be signs of weaning.  Nursing may be more challenging when your baby is working on a new skill, is sick, or is anxious or distressed.  Before making the decision to wean, be positive that your baby is giving you the signal to stop breastfeeding because reversing the process is very difficult.

Mother-led weaning is when you as the mother decide when to stop breastfeeding.  This should be done gradually to help you and your baby adjust.  Never abruptly stop breastfeeding because it could cause your baby to suffer nutritionally or emotionally.

Weaning quickly may also have side-effects for you.  Your breasts may get engorged which is very uncomfortable and may cause plugged ducts and even mastitis.  You also may suffer from extreme emotions as your hormones fluctuate from weaning.

Weaning can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.  It all depends on how your baby reacts.  In the case of baby-led weaning, things may go faster because your baby is calling the shots.  Mother-led weaning can be paced based on everyone’s needs.

Tomorrow we will take a look at exactly how to stop weaning to ensure it is a healthy physical and emotional experience for you and your baby.