Weaning Part 2: How to Stop Breastfeeding

Weaning is a very personal decision that should not be taken lightly.  Yesterday we discussed baby-led weaning and mother-led weaning as well as recommendations from experts in breastfeeding and baby development. Today we’re sharing information on the mechanics of how to stop breastfeeding.

Here are a few tips for how to stop breastfeeding:

  • Weaning:  How to Stop BreastfeedingWhen your baby starts solids you’ll probably breastfeed your baby and then let her taste new foods.  When your baby shows signs of wanting to stop breastfeeding, switch the order and give the solids first. This will help him fill up on the nutrients from food and then fill in with breast milk.  Ultimately he should be drinking less milk, which will give your body time to slowly wind down the milk production.
  • If your baby is 12 months or older, introduce cow’s milk along with breast milk.  Again, this will fill your baby and give him the satisfaction and nutrients of milk.  Start with it in a bottle if he’s used to getting breast milk from a bottle occasionally.  Then move to a sippy cup when he’s ready.  You can even mix breast milk and cow’s milk together.
  • Also at 12 months or older you can give your baby water from a bottle or sippy cup.  Water is filling as well, and it’s great to ensure your baby is well-hydrated when he is breastfeeding less often.
  • Breastfeed fewer times a day.  Many moms who wean end up saving the first morning feeding and nighttime feeding as the last two.  Then they drop the morning feeding and eventually the nighttime feeding.
  • Shorten your breastfeeding sessions by a few minutes every few days.  Your baby can still enjoy breast milk and being close to you while gradually moving towards not breastfeeding.
  • Hold off on breastfeeding if you know your baby can fill up on solids.  Postponing feedings may make your baby forget about breastfeeding altogether.  Distraction is a wonderful thing!
  • If you think your baby breastfeeds only for comfort, try other ways of comforting him.  Massaging, rocking, singing and cuddling are all ways to comfort your baby without breastfeeding.  These activities still offer the closeness and security of breastfeeding sessions.
  • Don’t pump unless you have to.  Pumping stimulates your breasts to produce more milk.  If your goal is to wean, you need to train your body to stop producing milk.  If you feel engorged, pump a little until the pain subsides but don’t empty the breast.
  • Avoid weaning during eventful times in your baby’s life.  If you are getting a new nanny, moving to a new city or your baby is learning a critical new skill, don’t try to change yet another thing.  Instead, get over the current hurdle and then start the weaning process.  Babies often need to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Don’t wean just because your baby turned one or you feel pressured to do so by other people.  Weaning is a decision between you and your baby.  You shouldn’t allow anyone else to interfere or influence your choice.
  • Make sure you and your baby are ready to wean before you begin the process.  Once your milk supply decreases, in can be very difficult to get it back again.  Don’t make the decision hastily.

When breastfeeding comes to an end, reflect on the experience with pride.  You should feel amazing about offering your baby the very best nutrient and a terrific start to life!