Last Updated on
Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC
All good things must come to an end. Breastfeeding is no different. You may be looking forward to weaning. You may be dreading the thought of weaning. Whichever camp you are in, these tips for weaning from breastfeeding will help make it as easy as possible.
3 Ways to Wean
Weaning a baby from breastfeeding can take different paths.
Some babies wean themselves.
A day comes when you sit down to nurse them, and they push away and go off and do something else. This repeats itself until you stop offering.
When a baby weans on his own, they are usually only nursing once or twice a day. The majority of these moms will not have any trouble with feeling engorged.
Gradual Weaning With a Plan
You may have decided to wean at a certain age. You may have started thinking that the time is right for weaning. Something may have happened that made you decide to wean.
When you wean gradually wean, you have a plan and a timeline.
Weaning Cold Turkey
Cold turkey weaning is when you just stop. Moms have different reasons for choosing to wean cold turkey.
This type of weaning is usually the most uncomfortable. When you suddenly stop breastfeeding multiple times a day, your breasts are going to get engorged.
Tips for Cold Turkey Weaning
- Peppermint can help decrease milk production. Tea and candies are the most popular way to use peppermint to help dry up.
- Cabbage leaves can help engorgement discomfort.
- Ice packs can relieve discomfort.
- Apply for up to 20 minutes (never longer).
- Wrap ice in cloth
- Bags of frozen vegetables make excellent ice packs.
- If you are very uncomfortable, you can pump off just enough to make you more comfortable.
- Ibuprofen can provide relief for painful engorgement.
- To wean gradually with a plan, you have to know what your starting point is. For a couple of days, write down each breastfeeding session, so you know how many times a day you are nursing.
- Decide on a day to begin weaning.
- Eliminate one feeding. Choose the one that is the least convenient for you.
- Alternatively, you can choose one that you think your child is the least likely to notice.
- Wait 2-3 days for your body to adjust to the dropped feeding.
- If you are feeding more than three or four times a day, you may experience some fullness as you begin to drop feedings.
- Continue dropping a feeding every 2-3 days.
Weaning From Night Feedings
If your baby is breastfeeding at night, you may want to try to eliminate these feedings first. What mom doesn’t want more sleep?
Weaning from night feedings should only be done when a child is gaining weight at an average rate. Especially when babies go through phases of distraction, they may not be getting enough to eat without continued night feedings.
Milk supply when night feedings are over is one of those things where “your mileage may vary.” Some moms won’t notice any change in their milk supply. Some moms will have a decrease in milk supply if they go for long stretches without breast stimulation. Pumping right before you go to bed should help keep up your milk supply.
When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Wean
How your child reacts to weaning is often determined by their age.
- Framing it in a positive way can help your child accept the change.
- Talk about how they are getting to be a big kid, and big kids don’t breastfeed.
- Talk about all the cool things that big kids do get to do.
- An alternative is to tell your child she can breastfeed or do something else. Choose very appealing alternatives.
- Tell your child how many times they are allowed to breastfeed each day. Have a place where you record each nursing session that they can see. A whiteboard or a paper on the fridge works.
If your child is old enough to object, you will want to plan alternative activities.
- Read a book.
- Go for a walk.
- Give them a drink in a cup or a bottle.
- Talk about what is happening. Tell your child that breastfeeding is going to happen less often.
Set a deadline for weaning.
- Choose a realistic date.
- Put it on the calendar.
- Mark off each day.
- Plan a celebration on the chosen day.
Some families celebrate the day that weaning has finally happened. You may want to have a party with cake and balloons. A special trip to the park or the zoo can be fun.
You may choose something lower key. Making your child’s favorite food for dinner or a special treat.
Make sure you give yourself a special treat. Breastfeeding journeys usually have ups and downs. You are one awesome mama for giving your child this most precious gift.
Andrea Tran is an RN and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She has her Masters in Health and Wellness with a focus on lactation. She has been helping breastfeeding families for over 25 years. She writes about all things breastfeeding at Breastfeeding Confidential