Breastfeeding is one of the most discussed and yet one of the most controversial topics in regard to childbirth. Breastfeeding represents the pristine bond between the mother and baby, where mother not only provides food but also the love and care for the offspring. Breast milk is also extremely important for child’s growth and development and breastfeeding comes with whole bandwagon of benefits for the mother as well. But as everything good comes with an expiry date so does breast feeding. here in this blog we would like throw light on topic of how and when to wean your baby off breast feeds .
What is weaning?
Your baby is considered weaned when she stops nursing and gets all her nutrition from sources other than the breastmilk.Although babies are also weaned from the bottle, the term usually refers to when a baby stops breastfeeding.
What is the right time to wean baby of breast feeds?
There is really no prescribed time to wean your toddler, it really depends upon the mother and baby in question. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding till six months of age, and complementary breastfeeding up to two years and beyond. There isn’t an end limit, and most Moms wean sometime after the first birthday and before the third.
Breast milk is the main source of nutrition until six months of age or until you start giving solids to your baby. However, you should not only let your baby be on external sources of nutrition and wean off from the breast because breast milk may still be the prime nutrition source for your baby. When your baby turns one, you can consider weaning. But not always, weaning your baby also dependson how ready you and your baby are to give up breastfeeding
There are a number of reasons you may want to wean your toddler, such as:
- You’re going back to work full time
- You have a new baby on the way
- Your toddler is about to join preschool
- You’re done with breastfeeding
Whatever your reason may be, there’s no judgement at all! It’s entirely your choice; just be sure that you’re not doing it because your neighbours or in-laws are pressurizing you. And there’s no need to feel guilty if you really want to wean your toddler. You’ve persisted till now and given your baby a good start in life – you’ve done well!
Practical Tips to wean the baby gently :
Time it Right:Weaning from breastfeeding is going to require a good deal of effort, so be sure to plan well ahead. The process can take anything from a few weeks to a few months, so be prepared! Make sure that this doesn’t coincide with any other major changes in your life like moving to a new home or right after a traumatic event. Also ensure that your child is healthy enough to handle this change and is eating a variety of nutritious foods.
Talk to your Child:Once you’ve decided to start weaning, make it a point to talk to your child about it. Communication is essential, so that your child gets some time to emotionally prepare. Tell her in advance that after Christmas, you’re planning to cut down on the number of feeds. Don’t make it sound like a punishment or as if something bad is happening. Talk like it’s just a regular thing, that kids do when they are getting big.
Stop Offering:This is a great rule to gently get into the groove of weaning a toddler who’s reluctant to wean. Stop offering the breast completely, but if he asks, don’t say no. You might find that some feeds just drop off without your child even noticing! Doing this for a few weeks will make it much easier to wean completely.
Go Slow:Weaning a breastfeeding toddler should be a very gradual process – this is easier on your child and your breasts! Drop a feed first, continue for a few weeks, and then drop another one and so on. Start with the feed that your child needs the least. For most kids, the night feed is the one they’re most dependent on, so leave it for the last. Gradually dropping feeds also prevents engorgement and gives your breasts time to adjust to the decrease in demand.
Increase Daytime Activities:Like we mentioned, the day time feeds are the easiest to drop, especially when your child is busy. Set up some activities around the time he nurses, so that he’s completely occupied during that time and forgets to ask for his feed. He won’t even notice that he’s dropping his feeds!
Get a New Sippy Cup:Some children respond well to being treated like a grown up, especially for older toddlers or preschoolers. Gift them a new sippy cup featuring their favorite TV character to make his new drinks more exciting than breast milk. Substitute a feed or two with a drink of his choice, like chocolate milk or another healthy drink like a sprouted malt or multigrain drink.
Fill them Up:But not with breast milk! Just before they come to nurse, offer them a tall glass of water or juice, that’ll fill them up. This way, they won’t be as eager to nurse, and might just let it go. Even if they do feed, they might not nurse for their usual duration and might let go faster.
Stop Nursing Outside:Around this time, you can explain to your child that you’ll not be nursing anywhere other than home, so he shouldn’t ask. It’s best to tell him this well before you’re planning to go out, so you have time to answer his many questions. Give several alternative options, considering his favorites.
Set a Time Limit:Like we mentioned above, ‘comfort sucking’ is a big part of toddler breastfeeding, so they can nurse for quite a while. Set a time limit and let them know beforehand that they can only nurse for so long and then they have to let go. You can shorten this time interval gradually so the change is easier on your child.
Leave it to Daddy:To get rid of the night feeding, it’s a good idea to let Dad handle the bedtime routine. If you think it might be to sudden, let Mom and Dad get together initially, and Mom can slowly drop out. Include an extra story or song to make up for missing the night feed. You can also have grandparents chip in for the bedtime routine if they live with you.
Sleep on the Other Side:If you co-sleep with your toddler, getting rid of the night feeds can be a little more difficult. One way is to put him on your partner’s side, so his access to your breasts is cut off. You can also try getting him to sleep in a different bed, with a sibling or with his grandparents. Another option is to wake up before he does, to skip early morning feeds, and to go to bed once he’s in deep sleep, to skip the late night feed
Try Sleepovers:If your child is old enough to handle it, you can try spending occasional nights away from home, or sending your little one to stay with his grandparents. Do make sure there is someone to attend to him all day and to keep him occupied so he realizes that he can still have fun without nursing.
Focus on brushing :A problem with nursing a toddler to sleep is that it increases the likelihood of tooth decay, also called ‘nursing caries’. Make a big deal about brushing your toddler’s teeth at night, with a bright toothbrush and child-friendly toothpaste.
Include Cuddle Time:Cutting down on breast feeds shouldn’t make your toddler feel like he’s losing out on your love! Include lots of cuddles, hugs, playtime and story time through the day to let him know that nothing has changed. He’ll realize that even he doesn’t get Mommy’s milk, he still gets all her love!
Be Consistent:For a toddler who’s been nursing all his life, having to let go of his primary source of comfort can be hard for him to accept initially. You can expect a good deal of clinginess, anger and frustration on his part. This is the reason it’s recommended to make every change in a gradual but consistent manner. Stick to your guns, even though it may seem really hard at times!
What Happens When You Stop Nursing?
It is not only your baby who may experience difficulty when you begin weaning off, but you may also experience a few changes. Here’s what may happen to you:
- Once you start weaning off your baby, the hormones in your body start changing, too. The levels of oxytocin and prolactin may drop substantially, leading to hormonal imbalance. This hormonal imbalance may cause symptoms of depression and excessive mood swings, too.
- Your breasts may become tender or sore to touch; this may happen due to milk accumulation in the breasts. In some cases, breast engorgement may occur, which may be an extremely painful condition. For this reason, it is suggested that weaning off should be a gradual and not a sudden process.
- If you did not have periods while breastfeeding then worry not because soon you will have those four days of the bloody show. Many breastfeeding mothers may not have their periods until they stop breastfeeding their babies, this condition is called temporary infertility or lactational amenorrhea. Therefore, you may begin menstruating soon after you wean off your baby.
- Most women tend to put on weight after they stop breastfeeding their baby. This may happen because of extra calorie intake that happens during the breastfeeding days and which may not go down the moment they wean off their baby. However, this may be controlled with strong willpower, but still, it may take a few days or few weeks time to cut down on the calories.
Can I Resume Breastfeeding After Weaning?
Seeing your baby struggling with the discomfort of weaning off may make you feel bad. You may wonder whether you did the right thing or could you have waited for some more time and nurtured the sweet, intimate bond with your baby. It is very normal for both mommy and baby to experience the withdrawal symptoms. However, if you wish to resume breastfeeding, you may do so, and it is called re-lactation. But it may be effective only if it is started soon after the weaning. Also, it may be easier for you to get your milk supply going if your baby is less than six months of age. In the case of babies older than a year, it may take a lot of effort on your part. In most cases, your milk supply may not be the same as before. We recommend that you should plan to stop breastfeeding your baby when you are physically and mentally prepared to do it only.
When Will My Breast Milk Dry Up After Quitting Breastfeeding?
Your milk supply may diminish considerably within a few days after weaning. However, it may take weeks and in some cases even a year or two, for your breast milk to completely dry up. Even when you stop breastfeeding your baby, you may notice occasional drops of milk oozing from your nipples. However, if you experience any kind of secretions a few years after stopping, which may be accompanied by pain or any other symptoms, it surely may be a cause of concern. Get yourself thoroughly checked for the same.