Every new parent needs to discuss this with their mum friends.
How to stop breastfeeding? How do you successfully wean your baby off the breast? How long does it take for breast milk to dry up? It’s a tricky conversation, even though it should be one of the most natural things to discuss, right?
Breastfeeding exclusively can have long-term health benefits for both mum and baby, there’s no question about that. However, how do you know when it’s time to stop? Fret not, for this article is for you.
What is weaning?
Weaning your baby off the breast is a process that begins when you start to reduce the amount of time you feed your baby at each session. This can be done gradually over several days or weeks, depending on what works best for you and your baby.
As a general rule, weaning involves gradually reducing the times you breastfeed your baby daily until you’re only breastfeeding at night. The number of times you breastfeed daily will depend on how often your child eats solid foods.
For example, if they eat five meals daily, they might still breastfeed at night. If they eat three meals daily and two snacks, they may only be breastfeeding at night.
How do you know when it’s time to wean?
Knowing when to start weaning is crucial. Here are some signs that indicate your baby to stop breastfeeding and ready to explore having food as their main source of nutrition:
Look for developmental signs
- Your baby can sit up without support.
- Your baby can drink from a cup.
- Your baby can grab objects with their hands.
Consider solid food readiness
Is your baby interested to try new foods and textures? If so, then maybe you can already start the transition of weaning from breastfeeding.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations
Consult with your doctor about the ideal age range for weaning your baby. If they provide specific instructions, consider them. However, trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and your baby.
Should you stop breastfeeding right away?
Is your baby ready to wean? What is the easiest way to stop breastfeeding?
Weaning a baby can be a big change for you and your little one. So stopping breastfeeding abruptly will not only be challenging for your baby, but it can also wreak havoc on your body.
Disadvantages of stopping breastfeeding abruptly
- Engorgement and painful breasts
- Increased risk of plugged ducts and mastitis
- Hormonal changes and potential post-weaning depression
- Physical symptoms like headaches, nausea, and mood swings
- Resumption of fertility and menstrual cycles
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Attachment issues and reduced bonding
- Anxiety and emotional instability
- Sleep disturbances and insomnia
- Skin changes, such as dryness and acne
- Difficulty in adjusting eating habits and cutting down on calories
For the baby:
- Increased risk of infections without breast milk’s antibodies
- Decreased bonding and reduced closeness with mum
- Dependence on external nutrition and potential feeding issues
- Crankiness due to stress and a change in routine
Weaning is not something that should be rushed or forced; it must be done gradually and carefully. So instead of going all cold turkey with your weaning plans, do it in such a way that minimises discomfort and will foster a smooth and healthy transition for you and your baby.
How to stop breastfeeding gradually?
If you’re wondering about weaning your baby off the breast, here are some tips to help make the transition go smoothly:
- Talk with your doctor about when your child should start weaning. This will depend on your child’s age and physical health.
- Start by offering only one breast at each feeding instead of both, then gradually reduce the time you spend breastfeeding during the day.
- Offer bottles of expressed milk or formula if you want to continue breastfeeding while offering other foods or drinks, such as water or juice from a cup.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for your baby to play with different toys and engage in sensory activities like music therapy, massage therapy and infant massage therapy sessions so they can stay distracted from their hunger until mealtime arrives.
Step-by-step weaning from breastfeeding
How to stop breastfeeding successfully?
Weaning is a topic that can be very emotional for many mums, and it is crucial to approach it with care. The following steps will help you wean your baby off breastfeeding without causing unnecessary stress or tension.
- Step one: Talk to your doctor about how to wean your baby off breastfeeding. He or she should be able to give you a schedule and advice on how much milk you should use each day to gradually reduce the amount of milk your baby drinks from the breast.
- Step two: Begin by giving your baby one less bottle per day than you normally would so that he or she doesn’t notice the volume change immediately. If he or she notices the change in volume, try giving him or her two bottles per day instead of three until he or she has adjusted to only having one bottle left in his or her feeding schedule.
- Step three: Continue decreasing the number of bottles until there’s just one left per day in his or her feeding schedule; then continue falling until there are no more bottles.
Baby led weaning
When weaning your baby off the breast, you can use a form called “baby led weaning”. This is when you feed your child pureed food, which they can pick up and eat with their hands. This helps them develop their motor skills and taste buds. It’s also great to help them learn how to feed themselves!
There are many benefits to using baby led weaning. First, it helps your baby develop its unique eating habits. Instead of being spoon-fed pureed foods, they have the chance to explore new tastes and textures on their terms. This can also help reduce the risk of choking because babies will be more likely to chew before swallowing if they’re allowed to eat by themselves.
Another benefit is that baby led weaning may encourage better eating habits because it gives babies more control over what they’re eating and how much they eat at once (which can lead to overeating).
How does weaning affect baby?
When you stop breastfeeding, your body stops producing milk, making your breasts feel tender or sore. Your baby may also have trouble drinking from a bottle or sippy cup rather than directly from the breast.
This can make it difficult for them to eat enough calories or get all the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.
Some babies may cry when they’re first weaned because they aren’t getting what they’re used to from breastfeeding — the closeness and comfort that comes from being next to mum while she feeds them — but over time, they’ll adjust and find ways of coping with their emotions in new ways.
How to bond with your baby? Alternatives to breastfeeding
Will my bond with my baby suffer now that I’ve decided to stop breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby, but it’s not the only option. There are several alternatives that can help you build a strong connection with your little one. Here are six alternatives to breastfeeding:
- Skin-to-skin contact: Hold your baby close to your chest, allowing their bare skin to touch yours. This intimate contact promotes bonding and can be done during feeding times or simply for cuddling.
- Babywearing: Use a baby carrier or sling to keep your baby close to your body throughout the day. This not only provides physical closeness but also allows you to engage in various activities while keeping your baby near you.
- Eye contact and talking: Engage in eye contact with your baby while talking, singing, or cooing. Your voice and facial expressions are powerful tools for building a bond and fostering communication with your little one.
- Gentle touch and massage: Regularly provide gentle touches and massages to your baby’s body. This can be done during diaper changes, bath time, or before bedtime. Physical touch promotes a sense of security and comfort.
- Baby-led weaning: When your baby is ready for solid foods, you can engage in baby-led weaning, which involves allowing your baby to explore and self-feed with age-appropriate finger foods. This interactive feeding method promotes independence and bonding during mealtime.
- Reading and singing: Take time to read books or sing songs to your baby. This not only helps with their cognitive development but also creates a soothing and enjoyable experience for both of you.
Remember, every parent-baby relationship is unique, and finding what works best for you and your baby is key. Explore these alternatives and discover the ones that strengthen the bond between you and your little one.
Stopping breastfeeding: Breast milk concerns
How long does it take for breast milk to dry up?
It usually varies from person to person. Remember what we used to say about supply and demand when you were just starting breastfeeding? The same goes now that you want to stop.
A mum who has an established milk supply might take a few weeks to stop lactating, while someone who doesn’t breastfeed exclusively may require only a few days.
How can I stop breast milk naturally?
Drying up breast milk is a natural process that occurs when you decide to stop breastfeeding or pumping. While it can be uncomfortable, there are ways to manage the transition with care and minimise the risk of complications. Here are some tips on how to dry up breast milk naturally, allowing you to navigate this journey smoothly.
- Gradual weaning: To avoid engorged breasts and the risk of mastitis, it’s best to follow a slow weaning process over several days or weeks. This gradual approach allows your body to adjust to the decreased demand for milk and helps prevent discomfort.
- Avoid breast stimulation: Minimise breast stimulation as much as possible to signal your body to reduce milk production. While you may experience discomfort, only express enough milk to relieve pain without emptying your entire breast.
- Ice packs for relief: When experiencing pain or engorgement, apply cold compresses or ice packs to decrease swelling and inflammation. Frozen peas can be moulded to fit around the breasts, providing soothing relief.
- Supportive bra: Wearing a well-fitting, supportive bra can help manage breast engorgement and discourage further milk production. Opt for a comfortable bra that provides adequate support without being overly tight.
- Cabbage leaves: Applying cabbage leaves to the breasts can reduce pain and prevent engorgement. This age-old remedy has been known to alleviate discomfort during the weaning process
Do my breasts and nipples go back to their original size after breastfeeding?
If you do enjoy having fuller breasts, then the bad news is it may not be as full anymore and your breasts will probably be back to their pre-pregnancy size.
According to Yvon Bock, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), “the areola colour and size will return to their pre-pregnancy state after weaned off breastfeeding (or latching)”.
Stopping breastfeeding can be a challenging and emotional journey for both parents and their little ones. It’s important to remember that this transition is a natural part of the parenting journey that every family goes through.
While it may be tough at times, know that you’re not alone. Many parents face similar challenges and navigate them successfully. Take comfort in the fact that you are making the best decision for yourself and your child, considering your unique circumstances and needs.
You’re stronger than this, mum! Trust in your instincts and seek support from healthcare professionals, lactation consultants, and other parents who have gone through this process.
Remember, you’re doing an amazing job, and this transition is just one step in the beautiful journey of parenthood.