Choosing to wean can be a hugely emotional decision and not usually one a woman comes to lightly. Some may feel that they have to due to society or pressure from outsiders. Know that it is completely up to you and your baby when you want to start the weaning process. There is no ideal time to wean, just when it is right for you.
When weaning it is important to do so slowly, start by dropping one feed at a time. After a week drop another feed. If you try to wean too rapidly you risk getting clogged ducts and experiencing engorgement. Another option is to limit the time on the breast, however sometimes this can be more difficult and you may find dropping feeds to be an easier option.
Golden Rule : Don’t offer but don‘t refuse.
Depending on your child's age will depend on the strategies you want to use.
When you are dropping feeds start with the one they are least interested in, this may be the morning feed, can you get them up and offer breakfast and a drink straight away? Or perhaps the afternoon feed? Whichever feed they are the least attached to is a great place to start.
If over the age of 1 ensure you are offering solids first alongside water to fill their bellies and quench their thirst. Can you offer a distraction or a protein rich snack instead? Ensuring they a full and providing activities when they would normally breastfeed can provide a great distraction.
If you're feeding to sleep try and break that association first feed 30-60 minutes prior to going to bed. Drop the feeds before naps then work on night time. Create a new routine for bedtime, like reading stories in bed. Getting your partner or someone else to put them to bed with mum out of the house can help. Out of sight out of mind. Then look to drop the feed, ensure they have been offered a protein rich dinner and water with their meal.
If they are looking for feeds for comfort overnight can you try a different responsive settling technique? Check out Little Dreamers, Sleep, Settling and Responsive Parenting eBook. Amy has some fantastic tips on other methods you can use that are age appropriate and responsive to your child.
If your body is having difficulty managing dropping feeds meaning you are feeling full and uncomfortable you can express a small amount. It is important to only express until the point where you are comfortable, over several days you will find that your breasts are less full and you will no longer need to do this. Think of it as a bridging to help your breasts readjust. As less milk is removed your body gets the memo to halt production, it doesn’t happen overnight but in time your body will stop and your breastfeeding journey will end.
Depending on the age you are choosing to wean will dictate if you need to replace the feed with anything for your baby. Under the age of one breastmilk is still an important form of nutrition and needs to be replaced with donor milk or formula. Beyond the age of one, as long as your child is eating a broad range of foods you will not need to replace it. Just ensure they are eating a varied diet and drinking plenty of water.
Weaning can be a huge emotional and hormonal shift for both you and your baby. Take it easy on yourselves. There are other ways you can still be responsive and supportive to their needs through this time as you both adjust. It is OK to want to stop when the time is right, that is your choice.
If you're having trouble or wanting some more support around weaning, book in for a consultation and we can work through on a plan to get you through your weaning journey as comfortably as possible.