Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for both the mother and her baby, providing the baby with all the vital nutrients needed to grow throughout the first years of their life. There comes a time when mom may decide to wean her child. It is important to understand, however, weaning can be challenging, particularly with children who find great comfort in breastfeeding. There is no specific best way to wean a baby. The way a mother opts to wean will depend on how fast she wants to wean and her child’s personality.
Let Your Child Decide The Right Time
Don’t feel pressured to wean your baby. The World Health Organization tells parents to breastfeed for six months exclusively, and continue breastfeeding until their child is two years old or a little older in combination with complementary foods.
Sometimes mothers will find their child may not be ready to wean, making the process even harder. This is why letting your child decide the right time makes weaning much easier. As your child gets older, they may prefer to nurse less often and pick their favorite foods instead. Furthermore, their blanket or favorite toy may also replace nursing and provide comfort at the same time. Many parents call this a baby-led weaning method where they follow 'don’t offer, don’t refuse,' so they only nurse when their child shows interest. This method is best when your child at least shows some signs of weaning, but it means you might have to wait until later. When you let your child decide the right time, things tend to be smoother for everyone.
Set A Schedule
If you want to wean, setting a schedule is the first step. Your toddler may not be happy about having breastfeeding restrictions, but a schedule starts teaching them there are times when nursing is off-limits. Set this schedule based on when you hope to finish weaning and backtrack to create the plan. The first portion of the schedule should have a nursing session every two to three hours. After a little while, the time between sessions should extend to every four hours. Note there may be bumps along the road, so remember to be forgiving!
Ask For Help
Just because the mother is breastfeeding doesn’t mean the other parent doesn’t need to help with the weaning process! One of the hardest times to wean is at night. Babies and toddlers love the comfort of breastfeeding, so when they sense mom, a baby will instinctively want to nurse back to sleep.
If night weaning is important for your sanity, ask for help from your partner. They can get up to bounce the baby, walk, rock, or lay down in bed with them until they fall back to sleep. Your partner can be a valuable asset with all parts of weaning. If your toddler wants to nurse, your partner can encourage them to paint, read a book, or do something else, including feeding them their favorite foods.
Introduce A Bottle Or Sippy Cup
Some babies love the comfort of sucking, so weaning can be hard if they don’t take a pacifier. To help with this, make sure they try bottle feeding. Put your breast milk in the bottle, or try whole milk if your child is over a year old. Transitioning to bottle feeding is a great way for your partner to step in and give you the chance to rest sometimes. It may even be the perfect opportunity for you to head out to dinner with friends for a little while and let your partner watch your child for a few hours without worry. Introducing a bottle or sippy cup with milk is a common recommendation for weaning. Do not, however, put juice or water into a bottle. Save this for a sippy cup! Toddlers may even believe the sippy cup of juice is much better than nursing.
Delay If Sick Or Big Changes
Take your time if your child is sick and wait until they feel better instead. Also, consider postponing if you don’t feel well, as your child may need your antibodies to avoid getting sick as well. No mother likes to see her child fall ill, after all. Delay weaning if there are big changes happening at home, such as a new sibling, moving, or with childcare changes. Weaning during the least stressful times possible will just about always produce the best results and make weaning go much smoother.
Be Patient And Cuddle
As you wean your child, it is crucial to be as patient as possible. Nursing is one of the most important things in your child’s life. It brings comfort and nutrition, so when beginning the weaning process, be ready for some tears and offer lots of cuddling session to your child. More physical love during the weaning period, such as cuddling, is an effective way for parents to fill the void the lack of breastfeeding will leave.
No matter how fast or slow you decide to wean, pat yourself on the back and don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your breasts may leak and feel engorged during this process, so try hot showers, put cabbage leaves in your bra, and take a decongestant to dry up your milk. Finally, cherish the memories you have breastfeeding your sweet child!