Mothers who are ready to wean their babies may wonder how to stop breastfeeding in the easiest way possible.
From weaning and teething to high school graduation, each step of your child’s developmental process comes with its own challenges. The best you can do is prepare yourself with as much information as possible to ease each step as it approaches.
The internet is a wealth of information. Typing how to stop breastfeeding into your search bar brings up a slew of blogs and websites. We recommend you arm yourself with a few strategies and beware of the possible complications.
What Is Weaning?
Weaning is the gradual process of replacing breastfeeding with other means of nurturing or introducing other foods into your baby’s diet.
It’s best to take things slowly when weaning your baby. By doing so, you allow your baby plenty of time to adjust to the changes in diet and routine.
Your body also needs this time to get used to no longer producing milk.
When Should You Wean?
Knowing how to stop breastfeeding is just as important as knowing when.
If you have a premature baby, the benefits of breastmilk may be even more important than for a baby who reaches full term. The younger the baby, the greater the need for the protective features and nutrients of breastmilk.
Breast milk is more than just food. It provides comfort to your child. The nutritional components change as your child grows and develops, giving critical nutrients during each phase. Most importantly, it provides immunity-boosting elements that increase when your child is ill.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other health organizations recommend feeding your baby solely on breastmilk for the first six months. They also advise you to continue feeding your baby until two years old, even when you begin to introduce solid foods.
It's common for mothers in many cultures around the world to continue to breastfeed their children until they are three or four years old.
Conversely, some babies naturally decide on their own to stop breastfeeding much younger. They may be ready to move on to solid foods before you’ve prepared yourself to start weaning.
Weaning is a personal decision. Only you will know when the time is right to start weaning your baby.
How to Stop Breast Feeding: Helpful Strategies
If you want to know how to stop breastfeeding your child, just know that there is no right way.
Each mother finds the magic formula that works for her and her baby. However, one piece of advice we have to offer for each one of you who want to know how to stop breastfeeding is to do it slowly.
Be patient with yourself and your child. Find the right strategies that will ease the transition for you and your baby. If one strategy doesn’t work, try another.
The following strategies can help both you and your baby as you adjust to your new feeding routine and manage any stress or discomfort that may be associated with this transition.
Talk to your child
We’ve all heard that communication is the key to any successful relationship. And this is true with your child.
If you decide to stop breastfeeding abruptly, this could be traumatic for your baby.
As you start to transition into weaning, talk to your child. Give them time to prepare for the transition as well. Doing so will help reduce the amount of stress your baby may experience.
This open line of communication may also help your child to develop a healthier, more open relationship with you in the future. By opening up the conversation to them, you are encouraging them to do the same for you.
Talking to your child as you transition away from breastfeeding gives you the opportunity to set limits. You can tell your child that you only nurse when it’s dark out or after a specific activity.
Setting such boundaries can help you if you are weaning your child to go back to work or for travel.
Weaning is an inevitable process for every mother and child. After one year, breast milk alone cannot provide all the nutrients your child needs to grow. Solid foods must become a regular part of the diet to ensure your baby’s healthy development.
To meet the needs of their growing bodies, 1-year-old children need around 1,000 calories daily. You should provide foods from the primary nutrition groups -- fruits, vegetables, carbs, dairy, and protein.
However, you should avoid feeding your baby foods that are heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened. These additives hide the natural flavors of foods and may influence your child’s long-term eating behaviors.
You don’t need to make special meals for your baby. As long as the food you are preparing is full of the nutrients your baby needs to grow, you can serve them samples from the food on your own plate.
It should be noted, though, that cow's milk isn't suitable as a main drink for babies under one. You can, however, add it to foods, such as mashed potatoes.
Wean at night
It’s best to start by weaning your baby at night. Doing so will allow a frazzled new mother to catch up on a few hours of precious sleep.
In fact, most babies between four and six months old get enough calories during the day to sustain them for five or six hours at night.
That said, sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that each baby reaches at a different time.
During times of transition, such as returning to work or going on vacation you’ll want to avoid night-weaning for a bit.
If you're away for extended periods during the day, make sure to give your baby extra cuddle time when you return. Your baby will feel more connected to you and be less likely to seek comfort from you in the middle of the night.
In order to make night weaning successful, make the most of your day time feedings. Nurse in a space that is as free of distractions as possible.
You can try turning off the lights and closing the door. If the room is too bright, close the blinds.
Have older children? Get them busy with some activity before you start nursing, so they give you the space you need.
Sometimes babies can become so distracted that they don’t take in enough milk. That's particularly common during daytime feedings. Consequently, they have to make up for the lack of nutrition with more frequent night feedings.
Reduce over time
Not only can this be emotionally traumatic for your baby, but it can also have some unpleasant side effects for you.
Start weaning by removing sessions that seem less important to the baby. You can also remove a session where the baby seems to eat less.
Give your baby at least a few days to adjust to this new schedule before removing the next feeding session. Repeat this same process as you eliminate each feeding session, up to the last.
Get your partner involved in the nighttime routine. Show your partner how to stop breastfeeding as a team.
If your baby seems to be waking during the night for the sake of comfort, send in your partner. Doing so provides the desired comfort without the expectation to feed.
Your partner can provide comfort in other ways, such as holding or rocking your baby back to sleep, lying next to your baby, or bringing them a drink.
Depending on how old your baby is, you can wean to a cup or a bottle. Something with a no-spill design is good for a toddler on the go. However, they shouldn't sleep with their drink.
Things to Watch out For
It's common for weaning mothers to experience some side effects related to the weaning process. When you're learning how to stop breastfeeding your baby, these are important aspects to take into consideration.
Many mothers experience breast engorgement or general discomfort, caused by lumps from backed-up milk in their ducts. You can easily remove these lumps by massage and milk expression. Use either your hand or a breast pump to express the milk gently.
To manage the pain in your breasts, you can use a heat pack or cold compress, depending on what works for you. You can also take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).
You should also be on the lookout for postpartum depression, which may be mistaken for baby blues at first. The signs and symptoms of postpartum are more intense and last longer. Additionally, they may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby or handle day-to-day tasks.
Should you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s best to consult your general practitioner for further direction.
- High fever
- Swollen, red, or hot breasts
- Green or foul-smelling discharge from the nipples
- Extreme symptoms of depression or anxiety
- A lack of feeling bonded to your baby
- Significant changes in your baby’s sleep patterns lasting longer than a week or two
The Final Word on How to Stop Breastfeeding
There are many suggestions on how to stop breastfeeding for making the transition easier on both mama and baby, but remember, there is no exact formula.
Each mother has different reasons for weaning her child. While on the other hand, it may be the child’s decision to stop breastfeeding. No two children are alike.
Just be patient with yourself and your baby through each step of the transition. Doing so will allow you to enjoy this period of your baby’s development instead of dreading it.
Do you have any weaning tips to share? Tell us your planned strategy in the comments!