WEANING – HOW TO STOP BREASTFEEDING
When you want to learn how to stop breastfeeding you want to know how to do it so there is no pain or tears. Having a plan is essential.
Deciding to wean can happen for different reasons.
It may be your decision to stop breastfeeding.
Perhaps you had a goal to breastfeed for a certain length of time. You may be looking forward to weaning. On the other hand, you may be really enjoying breastfeeding, but feel like you should stop when you had planned, and you’re dreading it.
Someone may have told you that you have to or should wean at a certain age.
It may be your baby’s decision. You may have decided that it would happen when it happens and you would let your baby decide when he was done with breastfeeding.
It may happen abruptly or it may be a gradual process.
WHY STOP BREASTFEEDING/
Moms have many different reasons to wean and it happens at many different times.
- She met her goal for how long she planned to breastfeed.
- She experienced a breastfeeding challenge that she did not feel she would be able to solve,
- Someone told her she should
- A misinformed doctor
- A misinformed nurse
- A family member who thinks she should
- Anyone whose opinion she listens to
- She has to take a drug that is contraindicated with breastfeeding
- She experiences an illness and she needs all her strength to deal with the illness
- The illness may have caused a severe drop in their milk supply
- She wants her body back
- Her baby stops wanting to
- She feels like it is “just time”
Ways to Wean From Breastfeeding
There are basically two methods to wean from breastfeeding.
- Gradual weaning
- Cold turkey weaning
If possible, gradual weaning is best. This takes a while so you want to know you are making progress. That will involve keeping track of how many times you are breastfeeding.
Some moms choose to stop breastfeeding cold turkey. Sometimes there is something that brings breastfeeding to an abrupt end.
Often, gradual weaning happens without a mom even thinking about it. Other times it happens because she consciously makes it happen.
Follow these steps if you want to take a proactive approach to weaning.
- Write down how many times a day your baby is breastfeeding
- Pick a feeding or pumping that is least convenient and drop it
- Log when feedings are dropped
- This is especially helpful if your baby is breastfeeding a lot
- Wait a couple of days so that your body can adjust to that change and then repeat until you are not feeding or pumping any more
- Keep going until you are completely weaned.
- A simple feeding log can help you keep track. A clicker works for this too. I like one that you can hang around your neck. Mama doesn’t need to be hunting for it!
HOW TO STOP BREASTFEEDING COLD TURKEY
There are situations when breastfeeding stops cold turkey. Avoid this if you can. Depending on how many feedings you were doing it can be painful.
- If your baby decides to just stop you can pump. You will gradually drop the pumpings until you are no longer pumping at all.
- There is also the options to go cold turkey and just stop breastfeeding. If your breasts get engorged use ice packs or cabbage leaves for relief.
- Drinking peppermint tea or eating peppermint candies or taking sage can help you dry up quickly.
WEANING PROBLEMS FOR MOM
In the perfect world, every mama could wean gradually. If you’ve got a very abundant milk supply you should wean very gradually if you can. This will help avoid plugged ducts or significant discomfort.
Pain From Weaning
It may not matter if you are weaning gradually or cold turkey, you may have some discomfort. If you are hurting these remedies may help:
- Ice packs. Ice should never be left on for more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Cabbage leaves. I know it sounds crazy, but it works (Source).
- A supportive bra
- Pumping is going to help, but it gets into that who supply and demand thing. Make sure you pump only until you are more comfortable. Do not drain your breasts.
- Peppermint tea or candy can help decrease milk supply
- Sage can decrease milk supply
- Drink it as a tea
- Take sage as a tincture or in capsules.
- Put it in soups (this will be less effective but in combination with something else can help
These are pharmaceuticals that can decrease milk supply and should be taken with your health care provider’s supervision.
- Birth control pills that contain estrogen
MISREADING SIGNS BABY IS READY TO WEAN FROM BREASTFEEDING
Moms may mistakenly think their baby wants to wean when:
- When babies go through periods of distraction
- These are normal developmental phases
- They come and go
- They start at about 4 months
- Nursing in a quiet, dark place can help
- A nursing cover can help
- Asking people not to talk to you when you are nursing can help
- If your baby is fussy at your breast because of a decreased milk supply
- Build up your milk supply
- Nursing strikes
- When a baby suddenly refuses to nurse
The AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and then, with the addition of complementary foods, continuing to breastfeed for at least a full year.
If your baby is distracted or has a nursing strike, and you planned to breastfeed a full year, weaning should not be an option. You may be asking, but what can I do if my baby won’t breastfeed?
Sometimes we need to overrule our children’s bad decisions. This may be the first time, but it certainly won’t be the last time.
Think about if your two year old decided that he wasn’t going to use a car seat anymore. How about if he announced that he was only going to eat ice, cake and cookies from now on. You’d probably overrule those decisions. At least I hope you would.
I worked with a nurse practitioner whose eight month old went on a nursing strike. We talked about how to deal with it. She stopped offering the breast because he would scream when she did, but she would make it available when they were cuddling.
After three full weeks he turned and latched on. She was so happy and she said he turned to her and looked at her as if he was saying, “What’s the big deal?” He went on to breastfeed for well past a year.
- Continue to offer the breast.
- Don’t let it become a battle
- Pump to keep up your milk supply.
- Offer pumped milk in a cup or bottle.
Was your breastfeeding journey a happy one? Did you meet your goal for how long you wanted to breastfeed?
Or, was breastfeeding one struggle after the other?
Did your struggle and come to the difficult decision that it was time to move on from your breastfeeding challenges?
YOUR BREASTFEEDING STORY
Whatever type of breastfeeding experience you had, it can help to preserve those memories when they are fresh in your mind. I encourage you to write down your breastfeeding story.
This is especially valuable if it was a difficult experience. Sometimes it can help to go back and remember it and realize how as a mom you have made good memories since that time.
It is just as valuable if it was a wonderful experience. And I hope it was. Send me an email if you want to share your experience with my readers. Moms learn so much from each other!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WEANING – HOW TO STOP BREASTFEEDING
However you come to wean, it marks the end of your breastfeeding journey. Take the time to reflect on this experience in your life.