Weaning Baby Off Breastfeeding

Many moms find weaning to be a difficult time, and worry that the end of breastfeeding signifies the end of a special bond. Weaning your baby off breastfeeding just means that you’ll be nourishing and nurturing your little one in other ways. If you substitute what you’re “taking away” with lots of support, attention, and reassurance, it’ll be a smoother transition for both of you.

When should I wean my baby off breastfeeding?
There are no rules about when to wean, but keep in mind that the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for a further 12-24 months or as long as mom and baby desire.

Your child could also lose interest and dictate when you wean, but bear in mind that just because your baby or toddler suddenly refuses to breastfeed for a few days, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ready to wean. They might just be on a nursing strike, which can be caused by:

  • Thrush, sore gums (from teething), a stuffy nose, an ear infection, or another illness that is making nursing uncomfortable or affecting his appetite.
  • Fear of breastfeeding. For instance, you may have startled him when he accidentally bit your nipple.
  • Your different smell because of a change in perfume, deodorant, soap or lotion.
  • Something you ate that’s strong or spicy that changed the taste of your breast milk.

Weaning Guide:

  • Avoid going cold turkey as this could be stressful for your baby, and could cause plugged milk ducts or an infection for you.
  • Start slowly by skipping the mid-morning or late-afternoon feed, when your child is less likely to be very hungry. Alternatively, keep shortening a feed until it has been eliminated.
  • Substitute the skipped feed with lots of cuddling and skin-to-skin contact so your baby knows he can be comforted without nursing. Older children may need a distraction during missed meal times, like a toy.
  • Gradually substitute one feed per day with formula for the first week, two the next, and so on. To wean a baby 1 year and older, give them a sippy cup with your breast milk, or iron-fortified formula feed.
  • At night, change your child’s bedtime routine so they disassociate it with a feed from you. Move the rocking chair you usually share into another room, reschedule bath time, or have your spouse put your child to bed instead of you.
  • If your child won’t accept the bottle from you, see if they’ll let your partner feed them instead.
  • Since breastfeeding is comforting for your child, as you limit their access to it, increase the amount of loving attention you give them.
  • To avoid the discomfort of overfilled breasts, express just enough breast milk to relieve the pressure.

If you’ve tried everything to wean your child and it still isn’t working, maybe the time isn’t right. Sometimes your baby might be sick, or there might be too much to adjust to at that time. If so, try again in a few weeks’ time.

Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is best for babies. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. PURITY fully supports this with continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary food as advised by healthcare professionals.