When should you stop breast-feeding? That's up to you and your baby. If you are both enjoying the experience, carry on! The World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding be continued for up to two years and beyond. Your baby will continue to reap the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as you decide to continue.
Once you have made the decision to wean, it is important to remember that weaning is not a negative term. Weaning does not mean a loss, but rather a change from one relationship to another. It is the gradual replacement of breastfeeding with other foods and ways of nurturing. Be proud of the length of time that you have breastfed your lo - whether it was 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, or more! You have given your baby a wonderful gift.
All children will eventually wean, whether they are allowed to self-wean or are encouraged to wean on an earlier time frame. Child-led Weaning
Child-led weaning occurs when a child no longer has a need to nurse - nutritionally or emotionally. A baby who self-weans is usually well over one year old, is getting most of his nutrition from solids, is drinking well from a cup, and cuts down on nursing gradually. It is important to note that child led weaning is almost invariably a gradual process. If your lo has abruptly stopped nursing, it is more likely a nursing strike. See Is my baby weaning or is it a nursing strike?
for more information.Sudden Weaning
The abrupt cessation of breastfeeding (or going "cold turkey") can be very distressing for both mother and baby, and can cause plugged ducts, mastitis, and even breast abscesses. It is extremely rare that sudden weaning is truly necessary, and should be supervised by a doctor and/or lactation consultant. They may be able to suggest alternatives and help you wean with as little distress as possible.Mother-led (or Active) Weaning
It's important to always conduct mother-led weaning in a way that is gentle, gradual, flexible, patient, and as respectful to your child's needs as possible. By weaning gradually, you are able to substitute other kinds of nutrition, affection and attention to compensate for the loss of nursing. Gradual weaning also allows the immunity levels in your breast milk to increase (as overall milk supply decreases) and thus give your child a last bit of extra protection against infection. Weaning should occur as slowly as your situation permits to make it easier on both you and your child.
If you are actively weaning, ensure that you are offering lots of one-on-one time, cuddles, hugs, and kisses! Breastfeeding is not just a source of nutrition, but of comfort and closeness. As your baby begins to wean from your breast, you begin to substitute other forms of emotional nourishment as well as nutrition. Active Weaning TechniquesDropping one feeding at a time
Dropping one feeding at a time is suitable for babies of all ages. It's generally recommended that you work on eliminating one feeding for 3-7 days before dropping the next. You may go as slowly as you wish, but try to avoid going faster than this. This allows your milk supply to decrease slowly, minimizing fullness and discomfort, and allows your baby to get used to the change. Choose the feeding that is least important for your baby - Generally a midday feed. The bedtime feed is usually one of the last feeds to be eliminated. Now you can approach it in a couple of different ways, depending on your baby's age and temperament.
With younger babies, the feed must be replaced with a bottle feed. Milk feeds are the most important source of nutrition up to one year of age so it is important that your baby's total milk consumption does not decrease. See Tips for getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle
if your baby is not already comfortable taking feeds from a bottle. With older babies and toddlers, you can either offer a sippy cup (or snack, or other distraction) instead of nursing, or you can begin shortening that nursing session gradually. For all babies, continue nursing as usual for the remaining feedings.
For older babies/toddlers, once you've dropped a bf and replaced it with a snack or activity you would no longer offer a nursing session at that time. However, you might choose to nurse if your child is really insistent or distressed about it on a particular day. You may also find it helpful to have dad or another caregiver involved in the feeding routines so that your lo does not think of breastfeeding.
Be prepared to slow the pace if your baby becomes very fussy or gets ill.Don't offer, don't refuse
This is possibly the most gentle active approach to active weaning, which many mothers move into naturally as their child gets older. This method involves not offering to nurse, but also not refusing your child's expressed desire to nurse. This method tends to take longer than other methods, so it is not likely to be suitable if you are in a hurry (such as returning to work).
A variation on this method, Postponement, involves saying "not now, later." when your child asks to nurse. Sometimes later never comes as your lo gets too busy with everything else. He also learns that he can wait a while.Change in routine or schedule
A change in routine, venue, or schedule can be a gentle way to wean a toddler as well. If your child typically wants to nurse more when you are at home, try to be out and about more during the weaning process. If he seems to need to nurse more when you are out and he is away from all that's familiar, try to stay close to home as much as you can while you wean. If sitting down in a certain chair cues him to nurse, try to avoid doing that, or anything else that may remind him of nursing. Wearing a shirt that is less accessible for nursing also helps some moms. This method is helpful when used in tandem with don't offer, don't refuse.Distraction or Substitution
Another method that works well with toddlers, you try to anticipate when your child may want to nurse and plan to distract him or offer a substitution in place of nursing. You may offer a favourite snack, a playdate, an outing or walk, a favourite story, etc. to your lo. This method is most likely to be successful if you can employ it before your lo indicates a need to nurse.Partial Weaning
Breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing process. You can always keep one or more feedings per day and eliminate the rest. Many moms continue to nurse at bedtime and/or first thing in the morning for many months after their los have weaned from all other feedings. Part-time nursing is still very beneficial for your baby! As long as your lo is getting your milk, he will continue to reap the many benefits of breastfeeding.
Most moms find that they can wean down to even just one feeding a day and maintain their supplies at this level, In established lactation, milk production depends primarily on milk removal: if milk is removed from the breast through feeding, then the breast will continue to make milk. If you wish to begin feeding your baby formula in addition to breastmilk in the early months, your chances of success are greatly increased by exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first 3-4 weeks, then slowly weaning from some of the nursing sessions.Is weaning going too quickly for my baby?
Here are some signs that may indicate that weaning is going too quickly:
• a new or increased fear of separation
• increased crying, whining, clinginess, or tantrums
• sudden increase in night waking
• biting when it has never occurred
• a new or increased attachment to a stuffed animal, toy, or blanket
• new thumb or pacifier sucking
• stomachache, constipation, vomiting, refusal to eat
• new or increased withdrawal, aloofness
If you notice these signs, and you are able to, it may be wise to slow the weaning process or even back up a bit. If there is a specific nursing session that your child really seems to need, you can pick it back up for a little while. There are times when this is not possible, but do your best to be flexible and understanding of your child's needs. Often time is the best remedy.What if my baby gets sick during weaning?
It is normal for breastfed babies to want to nurse more frequently when ill. Breastfeeding provides them with fluids and nutrition, preventing dehydration, and it is very comforting when your lo is feeling poorly.
If at all possible, try not to initiate or progress with weaning when your child is sick. Even at the most ideal time, weaning is a drastic change for your lo. If he gets sick during the weaning process, consider allowing him to nurse as needed until he is well. If that is not possible, try to "pause" the weaning process. Continue bottle feeding (or offering a snack or distraction) for the feeds you've dropped, but do not drop any further feeds. Once your lo has recovered, you can return to a more deliberate approach to weaning. BW Support Threads for WeaningWEANING thread...Come and share your experiences and offer support.WEANING thread #2... Come share experiences and offer supportWeaning thread part 3... Come share experiences and offer supportReferenceshttp://www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/index.htmlhttp://www.llli.org/FAQ/weanhowto.html