Weaning: Tips for breast-feeding mothers
What is the best way to wean your baby from breastfeeding? Just like all things parenting, it’s different for everybody. Every mom is different, not to mention every baby!
Sometimes the weaning process is not a welcome one, but is necessary because of life circumstances. No matter how long you breast fed your baby for, 3 days or multiple years, you worked hard and you did your very best for your baby!
No matter what, they will continue to be healthy and loved by you, whether on the breast or not. It’s normal to have concerns about emotional stress for you and you baby, allergens, nutrition, refusal, and weight gain for mom.
Timing can also be flexible. You can wean very gradually- like they won’t even see it coming! If you are ready to just be done, there are ways to make that happen too.
Keep reading to find all the information about the weaning process that you need, from distractions and replacements for baby, caring for mom, weaning tips and tactics, weaning equipment, and dealing with emotions and the unexpected.
Patience is crucial to whatever method you are using.
We are all in it together mama!
What is weaning?
“To accustom (a young child or animal) to take food otherwise than by nursing”.
From the Hebrew root of the word: “To Ripen”.
There is comfort in knowing that the first known use of the word “weaning” refers to nursing. Moms have been doing this forever!
Why we do it? Because we can’t breastfeed forever (although some moms do love it that much!) We wean because breastfeeding is temporary.
Sometimes we can’t continue to breastfeed because of certain situations, or we cannot physically continue to nurse. If your baby is under 12 months, weaning off breastfeeding to formula will be the best option. Over 12 months, you can wean your baby onto cows milk.
Weaning: meaning and purpose
What weaning means to you can vary from mom to mom. Weaning for one mom might be slow and gradual, and for another mom weaning might be “I need to do this now”.
“According to La Leche League,” weaning can simply start as a process of cutting back one feeding at a time, or shortening feedings. This will relieve stress for both mom and baby, and slow is the way to go. However, if you need to wean quickly especially for medical reasons, that is still possible!
What is your own personal weaning meaning?
Importance of Weaning
Weaning from breast milk to solid foods ensures that baby’s ever growing nutritional needs are being met. Don’t just think of weaning as reducing the amount of breast milk your baby is consuming, but more positively the introduction of new and exciting foods!
Careful consideration must be taken with premature babies in planning the amount of nutrients they are getting. That is why the weaning process is so important, not just for little ones born early, but for all babies.
Starting at around 6 months, your baby will begin to desire real foods, as their natural iron stores from the womb will start to be depleted. New foods will pack nutrients into baby’s diet and fill up that adorable, grumbling little belly. Often this also allows for a more peaceful sleeping baby through the night…and a more peaceful sleeping mom!
Baby’s lips, tongue and jaw will become stronger as they are introduced to solid foods. This will also and prepare them for the road ahead, when they use those same muscles to start talking and learning new words like, “More spinach, mom!”
Giving baby solids is also a gradual process. New textures and tastes will be an exciting adventure, and help ensure that your child has a healthy, well rounded diet in the future. Starting with a green vegetable is a great introduction, just throw some greens into your baby bullet with equal parts breast milk, and blend! Many moms say that starting with greens first paves the way to a healthy and less picky eater in the future.
Over time you can decrease the amount of breast milk and replace with water, or if baby is over 12 months, use cow’s milk. Make sure they are still getting plenty of fluids to avoid constipation! More ideas on introducing solids are below.
Having the whole family involved in feeding baby takes a great deal of pressure off mom. When your baby starts eating solids, it’s just another way that dad, brothers, and sisters can help and interact with their new family member. Solid food feedings can be fun for the whole family, and give mom a break!
Is your baby not interested one bit in eating solids? Bring baby over to the table. Eating with the rest of the family will help grown your baby’s interest in new foods by watching everyone else eat and enjoy them! Not only will this grow their interest in solid foods, but will also strengthen their social skills.
How to wean
If you are able to, stock up on your breast milk freezer stash before you begin weaning. That way you always have extra on hand in case. You can always replace nursing sessions with bottles of breast milk or formula.
If you aren’t able to stock up on breast milk, don’t worry! You can still wean your baby.
There are a few different techniques to wean, both for gradual weaning and quick weaning. There is also baby led weaning, mom led weaning, and food led weaning. Read on to get information on all of these!
If you don’t have a lot of time to wean, you can drop a feeding every 3 days. This is the minimum amount of days that is recommended to decrease engorgement. You might still experience engorged breasts if you are weaning quickly.
When weaning quickly, try to keep each nursing or pumping section as small as possible. This way you aren’t signaling your body to produce more milk, but you are still able to get a supply for the rest of the weaning process. To learn more about how to stop nursing, scroll down!
Starting small is recommended.
Remove one feeding at a time, starting with the one baby is least interested in. Allow for 3-7 days in between dropping a feeding. To make it easy, just mark your calendar to eliminate one feeding a week. You can go longer in between feedings as well.
“Don’t offer, Don’t refuse” is a great method to start the weaning process. Mom can use this method to gently wean their babies. Don’t offer to feed your baby, but also don’t refuse baby when they want to nurse. This way, you aren’t encouraging them to breastfeed but they aren’t being forced to stop.
TIPS FOR BOTH:
When dropping feeding you can always supplement with a bottle feeding of formula or breast milk. Even if you are just shortening feedings and baby is still hungry, have a bottle ready to top them off with!
If your baby is having a hard time letting go of their nursing session, distract them with playtime, getting outside to explore, reading and cuddling, and if baby is around 6 months, a healthy snack!
Changing up your schedule is also a great distraction. Tell your baby that you will nurse later, and move onto something else. Strap that baby into the stroller and go for a walk or jog, and they will most likely forget its time to nurse!
Sometimes avoiding the baby carrier is best, so they are not tempted by being close to moms milk. This goes along with wearing shirts that are harder to get into!
These are also ways that help mom to cope with weaning too. If you are getting emotional about weaning -which I was, and I’m getting emotional just writing this- distractions can be both for baby and mom. Nursing can be a bonding time, so we are just learning new and different ways to bond!
Other ideas include just simply shortening your feeding or pumping sessions. Additionally, increase the length of time in between each nursing or pumping session.
How to stop nursing
It doesn’t have to be painful or stressful to stop breastfeeding, even if it needs to happen quickly. With these tips from experience, stopping breastfeeding can go a lot more smoothly.
Dealing with engorgement, mastitis, clogged milk ducts, and emotional distress are all things that can happen. We are here to help you get through this roller coaster and relieve as much pressure as possible! We have a whole post on relieving Engorgement Pain!
As you read above in the “How to wean” section, it is best to stop breastfeeding gradually. However, that is not always an option.
The easiest way to start is to just shorten each nursing session, a minute or two at a time. Also, try not to empty your breasts completely when nursing or pumping. The less you milk you express, the less milk your body will produce.
Start eliminating feedings. Three days is the minimum that you should go between eliminating feedings. However this varies from mom to mom.
If you are dropping a nursing session but still pumping for it, continue to pump if you need the breast milk supply in your freezer, maybe during nap time. If you are not worried about your breast milk stash, drop the feeding all together (drop that pumping session too).
To decrease your milk flow, consider picking up some baby safe milk reduction tea. Together with shortening feeding times, beginning to eliminate one feeding at a time and distraction baby, your milk flow will begin to decrease gradually.
Check out the other advice above about how to wean your baby, and below on pumping, hand expressing engorged breasts, and caring for engorgement and clogged milk ducts!
Once you begin to shorten feedings and eliminate one feeding at a time, you might experience some engorgement. Make sure that you relieve the pressure by expressing some milk by hand, or with a hand or electric pump.
If pumping is new to you, make sure to read the next section on hand expressing as well. There are some great tips for preparing you and your breasts for your pumping session.
Try to always keep a pump on you just in case! If you are pumping at work or while you are out, carry a cooler with you. This handy cooler and breast pump bag from Dr. Brown’s stores your milk AND your pump, all while looking stylish!
When you cannot sanitize your pump parts in-between sessions, don’t fret! Instead, store the parts in your cooler and use them again for your next pumping session. You can also do this at home storing parts in the freezer in-between sessions if you don’t have time to sanitize.
If you are concerned about the temperature of your cooler, get one of these tiny cooler thermometers to store in your cooler Just make sure you don’t place the thermometer directly on the ice, but rather in a mesh side pocket or tape it to the top of the cooler for a more accurate reading.
Refrigerators should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, so just shoot for that in your cooler!
Breastfeeding Weaning Schedule
During the weaning process, a schedule helps to remember how long it’s been since eliminating the last feeding. Also, how long your current nursing sessions should be, and how long you are going in-between current feedings.
So, get your calendar and your timer out, or just use your phone for both! We all know what baby brain is like, so having everything marked down is the easiest way to remember!
DROP ONE FEEDING PER WEEK
On your calendar, mark down the day of each week that you will drop one feeding time, perhaps every Monday. Stick to your chosen day of the week to initiate dropping one feeding time. Start with the feeding that is baby’s least favorite!
It’s best to go slow. However you can eliminate one feeding every three to seven days, or you can take longer in-between too. If that’s the case, just mark your calendar for every three days, every four days, every two weeks, etc. However long you want to go between dropping each feeding session.
Figure out how many times you are feeding your baby every 24 hours. For example, if your baby is eating 8 times a day, you could potentially wean them in eight weeks by dropping one feeding a week.
SHORTEN EACH FEEDING OR PUMPING SESSION
When shortening your feeding sessions, it is helpful to time the session first. Then begin to decrease all sessions by a few minutes every day. If baby is old enough, have a snack ready for them so they aren’t too upset when they aren’t ready to be done!
Once the feeding time is shortened significantly, baby wont even notice it’s gone. How’s that for mom stealth?
LENGTHEN TIME BETWEEN FEEDINGS
Mark on your calendar to increase the time between feedings anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. If you are not a “scheduler”, just feel out your babies needs and keep track of how much they have eaten. Be ready for a sudden outburst of hunger!
Start scheduling (or just introducing) snacks and meal times! For the first feeding dropped, schedule a snack to take the edge off.
Then with the next feeding dropped, maybe schedule lunch, break fast or dinner as a replacement! Check out the section above on “The importance of weaning” and “How to wean” on tips for giving baby solid food.
Babies thrive off of schedules, and so can moms. If scheduling has never been your thing, you might be surprised that you actually like it! Even if it is just a rough schedule, it will help immensely with weaning and everything else!
Weaning Foods to help wean Faster
Start with good ol’ fruits and veggies! Introduce one new fruit or vegetable per week. That way if your child has an allergic reaction to the food you will know exactly which food caused the reaction.
Even if your baby doesn’t have many teeth yet, those gums are powerful! Ever have a teething baby chew on your fingers? They can still eat some solids!
Start blending fruits and veggies with breast milk or formula. Whether you are making your own baby food with a Magic Bullet Baby Bullet, a NutriBullet , or buying jars of baby food, dilute it with breast milk or formula first. This will be easier on babies tummy, and there will be less of a chance of constipation.
Work your way through the rain bow, starting at… green! Leafy greens are a great source of iron, and when mixed with a fruit high in vitamin C, that allows for better absorption of the iron…. not to mention better taste!
If you start your baby first on something delicious and sweet like apples or bananas, chances are they won’t be interested in their greens. Starting with green vegetables will encourage your baby to eat all types of foods, not just the especially tasty ones.
Start with spinach or kale. If you aren’t having issues with constipation, add in green veggies and legumes like peas, beans, asparagus, you name it!
After green, move to red or orange. Make a beet puree, which you can mix kale, or whatever baby has already had and you know they aren’t allergic.
Carrots and sweet potatoes were some favorites in our house. Tomatoes, strawberries and oranges tend to be an allergen for some youngsters, so just keep an eye out if you start on those!
Blueberries are a great fruit to start with since they are super nutritious, but too sweet.
Apples make a great puree to add to greens for taste and nutritional value.
Sliced bananas, raspberries, blueberries, peas, beans and cheerios all make great finger foods once baby is used to solids and is ready for some hand mouth coordination!
From there, once your baby has tried pretty much everything, they are ready to dig in to the meals you make for the whole family. Of course, cut up in to painstakingly tiny pieces!!!
If constipation becomes an issue, back off on the gassy foods like beans, chick peas, cauliflower broccoli. If your baby has had bread or pasta at this point, back off on those too.
To help constipation, feed baby apple sauce, blended grapes or prunes or grape juice, apple juice, or prune juice.
Lie baby on the floor, and move their legs around as if they are riding a bicycle, really slowly. Belly massage also works great.
Start at the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, and lightly massage baby’s belly from right to left in small counter-clockwise circles. Once you get all the way to the left, go back to the right side a little lower down and continue to move from right to left in tiny counter-clockwise circles in swaths, until you get to the bottom of he abdomen.
You might actually feel the stuck poo in their little tummy, and can very gently work it down the intestinal track. That will make you feel like a very accomplished parent!
When to wean
“According to Medela,” It is recommended that babies are fully breastfed throughout the first six months of life, and continue to be breastfed along with other complementary foods until at least the age of 2.
At 7 months, 93% of a babies calorie intake can be from breast milk alone, and up to half the calorie intake for a 11 to 16 month old.
Why nurse so long? Because breast milk is not only just a food source, but a nutritional power house for baby also filled with antibodies to strengthen the immune system. This also goes for mom’s antibody production too, which increases because of breastfeeding, keeping both mom and baby healthy.
Breastfeeding is also a source of comfort for baby. It can be a time of bonding between mom and baby too, although there are many ways to bond if weaning needs to happen soon. If you don’t want to stop completely, you can always hold on to a feeding or two, but you might have to pump as well to keep your milk supply from depleting.
If you are able to, breast feed for as long as you can. This can vary according to each mom, depending on physical condition, life circumstances, job expectations, and everything else.
After six months, baby needs to intake higher levels of iron, zinc and vitamins B and D. You can still nurse your baby while giving complementary foods, but if you can still nurse them or bottle feed breast milk, that is great!
When it comes to breastfeeding, how long to continue breastfeeding before weaning seems to be a common question. It’s different for everyone! Although breastfeeding is ideally up until 6 months to 2 plus years, baby will still be healthy on formula too! In some serious circumstances, moms are not able to continue nursing and weaning is the only option.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you have to wean sooner than you wanted to. You are doing the best thing for you and your baby!
At the same time, don’t feel pressured to stop breastfeeding if you don’t want or have to. Some moms feed their babies with the breast up to four plus years. Do what is right for you and your baby!
Signs baby is ready to wean from breastfeeding
When baby starts to show less nutritional and emotional needs to nurse, that’s the first of the baby self weaning signs. This usually happens after one year of age.
A baby might seem like they are self weaning before they are one year old. This could actually just be a nursing strike.
When baby refuses the breast all together or just feeds less or skips feedings, it could just be because of increased nap times, teething, or other distractions like new milestones.
However, if your baby is under a year old and seems like they are showing self weaning signs, you can always contact a lactation specialist. If you weren’t planning on weaning yet, baby could be distancing because they are having trouble feeding. Just reach out to someone who can help!
Low milk supply can also be a reason for a nursing strike or early self weaning. If baby goes on a nursing strike, you can start pumping to reserve your supply for when they change their minds!
Other baby self weaning signs are when baby decreases the amount they nurse all on their own, and starts eating more solids. Drinking out of cups and other milestones like crawling, walking or teething can be baby self weaning signs.
Distractions are everywhere! If your baby is distracted from nursing,find a quieter and darker spot to nurse with less noise and visual distractions.
Self weaning is usually a very gradual thing that happens over time. While your child grows and begins to eat more solid food, drink cows milk, and becomes more active, they might wean all on their own.
If a young child weans themselves in their own time and pace, that can happen naturally between the ages of 2 and 4, give or take.
If your situation permits it, self weaning can be great gradual way to wean your child from the breast.
Weaning at night
Milestone for babies, score for mom! Sleeping through the night sounds great. Maybe your biggest reason for night weaning is to get some sleep yourself. Absolutely understood!
You might try to wean your child and night and he is not having it. Just try again a little later!
Babies are used to eating to fall asleep, so it’s natural and perfectly normal that they will get frustrated during night weaning. Even when you are trying your best, remember that sometimes baby is actually hungry!
Eventually they will grow out of their night feeding habits, and naturally sleep through the night without eating. Usually around 6 months babies are able to go 12 hours without eating at night. Even starting at 4-6 months babies are ready to night wean, but before that baby still needs food on demand.
Similarly to daytime weaning, try to shorten feedings during the night, and eventually cut them out one by one. However, there is always the unexpected. Read on to prepare yourself for the night wean!
Always consider that your baby could be waking and nursing for comfort from teething, sickness, especially ear infections, or even wet diapers. Take care of teething pain or other discomforts before bedtime.
Eczema or food or environmental allergies can keep baby up too! My daughter had terrible eczema and had to be swaddled for a long time to stop her from scratching in her sleep, causing her skin to bleed.
Take extra care of skin issues or allergies before bedtime, so baby doesn’t wake from them and want to nurse!
Keep the room temperature from getting to hot to avoid exacerbating skin issues like eczema. Even with babies without rashes, they might wake up from varying temperatures. Keep your room temperature steady to keep your temperamental one steady!!
Acid reflux or other digestion problems can be present too especially if solid foods are being introduced. Feeding baby solids before bedtime could actually make them sleep worse, with potential digestion problems. If your baby tolerates it, feed them some rice cereal before bed or mix it in with a bottle.
Even better, nurse often, every hour or two before bedtime. Use only one breast to nurse during pre-bedtime feedings. That way your baby is getting the fattier more filling milk, making that tummy nice and full before bedtime!
When your baby is ready to fall asleep, try to get them to sleep without the nipple in their mouth. This will help them to realize they don’t need the breast or bottle to fall asleep. From there, eventually reduce the amount of rocking and holding time to get baby to sleep.
While taking away night feedings, you will have to make up for it during the day. Feed more frequently during the day if possible, try to aim for full feedings during the day, and feed every 2-3 hours.
During the day, try your best to reduce distractions when nursing. Nursing babies can get so distracted during the day that 25% of their total intake comes from night nursing!
Change your sleeping set up. Many babies nurse through the night simply for comfort. If you are comfortable with co-sleeping, baby will sleep great right next to you, and won’t feel the need to nurse since you are already there.
One problem with co sleeping is that baby can access the milk tap by themselves in the middle of the night, maybe while you are asleep! Instead you can put a small mattress or place the crib right next to your bed with the rail off. That way baby is close, but not too close.
If your baby is not ready, you might be wondering… when DO babies stop feeding at night!?
Or how do you night wean a bottle fed baby? Read on for some tips on both.
When do babies stop feeding at night?
If you are worn our from all of those nighttime feedings and wake up calls, you could be wondering, when do babies stop drinking milk at night?
Usually around 6 months babies can go 12 hours without eating at night. Starting at 4-6 months, babies are consuming enough calories during the day that they can sleep about five to six hours in the night.
Although baby still needs food on demand before they are four months, it is not unusual for a baby under four months to sleep for longer periods of time without food.
At the same time, older babies might wake up hungry through the night even if they are past six months. Your baby might not be physically hungry, but still desires to wake and nurse during the night for comfort.
Eventually your baby will grow of their night feeding habits, and naturally sleep through the night without eating.
Consider these three things when wondering if your baby is ready for night weaning!
Is your baby treating night feedings differently? Do they wake for a snack and then want to play? Maybe night feedings are not necessary now.
Is there are lot of variation in night feeding times? The more inconsistent the night feeding times, the less likely they are out of sheer hunger. However if baby wake consistently to feed at similar times each night, he could be hungry still!
Does your baby not eat as much during the day, but still wake to feed at night? Let’s turn that one on its head! Rather than continuing to feed at night, feed more during the day.
If you enjoy night feedings, there is no need to stop yet. However, If you are sleep deprived and the constant night waking is affecting your day, mood, and those around you, it could be time to consider weaning from night feedings.
Night Weaning a Bottle fed baby
With bottle feeding, you have distanced yourself a little bit more than if you were breastfeeding. For some, it’s a good transition to go from night-time nursing, to night time bottle feeds, to nothing.
Since you are bottle feeding, you can be really exact when shortening feedings since you can measure them!
Whether you are working with formula or breast milk, you can wean your baby off the bottle with two different methods.
The first one is to reduce the amount of each feeding. Start by offering 2 ounces less per feeding.
Continue to reduce feedings by 2 ounces. So if you are starting with 8 ounces, go to 6 ounces, then 4 ounces, until their feeding is only 2 ounces. The next step is to remove the feeding completely!
Another option is to dilute your formula. Start with the normal ratio of formula and water in the bottle.
Then, one feeding at a time begin to reduce the amount of formula mixed in until the bottle is just water. After a few days of feeding with just water, remove the feeding completely.
Never offer a feeding again once you have eliminated it. Done is done!
Your baby still might be upset that the feeding is gone. Don’t give in, unless you baby seems legitimately hungry, sick and in pain.
If you want to night wean your baby but are not yet weaning baby off the bottle during the day, that’s OK! Once your baby is old enough, around 12 months, you will begin to offer cups instead of bottles during the day. Generally, pediatricians say babies should be weaned from the bottle before age one, and not any later than 18 months.
Maybe at 12-18 months your baby is still taking a bottle during the night. Read on below about night weaning toddlers!
Toddlers are are already difficult, not to mention when they are tired and hungry! Fear not, because there are some great ways to wean your toddler from nursing and bottle feeding during the day and night.
Have a very resistant toddler? You can always distract a toddler with a fun outing or event or time with friends. You can be strategic and get your toddler to move on!
How to wean a resistant toddler
Breastfeeding is a relationship between you are your child. When one of you is not willing to end it, it can be hard!
If you would rather not nurse your child to the age of 3 or 4, when kids naturally wean on their own, there are other ways.
You may have to have a great deal of patience for a child that is resistant. Consider yourself “Moving in that direction” rather than getting impatient when it doesn’t happen quickly.
Make sure first of all that your child is getting enough calories from other foods before you wean, even as a toddler. They might not be consuming enough food because they are so reliant on the breast.
So, kick it up a notch with the solid foods, snacks, water and watered down juices! If your toddler hasn’t had cows milk yet, read on in the next section on how to wean from breast milk to whole milk.
Don’t offer and don’t refuse the breast. Not offering will not encourage them to nurse, and not refusing will make them less emotional. This is a process that can gradually lead to weaning without too much emotional stress.
Let your toddler have a say in the matter. Allow her to pick a few times a day to nurse so they feel somewhat in control.
Cover those milk jugs up! Yes, I mean yours! The less your toddler sees of them, the less she will be tempted to want to nurse.
Make sure that you are not nursing after your child gets an “owie”, or when they are already upset about something. Try to break that association of nursing with comfort.
Try to plan your days around those nursing times that are hard to avoid. If you know there is one right after dinner or lunch, plan for an activity then. Plan a play date or just a walk or game, to distract your toddler. They will still be getting attention from you, just in a different way.
Let your child look at a read a Weaning book for toddlers. Once they understand what weaning is, they might be more willing to do it themselves! Many moms have had great luck with a weaning book for their resistant toddlers.
Night weaning a toddler
Although you want to wean your toddler at night, remember that nursing is just one of many night time parenting jobs. If you are becoming resentful of your night time nursing toddler that is normal.
Just remember that you still might be awake doing something else for them even if they weren’t nursing. Some toddlers just won’t sleep all the way through the night until age 3! This doesn’t mean that they need to nurse, but they still might wake up.
Weaning at night so your little one can learn to fall asleep on their own is possible. You might want to prepare yourself with a few mommy naps during the day time during this trial. You also might not need to!
Your child will learn to sleep though the night without feeding. Sleeping through the night might just be sleeping 5 hours straight.
Begin weaning your toddler at night by not nursing them into their sleep. You can still nurse them before bedtime, but try to keep them awake so that you can put them asleep by rocking or cuddling instead.
Maybe your goal just might be to get your kid to sleep without nursing, and your are OK with bringing him into the bed after that first night waking. Decide what your goals are!
Use a night light on a timer. Communicate to your child that we only nurse when the night light is on! That way you only nurse during specific hours of the night.
During night wakings when you decide to stop nursing in the night, your toddler might stay awake longer and take longer to go back to sleep because you are not nursing her. She will fall asleep eventually.
Your toddler might actually be thirsty when they wake up at night, just give them water! If they demand milk, go through all the motions. Make them sit up, use a cup, and brush teeth afterwards. What kid of kid wants to go through all that trouble? Water please!
After your toddler gets used to no night feedings, they should stop waking so much in the night. There will be tears at first, but don’t give in!
Continue to be patient and loving with your little one, but sticking with the decision you have made. Explain to your toddler that they need to wait until the morning. Don’t make them feel shameful for wanting to nurse!
Bargain with your child. After a few days of not taking your child to the park because “Mommy didn’t get enough sleep last night”, you might be surprised with less waking in the night!
Enter: Dad. Have dad step in for the night time wake up calls. Guess what kid? No milk in these nipples! Dad can do this during the day too, so mom is on call just for emergency nursing sessions.
Get your child outside during the day. The fresh air will help them sleep more peacefully with less waking.
Once you night wean, you will become more attune to things that might be keeping your toddler up like colds, allergies or other changes. Night weaning can be a huge blessing, but there are different methods that work well for everybody!
How to wean from breast milk to whole milk
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies wait until one year of age to begin drinking cow’s milk. Before 12 months, babies are not able to digest the proteins in milk yet and could have a greater risk of developing an allergy. You can always check with your pediatrician!
If you are not phasing out the bottle yet, choose one feeding to substitute a cows milk bottle instead of a breast milk bottle. Maybe start with your child’s least favorite nursing or bottle session.
My daughter refused cows milk at first. It wasn’t sweet enough for her like breast milk!
I mashed up tiny amount of banana, blended it in with the cows milk and filled her bottle with it. She LOVED it. Just that extra natural sweetness from the banana she was already familiar with helped greatly!
You can also mix in 10% cows milk to your breast milk bottle and gradually increase it from there.
Start slow, giving baby about 2-3 servings per day to start. You want to make sure she has room in her tummy for all of the other foods she is going to be eating!
If your baby is having a hard time with the transition, have dad take over some of the feedings. Mom will be out of sight, and things will be a little less stressful between mom and baby.
When transitioning from breast milk to whole milk, your baby might be a bit surprised! Not to mention the change between a bottle and a cup that is also coming soon.
Some kids can’t wait to get their hands on a real cup. For those who feel otherwise, check out these transition cups! These will make the transition a lot smoother if your little one misses the comfort of the nipple.
Start by putting your baby in a high chair so they can practice sitting up and drinking from a cup. When he sees everyone else drinking out of cups, he will want to try it too!
Finger foods for a One-year old
Once your baby realizes that food actually tastes amazing, he will want everything! This includes stealing everything off moms plate. Everything tastes better when it’s on mom’s plate, right?
If you haven’t read our section above on “Weaning foods to wean faster”, check it out! It is a great introduction to foods for baby.
If your baby is sitting independently, showing interest and wants to feed herself, and is grabbing at your food, it is time!Let her do it herself! Get a hold of these Baby-led feeding spoons and let your baby practice her hand to mouth coordination. If you want more tips for Introducing finger foods to your baby, check out this Guide to First Foods.
What if I’m not ready to wean?
Breastfeeding statistics can be helpful, but they aren’t the ultimate reason for any mom to wean at a specific time. If breastfeeding is working well right now and you don’t need or want to stop, then you certainly don’t have to stop!
Remember that weaning is an individual choice that you make for you, your baby and your family unit! Although you might have different reasons for weaning or not weaning than the next mama, don’t let some one else’s decision affect yours!
Allow your choice to be influenced by health reasons rather than social pressures. Everybody (and their mother) will have and opinion to share with you. Take it with a grain of salt, and hold your ground!
Scroll down to read more about quitting because of breastfeeding problems and mom guilt over weaning. We are in this together!
If you have to wean because of work or medical reasons, remember that you did your best while you could! Your baby will still thrive if you cannot breastfeed.
At the same time, the longer you breastfeed, the longer you and your baby will both receive health benefits from nursing. Either way, healthy babies all around.
You might still be able to nurse during the night or just less than you were before. If not, you still can bond with your baby in many different and unique ways that are just as intimate!
Is your baby ready to wean and you are not? Oh the emotional roller coaster of mother hood. One minute you are so done with the nursing pains and exhaustion, but when your baby decides to stop you want it all back!
Reach out to other mamas and talk through what is going on with nursing and weaning. To know that another mom shares the same heart aches and emotions makes motherhood feel less confusing, and creates stronger bonds with not only your baby but other moms too! We need each other!
It seems like weaning isn’t as openly discussed as the mountain of other breastfeeding topics. Perhaps it’s because weaning is an emotional hardship for many, and moms feel like they have to hide it. Talk about it! You are not alone.
If your baby suddenly stops nursing, the little one could just be on a nursing strike. Scroll up to our section on “How to Wean” and “Signs baby is ready to wean from breastfeeding” to read more about nursing strikes and how to recognize them.
Don’t get down on yourself if your nursing season is coming to a close. your baby will still be healthy. Many babies are raised on formula and turn out to be just as healthy and bright.
Curious about the side effects of stopping breastfeeding for mom or for baby?
Keep reading for more, including how to deal with mom guilt over weaning and what to do if you are quitting because of breastfeeding problems.
Stopping Breastfeeding Side effects for Mom
Postpartum hormones are still running rampant while we are breastfeeding, lets talk about post weaning hormones and depression! It makes a world of difference to reach out to a mommy friend and talk about your emotions while weaning. You will be relieved that they are going through almost the exact same thing!
Emotions and mental changes are one thing, but you might also feel the effects of weaning in your physical body too. Reduced levels of prolactin and oxytocin can cause physical symptoms and discomfort.
Prolactin, the hormone responsible for lactation, can make mama feel calm and joyful while nursing baby. When we start to reduce our production of prolactin it can lead to feelings of depression. Seek help from a professional if you are dealing with depression, or reach out to a friend.
Anxiety may begin to come up, or maybe you are already dealing with it. Palpitations, caused by stress and anxiety or too much caffeine, can also be common in tired stressed out mamas. Find time for yourself to reflect.
Sometimes we just need some quiet time to sift through our thoughts and feelings to find out what is really upsetting us! Plenty moments of deep thought have led me to realize my current anxiety and guilt is really coming from the loaf of bread that went bad before it was opened.
My point is, we need to pin point our sources of anxiety whether they are financial, marital, or just plain emotional like “Baby wanted daddy and not me”. (Which made me cry for an hour!) Pin pointing emotions can help bring clarity to the situation.
Additionally, Oestrogen and Progesterone hormones are also trying to balance out again in our bodies. This can cause extreme fatigue and feelings of tiredness and exhaustion!
We also have to re arrange our diets, not needing as many calories as we are used to eating as breastfeeding mamas. A healthy diet can help with changes
Exercise is great for mild to severe depression. It can also help to balance our wild hormones as well as eating habits during this change. We benefit greatly from movement, fresh air and sunshine and so do our babies!
Exercise will also increase endorphins and seratonin production that boost and balance out our moods. This also helps with sleep and appetite! Ever wonder why that one mom insists on exercising regularly? She knows she needs it! Make time for exercise, find something you enjoy! It will benefit you, your kids, your life and your entire family.
Insomnia can commonly be a side effect of weaning or motherhood in general. Getting fresh air and exercise can help wear you out during the day. Drink less caffeine, drink relaxing teas in the evening. Get a good book (or a boring one!) to help put yourself to sleep at night. Continue being intimate with your partner, this will help relax you both!
Dealing with engorged breasts, clogged milk ducts or mastitis? Check out our post on relieving engorgement pain and get some great tips on how to get through aches and pains from weaning!
Headaches, nausea, moods swings, or just feeling generally sick can all be a result of hormonal changes from stopping breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about how you are feeling!
On the plus side, hello fertile mama! Maybe you getting your period back doesn’t seem like a plus right now, but for some it makes us feel right again! Usually around 6 weeks after stopping nursing, our period returns and we start ovulating again. Watch out if your are not ready for your next baby yet!
You might feel like you are not needed anymore after such a long season of being on call for your baby. Consider this just a change of season. Your child will continue to need you and rely on you for the rest of his life!
We are pregnant for so long, and then breastfeeding for even longer in some cases. Some times it feels like we forget what we were like before we were even pregnant! “To everything there is a season” – Ecc 3:1.
Effects of stopping breastfeeding on baby
It is common for baby’s routines to get mixed up when they stop nursing. Don’t be alarmed if things are a little shaken up, soon your baby will get used to new foods, fluids and activities other than nursing.
You may have to give quite a few different types of bottles and nipples a try before you find the right one. All of these changes are a lot to take in, be patient and nurturing with your little one! Babies bowel movements will also be different.
Whether your baby is switching over to formula, cows milk, more solids, or even if they had all of those things before along with breast milk, diapers will be different from before. If you are suffering from depression because of the changes from stopping breastfeeding, baby could be feeling some of those emotions too.
Make sure you spend extra time cuddling your little one for your own health as well as theirs during this transnational time. The intimacy that your baby had from nursing will need to be replaced with different bonding activities!
Just because you are not nursing anymore doesn’t mean you can’t have intimate and loving moments with your baby! Skin to skin contact is amazing for both mom and baby while weaning and after. Close physical contact can help relieve and bring balance to lowering levels of Oxytocin in mom’s system.
Skin to skin contact is great for replacing those intimate nursing moments. Dad can also help with this skin to skin contact too! (Although it might be a little hairy) Lying baby on the chest or bare arms or belly will create a closeness without nursing.
When baby isn’t nursing anymore, she is receiving less antibodies that she was once getting from breast milk. Relying more on external sources of nutrition can be a challenge if your baby does not take formula or milk very well.
Just make sure your baby is meeting all of her nutritional needs, getting plenty of fluids and having plenty of wet and dirty diapers.
If you are ever concerned, always get in touch with your doctor!
What if I experience Mom Guilt over Weaning
Oh the mommy guilt, does it ever go away?! We feel guilty about everything it seems like at times.
If you are looking forward to weaning, you shouldn’t feel guilty. At the same time, if you don’t want to wean yet there is no need to feel guilty about that either!
If your guilt is turning into palpitations and anxiety or depression, and it is affecting your everyday life, seek out a friend or professional to talk to. Once you open the subject up to someone, you will realize you are not alone at all!
A mom who has to wean more quickly than she desires might feel severe depression because of it. Make sure that your partner understands how devastating this can be, and how to be supportive during this time. These feelings can last weeks or months, and can be a part of postpartum or post weaning depression.
Oxytocin is not only known as the lactation or “let down” hormone, but also the “love” hormone. Get some of that loving feeling! Hold your baby. Get close, have some one on one, skin to skin contact.
Holding your baby close will always make you feel better, ease depression and guilt, and help you remember that all is not lost! After the first few weeks of weaning, you might start to remember what it was like before you became pregnant, and feel more like yourself again.
Motherhood is ingrained in us, makes us stronger and wiser, and a heck of a lot more efficient! Imagine your pre pregnancy self with your newly acquired mom skills- think of what you can accomplish now!!
You might feel guilty about your eating patterns after stopping breastfeeding. Just take it slow, acknowledge that this is a huge life change and gradually decrease calories. Continue to exercise, or start exercising more to improve your mood, sleep habits and reduce cravings.
Am I quitting because of breastfeeding problems?
If you are having problems nursing, whether it’s a medical issue, low milk supply, pain, career, family, time; whatever it might be, there is always support if you need it. Here are some helpful tips on solving common breastfeeding problems.
Boosting milk supply
Low on milk? Not for long! Whether its ancient tradition or newly found suggestions and research, mama’s have been dealing with this problem forever. There are a great deal of natural remedies out there to increase supply. Here are suggestions for increasing milk supply!
You have never been so thirsty. Water by the bed. Water by the couch. Water in the car, diaper bag, bathroom, yes!
Drink all the water you can get! Breast milk is about 90% water. You thought you needed to drink a ton of water when you were pregnant, well now it’s on!
A good rule is to drink as much as you did during pregnancy, plus the amount you are putting out for your baby while nursing. Around 6 months, we produce at least a quart of breast milk per day!
Unless you have twins, consider 2 liters per day, according to the Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Science article on Nutrition during lactation . Remember that even if you are dehydrated, your body will still produce the same amount of milk although it will not be as nutritious.
This is great for baby, but mom needs to be really careful because the effects of dehydration will be taken out on her. Be mindful of your body, especially if you are exercising or become sick.
Excessive sweating from workouts should be supplemented with extra water intake. If you are ill with symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting, bring on the electrolytes and extra fluids.
Take careful precautions and monitor your fluid intake when you have the cold or flu while nursing, and always with chronic diseases and illnesses and more so while breastfeeding. Beware of dehydration symptoms like cramps, fatigue, pink and dry skin or dry tongue, shakiness and feeling light-headed.
Avoid foods that carry the risk of food poisoning such as leftovers that have been in the fridge a while, foods that have sat out at a potluck for more than an hour, foods that may carry Listeria like sandwich meat.
Make sure you always have water, and supplement with electrolytes. A good rule is to drink two servings of water for every serving of electrolytes you consume. Too many electrolytes can worsen dehydration and cause diarrhea.
Good sources of electrolytes with less sugar are coconut water, cactus nectar or prickly pear water with green tea or cactus water, leafy greens and bananas, season with sea salt or find a powdered electrolyte supplement like this nursing fizzy drink mix!
Pain with Breastfeeding
Take extra care when breastfeeding to nurture your body, nipples and all. During the first few weeks, the pain will be higher and then it will recede around week 2.
It will not always be painful! After the second week or so, nursing will actually start to feel good. Cramps are normal to experience while nursing. Every time you nurse you are stimulating your uterus to shrink back down to its normal shape.
However if you experience a high fever and or chills to go along with severe cramps, call your local hospital just to be sure you are not experiencing a postpartum infection or something similar. That happened to me!!
Do make sure you have a good latch when baby is nursing. Lactation consultants are experts at helping you get a good latch with baby’s mouth on the nipple. A good latch makes a world of different with pain level.
Reach out to a lactation consultant if you are feeling a lot of pain! Even with a great latch, you might still feel pain in the beginning weeks of nursing. It can literally be a toe curling experience to nurse your newborn, especially when you are breaking new nipples in.
Lanolin is a wonderful relief for sore, cracked and bleeding nipples. It is all worth is, mama! Soon you wont feel a thing. In the mean time, consider some Ice packs for Breastfeeding too, especially for engorgement.
When relieving engorgement pain watch out for symptoms of clogged milk ducts and mastitis too. This post on engorgement has great tips on breast care, using lavender oil as life saver! Make sure to give yourself a break. Get a super comfortable chair that has good back support, and a pillow or boppy to support baby.
I also used Lavender oil for the terrible muscle aches and tension headaches from trying to support my baby with my arms too much while breastfeeding.Bring on the pillows, blankets and the foot stool! Keep a pitcher of water at a side table next to you nursing chair, so you never have to go without. Water will also help with muscle cramps and to relieve swelling.
My husband had to convince me to get rid of my pink water cup from the hospital. It was the biggest cup in the house and I needed it!
Breathe. Do whatever it take to relax while nursing.
Request a shoulder and foot massage (Or head to toe!) Drink tea. Listen to music. Enjoy a solo stretching session, walk, swim, lay in the sun, or go to the spa with a friend. Pamper yourself! You earned it.
Conclusion: How to Stop Breastfeeding
We hope that your breastfeeding journey is a little easier and less daunting after reading this post. From mom to mom, there is so much to share about our experiences, struggles and stories. Breastfeeding can be the most amazing thing while at the same time being the most difficult challenge ever.
Not to mention, you just went through an entire pregnancy, and are filled with hormones that make you literally cry over spilled milk (The expression brings on a whole new meaning now, doesn’t it!)
Our relationship with our milk is one you could never understand until you are in the thick of breastfeeding. Not only does pregnancy and raising babies make us stronger women, but it strengthens our relationships with those around us too.
Each relationship has a season, just like breastfeeding does. When it is time to let go, we are here to support you.
Remember to take one challenge at a time, have patience with your baby and yourself, and don’t be shy to ask for help. The people around you who love you want to help, and so do we!
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Related Posts for The Art of Weaning: How to Stop Breastfeeding Gracefully:
- Easy Ways to Solve Common Breastfeeding Problems
- Picking the Best Diapers for your baby
- How to Love Bath Time with your Baby
- Relieving Engorgement Pain
Thanks for reading Weaning off Breastfeeding to Formula like a Pro!