How to properly wean a child from breastfeeding
Updated: Sep 22, 2021
When it comes to breastfeeding, as moms we all want to do our best to supply our children with the nutrients that they need from breastfeeding. However at different stages in the process sometimes it is time to wean a child from the breast.
For some moms, it can be a sudden process, while for others it can be after two years of non-stop breastfeeding. I have breastfed my eldest child for a year and my youngest for two years (yes two years!).
The weaning process was however different for both kids. It was a quicker no-fuss process with my first child, as I became pregnant with my second child and had to quickly wean him off. However, the second child was a bit more challenging as he spent a longer time on my breast.
So here are my tips for getting through this phase with as much less hassle as possible based on my experience.
What has your experience been? Please feel free to ask your questions or concerns in our FORUM section. I would be happy to help you!
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“Weaning a child from breastfeeding may seem challenging at first, but it doesn’t have to be with these steps.”
1. PLAN A TIME OF SEPARATION
Plan a time of separation for at least a minimum of 2 to 3 days preferable a weekend from maybe Friday night to Sunday for example. If possible plan for a longer time depending on your child’s readiness for weaning.
You can either initiate separation in your own house, go on a mini-vacation, or send your child to a relative or friend's house. Whatever you are comfortable with can help the process. For my first, it was done in hiding at home, while for my second it was a mini-vacation away, while he was at grandma's house. You can decide based on your schedule and availability.
2. HAVE A MANUAL OR ELECTRIC BREAST PUMP AVAILABLE
Make sure to have a manual or electric breast pump available. DO NOT do this without having one readily available. This is because your body is still producing milk as if your child is still breastfeeding.
If your child is however not readily removing the milk from your breast, you can get a build-up of breast milk in your breast tissues. This may cause a lot of breast pain or discomfort that can further lead to mastitis later on if not done properly.
Therefore you want to make sure that you lightly pump your breast to remove some of the milk. You do not however want to completely empty your breast of milk as you are telling your body to make more milk when you do so.
Pump just enough breast milk out to loosen your breast for added comfortability while your child is away. I have listed below my favorite pumps that I have used on my journey while breastfeeding both my kids.
Spectra Baby -USA S1 Plus Breast Pump
This was my favorite pump of all time hands down! It was an effective and powerful breast pump that was really efficient when it came to pumping (Hospital Strength is a must-have). While at work, during my pumping sessions, I was able to get more milk out in a short 15-minute break session.
It is comparable to a hospital-grade pump without the price and bulky attachments. It made life and the dreaded pumping at work experience a little easier. It was very comfortable and quiet, which were also two of my requirements when I did my research. (Do check also if it is available for free with your insurance provider or for an additional cost to upgrade).
Medela Freestyle Mobile Double Electric Breast Pump, Hands-Free Breast Pump
This was my all-time favorite on-the-go travel breast pump. The hands-free option and lightweight travel portability enabled me to travel with ease. I brought this pump on my way to a weekend conference where I only had a carry-on bag. I was able to pack it in my bag and had no problems going through the TSA checkpoint. This is a must for traveling moms!
3. GET ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT
Separating from your child during this process may be tough for some moms to handle. Remember breastfeeding is a bond formed between you and your child. Even though for some it is a relief to stop breastfeeding, for others it can be an emotional experience.
Get the encouragement and support you may need whether it is from your spouse ( he is more than available now that baby is being weened off), mom, siblings, or other family members and friends while you are separated from your child. This can sometimes help to keep your mind a bit off of the experience. You can also find local mom support groups as well that can share similar experiences with you.
4. STAY AWAY FROM THE MANY SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO STOP YOUR MILK PRODUCTION
Stay away from the many suggestions for example on the internet or even from Aunt Suzie on the quickest way to reduce your breast milk production. Some may suggest the use of medication or the more extreme "cabbage leaves tucked inside your bra" (I have tried this method, but It didn’t seem to work and left me so uncomfortable with smelly cabbage leaves plastered to my breast).
I think, however, your body is more than prepared to start the process without all the suggestions that are out there. Your body knows how to handle your milk production. The less you breastfeed, the less you produce. That is the key!
5. KEEP AWAY FROM RESTRICTED CLOTHING
Keep away from tight or restricted clothing for example a tight-fitting bra or shirt. Some have suggested wrapping yourself in cling wrap etc. to reduce the production of breast milk. In my opinion, it is so not necessary. Allow your body to naturally stop milk production without trying to suffocate your breast to do so by wearing tight clothing. Trust me on this one. It is a waste of time.
6. BREAST PADS
Please DO NOT forget your breast pads! Now that milk production will continue without your child feeding from your breast, expect a lot more leakages. Therefore have breast pads readily available to help you with leakages that will occur once you have completely stopped breastfeeding.
My choice for breastfeeding pads is the Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Night and Day pads. They are individually packaged for quick slip into your work or travel bags. They are comfortable and do not feel wet or leaky at any time. A must-buy!
7. YOUR CHILD MAY EXPERIENCE POST BREASTFEEDING WITHDRAWAL FUSSINESS
While you're away some children may experience a post-withdrawal fussiness especially on the first night. Try to have dad, a relative, or a friend help to soothe the withdrawal process by providing alternatives to breast milk.
For example a bottle of milk, a sippy cup, yogurt, etc. This will help to kind of distract them from remembering the breast as often. If you have been doing overnight feeding with your child, then your child will probably wake up expecting that comfort. Make sure to have the backup ready in order to distract them as much as possible.
8. DO NOT RE-ENGAGE YOUR CHILD TO THE BREAST
After you have completely stayed away from your child for the entire weaning process, whenever you return be sure not to re-engage your child with your breast. This will take work, but you MUST stick it out. Try to look for ways to distract them as much as possible from wanting your breast.
You can use a bottle of milk, yogurt, etc. to once again distract them from doing so. For my second child, it was a bottle of milk that did the trick. When I got back after he was with grandma for the process, I stood my ground and gave him a bottle of milk instead. Most times, however, they are already aware and fully weened off and have adjusted to not wanting breastmilk anymore.
9. POST BREASTFEEDING EMOTIONS
Do expect that your child might not be interested in your affection anymore and may ignore you or cling to daddy a bit more leaving you feeling rejected. Yes, it can happen! Just be aware that this may be the case and you probably will have feelings of abandonment.
But rest assure that you will have plenty of time to re-develop that bond in other ways that do not involve breastfeeding for example mommy and me times etc. Emotions may come post breastfeeding, but it’s not the end.
Did you find the strategies listed in this article helpful? What were some of your favorite tips? How have they worked for you? Leave a comment below, I’d love to know what you think.
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