All nursing moms wean their babies sooner or later, whether it's when they add solid food to babies' diets, replace some breast milk with formula (for infants), or switch completely from breast to bottle or sippy cup.
Everyone reacts differently to weaning. If you or your baby find it hard to adjust, these tips may help.
Don't feel guilty. Some moms wean because they have to go back to work or they have trouble nursing. You'll have enough to deal with already, so skip the guilt and think positive.
“Nursing is an especially intimate experience, so it’s not at all unusual to grieve a bit when it ends,” says David L. Hill, MD, FAAP. He's a pediatrician in Wilmington, N.C. “Every day in your child’s life brings new skills and talents. Focusing on these developments helps [you] embrace the change rather than bemoan it.”
Wait for the right moment. If your baby eats solid foods, he may adjust better to less breastfeeding.
“Weaning is typically easier when babies are eating a variety of foods other than human milk,” says Amy Spangler, MN, RN, IBCLC, author of Breastfeeding: A Parent's Guide.
Taper off slowly. If you stop breastfeeding suddenly, your breasts may feel painfully full. Phase out one feeding every 3 to 5 days and your breasts will gradually make less milk, causing less discomfort.
Raw cabbage leaves or warm compresses placed on breasts can ease pain. You can also pump milk to relieve pressure. “Remove only enough milk to relieve the fullness,” Spangler says. “The more you remove, the more you make. By leaving milk in the breasts, you signal the breasts to make less milk.
Maintain your bond. Some moms worry that weaning means they'll lose that special connection with their babies. But your bond is strong and will deepen in other ways. “There's no reason to think that mother-infant attachment should suffer,” Hill says. “Playing, cuddling, and reading together are all activities that will keep Baby in touch with Mom’s scent, the feel of her skin and her voice.”
Save one special feeding. It's hard for some moms and babies to stop nursing, even if they've canceled most feedings. If you value your time together, keep it up. “For many children, bedtime nursing is last to go,” says Diane Wiessinger, IBCLC, co-author of La Leche League International's The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. “Others take more comfort from a middle-of-the-night nursing, early-morning nursing, or mama’s-home-from-work nursing. You and your child will know what’s right.”
Hand someone else the bottle. Your baby may become upset if you offer him a bottle after months of breastfeeding. Many moms leave the house and dads step up, but a grandparent or friend can help.