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Health & Baby

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Weaning Your Breastfed Baby

WebMD Feature

As difficult as it is for some women to begin breastfeeding, it's even harder for others to say goodbye to nursing.

While lifestyle and career demands can make it difficult to breastfeed as long as you would like, don't be surprised if weaning your baby presents even more challenges -- at least at the start.

"The pleasant hormonal effects of nursing, along with the satisfying emotional bonding, can make it very hard for some women to stop breastfeeding, even if their life or their lifestyle demands that they do so," says Myrtle Hodge, RN, a lactation expert at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.

In addition, says Hodge, mom may find it even more difficult to stop if baby loses interest first.

"When the baby decides he or she has had enough, mom can feel devastated that her baby doesn't want or need her anymore," says Hodge. "Many women feel very sad and upset."

Weaning From Baby's Perspective

At the same time, some babies may feel rejected when mom initiates the weaning process, especially if co-sleeping was part of breastfeeding time.

"If your baby was sleeping with you because of breastfeeding conveniences, and then suddenly, no more breastfeeding means they are now sleeping on their own, they can feel a sense of rejection, which can result in some crankiness or difficulty sleeping for a short time," says Hodge.

When weaning older children from breastfeeding -- toddlers up to 2 or even 3 years old -- Hodge says moms should expect some acting out and anger from their children.

"Sometimes the child will get so angry and feel so deprived when nursing stops they can become very irritated with mom -- and really give her a hard time," says Hodge.

Regardless of your child's age, if you are having problems weaning experts say you can make the process easier for you and baby if you maintain a close emotional bond in other ways.

"There is clearly a comforting aspect to nursing, for mom but especially for baby. So you need to recognize that and to incorporate some of that same close physical bonding and comfort into feeding time, regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding," says Adam Aponte, MD, chairman of pediatrics and ambulatory care at North General Hospital in New York.

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