Many of you have been requesting a post on how to wean. No matter how much we and our babies enjoy nursing, it will come to an end at some point! It’s up to you and your child to decide when is best. Today I wanted to share a bit more on how to wean by first discussing Child-Led Weaning and Mother-Led Weaning. I hope this post will give you some confidence in this process! As always, know your options so you can continue to create confidence in your choices as a mom!
There’s no “right time” to wean for everyone
No matter when your Mom, sister, neighbor, or grocery-store clerk weaned their baby, remember there’s only one right time for you and your baby. Try not to let outside opinions or pressures factor into your decision to wean. It’s a very individual choice for each mom/child pair! Keep in mind your original plan or goal for breastfeeding may change over the course of your experience. A client recently told me, “My initial goal was to breastfeed for six months, now my daughter is fifteen months and there’s no end in sight!” Another client called me to her home on day three of her newborn’s life for some breastfeeding support and told me her goal was to breastfeed for one month. The point? All Moms and situations are different! I’m here to support you in your goals and choices!
Child-Led weaning is when the child guides the weaning process. Child-led weaning is when the child no longer has needs either nutritional or emotionally to breastfeed. These children are typically drinking well from a cup and getting the majority of their nutrients from solid foods. Keep in mind that child-led weaning rarely occurs before 18 months, so if you experience breast refusal before then, it’s most likely due to a nursing strike that will pass in a few days. Learn more about how to deal with a nursing strike on our Common Breastfeeding Concerns post.
Mother-Led weaning is when the mother decides it’s the right time to wean before noticing cues from her child. For mother-led weaning, be sure to consider your feelings and thoughts before beginning. Is it your decision or are you feeling pressure from family or friends? I read a polite but witty response to the inevitable question, “So how long do you plan to nurse?”
“OH, ABOUT ANOTHER 5 MINUTES”
Whether the decision to wean was mom’s or child’s, it’s best to take a gradual approach if possible. Remember to consider the pros and cons before starting the weaning process. This will allow you to access the right time for both you and baby and look back on the experience with positive feelings.
How to wean
If you have weighed the pros and cons and feel ready, obtaining some guidance on how to wean will be helpful. While there is much variation in each breastfeeding relationship, these general tips can guide you in your weaning process:
- Slowly & gently. This is always my quick answer to the question, “How do I wean?” Weaning overnight will be painful for you and baby. However, gentle weaning can happen and I promise your baby won’t nurse in middle school. 😉 Removing one feeding every week until they are gone is one method that has worked for many moms and babies.
- Find new ways to comfort. Breastfeeding is wonderful for its many purposes. It is food, drink, comfort, cuddles, hugs (and more) all in one! Since it is the answer to so many needs, when the time for weaning comes, it can be helpful to find new ways to comfort baby. Rocking, cuddles, and book reading are some things that have helped other moms.
- Call for reinforcement. Finding new ways to comfort your baby or toddler is a great time to include your partner. Since the hardest feeds to end are often at bedtime, it helps to have dad pitch in more during bedtime.
Much more weaning info and how to go about it gently in my video breastfeeding classes! My goal is to create confidence in motherhood so moms can feel comfortable and certain in their choices and care for their little ones!
Have you signed up for my free Confident Breastfeeding Course yet? You’re gonna love it! Click below for more info.
Thanks for stopping by,
Lindsey Shipley, RN, IBCLC