You had that precious feeling of closeness, that intimate bonding relationship of breastfeeding with your child for months or even years now. Recently, you have started thinking about weaning from breastfeeding, and your ultimate concern is how to do it right. Our new article will provide you with ten smart tips on gentle weaning from breastfeeding in the least painful and stressful way for your child.
What is Gentle Weaning?
Lactation consultants usually encourage gradual and gentle weaning from breastfeeding. “Weaning” from breastfeeding is different from “stopping” breastfeeding because it implies a gradual process of introducing an infant to solid food (adult food) and withdrawing the supply of breastmilk from his or her diet.
Many mothers choose child-led weaning as the most gentle and natural method. Child-led weaning (self-weaning) means reaching a point when the child no longer needs to nurse (both nutritionally and emotionally). Self-weaning rarely happens before the baby is one-year-old. Most babies self-wean between their 2nd and 4th year.
Gentle weaning is a mother-led weaning, which, however, means weaning off breastfeeding when the baby is truly ready. The parents are expected to adopt a more patient, flexible, and respectful approach to the process itself and to the needs of their child.
Phases and Tips of Gentle Weaning from Breastfeeding
- Plan well ahead and prepare a breastfeeding weaning schedule. Gentle weaning means removing feeding sessions gradually. Allow some time for your baby to adjust to the new schedule after removing a feeding session. Some moms drop one feeding per week.
- Understand your child’s feeding pattern. Count the number of feeding sessions in 24 hours. Make notes on the importance of each feeding session for your baby. You may notice that certain nursing sessions are very short and relatively unimportant; while others (mostly those before daytime nap or night sleep) are longer and more nutritional.
- Remove random feeds that do not fit the main feeding pattern. Replace non-essential feedings with distractions – a cup of water, a snack, a toy, etc. Keep your child busy with different outdoor activities – take for a walk or for entertainment he or she loves. If your child keeps insisting, try postponing: “Not now, before the nap.”
- Eliminate bad breastfeeding manners. Removing daytime feedings may require eliminating your child’s “annoying” breastfeeding manners such as pulling your shirt at home or in public places. Gently distract or discourage such behavior. Remember: it is ok to set breastfeeding rules for your toddler.
- Cover your breasts. The sight of your breast triggers your child’s wish to nurse. The weaning period isn’t the right time to wear low cut tops that remind your toddler about nursing and make your breasts easily accessible.
- Take out the feeding session before the daytime nap. Try to find someone to put your baby to sleep. The dad, the grandma, or the babysitter may be of great help, just make sure your child trusts them. If there is no one you can rely on, slightly alter the bed-time routine to replace breastfeeding. For example, you can try singing or reading a book instead of nursing. If distracting does not work, start limiting the duration your child is on the breast. If he usually nurses for ten minutes, try eight, then reduce to five, and so on.
- Remove morning feeds. Get off your bed before your little one wakes up and prepare a yummy breakfast. You can even prepare a breakfast for you two or the entire family to make the process as enjoyable and entertaining as possible.
- Take out the nighttime feeding. Try changing the routine the way you did for day-time naps. After giving a bath to your baby, offer some water or juice (without sugar). Lay down with your baby on a big bed, cuddle, kiss, sing, read, or gently massage your baby’s feet. It may not work on the first, second, or even third day, but eventually, it will work if you remain consistent.
- Take out mid-night feedings. If your toddler is still waking up at night, it is probably because she does not know how to enter deep sleep cycle without nursing. Some of our tips on making your kid sleep through the night might be helpful. When your baby wakes up at night, you may pick her up in your arms and rock, sing, and pat her bottom all the while. If she does not fall asleep again in 5-10 minutes but keeps crying, offer the breast to calm down. When she stops crying, unlatch, cuddle and lay down in his crib. Taking out mid-time feedings may take longer than others, but sooner or later all babies start sleeping through the night.
- Avoid creating the negative perception of breastfeeding. Weaning methods such as leaving your baby at grandma’s for few days, putting something bitter on your nipples to make them disgusting, or shaming your toddler for breastfeeding may make your child think that things giving her warmth and happiness may easily turn into something bad and disgusting. This perception may affect the way they perceive the world and human relations.
At some point, you may feel like giving up and think that gentle weaning won’t work for you. But you can still give our winning tips a try. Gentle weaning from breastfeeding may be a two steps forward, one step back process that requires care, attention, and a lot of patience. As, perhaps, everything with kids does.
How did you wean your baby from the breast? Any particular tips for gentle weaning? Share with us.