Some babies wean from breastfeeding naturally, while others need a little help. If you are like many new mothers, there will come a time when you wonder if it is indeed time to stop breastfeeding. When that time comes, you may not know how to stop breastfeeding. You may ask yourself, “Should I stop abruptly or should I gradually wean my baby off of my breast milk?”
The Canadian Pediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics report that you should breastfeed your little one for six months to a year, while the World Health Organization (2013) states that you should breastfeed for at least two years. Whether you decide to wean your little “bundle of joy” because you feel that it is “time” or as a result of medical reasons, this article will help make the switch as easy and relaxed as possible.
1. Slowly Wean Your Baby from Breastfeeding
If you are wondering how to stop breastfeeding, well a slow wean may be the best option for you. Abruptly stopping breastfeeding can be upsetting for you and your little one. In fact, most researchers agree that it is always best to gradually wean your baby from your breast milk. It is important to note that in some situations, it may be medically necessary for you to suddenly stop breastfeeding. Check with your doctor if you feel that you need to stop breastfeeding immediately.
Weaning too quickly can lead to a significant decline in your hormone levels, which can cause anxiety and/or deep depression. In addition, stopping breastfeeding suddenly can interfere with the mother-child bonding experience. In fact, babies view breastfeeding not just as source of food, but also as a source security, comfort and support. The most effective way to begin the process of de-weaning is to replace one of your baby’s feedings with formula, pumped milk (in a bottle) or solid foods. Over time you and your baby will get used to the shift in feedings, and you can one day quit breast feeding.
2. Express Small Amounts of Breast Milk
As you start to decrease the amount of milk you breastfeed to your baby, you may begin to notice a slight decline in your milk supply. Do not worry, this is normal. If you breastfeed at least once a day, the decrease will be slower than if you skip days between breastfeeding.
The most important part of the weaning process is to remain calm and comfortable. Expressing small amounts of breast milk at a time will allow you to continue to producing milk until you and your baby have completed the weaning process. In other words, if you express just enough milk to release the tension in your breasts, your body will eventually get the message and gradually slow your production of milk.
3. Alter Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine
While a slow wean or expressing small amounts of breast milk may work for some women, you may still wonder how to stop breastfeeding. If that is the case, then you may want to alter your baby’s bedtime routine. It is true that babies have the hardest time giving up their night time feedings.
Changing your little one’s bed time routines may take the focus away from your breasts and place it on other mother-child bonding activities such as: snuggling, bedtime stories and bath time. These activities will provide your baby with the comfort, security and support that he/she is missing from the lack of breastfeeding. Moreover, if possible, explain to your little one why he/she cannot have your breast. If you little one becomes upset shower him/her with hugs and kisses until he calms down.
4. Distract Your Baby
If you still have not decided how to stop breastfeeding, you may want to consider distracting you little one with educational activities, healthy snacks, hugs and kisses, toys and age-appropriate games. Try several different distraction methods when he/she starts to reach for your breast. If you find it difficult to distract your little one, cuddle him/her and shower him/her with hugs and kisses.
Dowshen, S. (2011). Weaning your child. Kids Health. Retrieved from: http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/feeding/weaning.html#
Paediatric and Child Health. (2004). Weaning your child from breastfeeding. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720508/
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2013). Weaning: Tips for breast-feeding mothers. Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/weaning/MY01438
World Health Organization (2013). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/