First things first, there is no universal approach to weaning.
Some mothers like to start it sooner, others wait a bit longer.
But no matter when you start, there are a couple of tricks and tips that will help you get through the transition smoothly.
When you start thinking about how to wean off breastfeeding, the first thing you need to do is be prepared.
You want the process to be easy and smooth for both you and your baby. Otherwise, you might end up with a cranky and irritable baby.
What does it mean to wean a child?
Your baby is considered weaned when he/she stops nursing. At this point, your baby gets all of his/hers nutrition from sources that do not include your breasts.
While babies might continue using a bottle, the term weaning usually refers to when a baby stops breastfeeding.
What a lot of mothers do not understand is that weaning doesn’t signal the end of the intimate bond between a mother and a child.
The bond you created through nursing continues, it is just you are nourishing and nurturing your baby in a different way.
For example, if nursing your baby provided comfort for you and your baby, it is up to you to find another way to make your baby feel better.
Read your baby a book, or sing him a song. Or you can sing together. You can also go play outside.
Just try to stay calm if your baby protests.
When to start weaning?
As mentioned, there is no universal rule when you should start weaning.
You are the best judge of when it is time to wean.
And you do not have to set up a deadline for when to start.
It is worth noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a minimum of one year of breastfeeding.
They encourage mothers to breastfeed even longer if both the mother and the baby want to.
With that in mind, there are two types of weaning.
At some point, your baby will lose interest in nursing.
This can happen at any time your baby starts eating solids.
You should start with solid food when your baby is between 4 and 6 months.
Some babies are more interested in solid foods than breast milk after they’ve tried a variety of foods and are ready to drink from a cup.
Toddlers are less interested in nursing when nursing means long hours of sitting.
If your child is fussy and impatient while nursing or he/she gets easily distracted, it is a clear sign that your baby is ready for weaning.
Mothers usually want to know how to wean off breastfeeding because they need to return to work.
Or they feel it is just the right time.
When you are ready, but your baby does not show signs of readiness, you should start the weaning process gradually.
If the idea for weaning is your, be ready, as it will take a lot of time and patience.
It depends on your child’s age and how ready is he to adjust to change.
If you are the one who wants to stop breastfeeding, make sure that you do not leave your baby.
A weekend away from your baby is the worst way to end the breastfeeding relationship, as the experience will be traumatic for the baby.
How to start weaning?
I said before that there is no universal rule of when and how to start weaning.
But there are a few tips and so-called “unwritten rules” that you can follow.
The most important thing is to start slowly and observe if there are any signs of frustration from your baby.
Ease the transition by following some of these methods.
Skip a feeding
See what happens when you offer your baby a bottle or cup of milk instead of nursing.
If your child is one year old, you can substitute pumped breast milk, formula, or whole cow’s milk.
See what happens.
Continue reducing feedings one at a time over a period of a couple of weeks.
This will give your baby time to adjust to the new situation.
As you reduce nursing, your milk supply will diminish gradually, which will prevent your breast from becoming engorged or causing mastitis.
Reduce the length of nursing
Another way to wean off breastfeeding is to shorten the nursing time.
You can use this technique to slowly reduce your child’s dependence on nursing.
Limit the time your baby spends on the breast.
If you usually nurse him for 20 minutes, go for 10 or 15.
Depending on your baby’s age, follow the feeding with a healthy snack or a cup of milk.
Babies younger than 6 months old are not ready for solids.
The biggest challenge is bedtime feedings.
These are usually the last to go, and they are harder to shorten.
Postponing and distraction
If you are nursing your baby a couple of times per day, try postponing feedings.
This method works only with an older child who you can reason with.
If your child is asking for a nurse, reassure him that you will soon provide nursing and distract him with a different activity.
For example, if your child looks for a nurse in the early evening, explain to him that he has to wait until bedtime.
To ease the transition to a bottle, try putting few drops of breast milk on his lips or tongue before slipping the bottle into his mouth.
You can also try giving your baby a small amount of breast milk in a bottle a couple of hours after breastfeeding, but before he is hungry that he is impatient and irritated.
Give your baby more attention
Some babies might require nursing because of the attention you provide to them.
The intimate bond a mother forms with her baby during breastfeeding cannot be topped by other activity.
That is why it is hard for your baby to give up.
During the weaning process, you want to substitute nursing with something else that will provide an emotional equivalent.
For example, you can snuggle together to read or play on the floor.
In any case, you want to amp up attention for your baby, so he doesn’t feel left out.
Will my child get enough nutrients?
One of the reasons why mothers postpone weaning is the fear their baby is not getting enough nutrients.
Fear now. Infants always need extra nutrients, and some of them your breast milk doesn’t even provide.
For example, vitamin D.
If you start the weaning process before the baby is one year old, you need to continue giving breast milk or iron-fortified formula.
Once your child reaches one year of age, you need to give him a variety of foods that provide nutrients necessary for growth and development.
What when weaning is a struggle?
Sometimes, you might try every single trick in the playbook, and you just cannot get to the finish line.
You’ve tried everything to wean your child, and nothing is working.
The simple answer is that the time is not right.
There is a multiple of factors that can contribute to this.
For example, have you recently gone back to work?
If that is the case, your child is adjusting to the new routine, and it is hard to adjust to the new routine and wean at the same time.
Another reason might be your child is sick. During illnesses and diseases, babies require more frequent nursing.
Breastfeeding a sick child is comforting for your baby.
Last, but not least, events such as a move to a new house, divorce, or any other life-changing event will make weaning more difficult.
Even going through a new developmental stage can sometimes make it hard for your baby to wean.
What you can do is try again in another month. Sooner or later, you will get there.