As a mom, you made the decision to breastfeed, and you and your baby will be the best judge of when it’s time to wean. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed for at least a year, and despite what anyone else says, there’s no right or wrong time to wean. When you and your baby are ready, we’ve got tips to make weaning as smooth as possible.
- Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse. One of the most common approaches to gently wean you child is the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method. It’s just like it sounds, where you don’t offer to nurse, but you also don’t refuse your child when he or she wants to nurse. This method can take some time to wean completely, but makes the transition easiest for children. However, if this is too gradual for your liking, try considering other options.
- Take it Slowly. Going “cold turkey” can be challenging for your little one, emotionally draining for you, and may lead to uncomfortable and serious physical complications. Removing one feeding at a time can help. For example, try removing the nap-time feeding first. When that’s ok, remove the morning nurse session. And if that goes well, tackle the night-time feeding.
- Replace or Distract. Try to anticipate when your little one will want to nurse and plan distractions or substitutions that he or she enjoys. For example, during a routine feeding time, offer your baby’s favorite snack or game instead. Also, consider scheduling a play date during that time.
- Change the Routine. We’re all creatures of habit, and when nursing is part of your child’s routine, it can be hard to wean. But if you switch the routine, it can be easier. Instead of bringing them to bed with you, cuddle for 10 minutes with them in a rocking chair. Or read together on the couch instead of in bed.
- Get Your Partner Involved. Many children have the hardest time letting go of their night-time nursing session. If you’re finding this is true for your little one, try having your partner put them to bed instead.
- Don’t Cut Out Cuddle Time. Your baby may nurse as much for comfort as they are for nutrition. It feels good for you and your child to cuddle up and enjoy quiet time. So, when you decide to begin weaning, it’s important to continue dedicating some time to cuddle, read quietly, or rock in a favorite chair.
- Shorten or Postpone. By adjusting the amount of time you spend nursing or by delaying it, you can gradually help your baby grow less interested in breastfeeding. If your little one asks to nurse, you can either say “not now, but later,” or “only for a few minutes.” The hope is that later they will get busy and forget about their desire to breastfeed, or they will grow more comfortable nursing for a shorter amount of time.
- You Can Say No. It’s important for your own sake to give yourself the freedom to say “no.” While you want to respect your child’s feelings and desires, you should also do what works for you. This is especially true when your little one gets a little older and has a tendency to pinch, roughhouse or otherwise be forceful with your breasts. If you want to say “no” to nursing, it doesn’t make you a bad mom!
- Plan Around Big Events. Plan to wean during a big event like a vacation. You can prep for it in the days before your vacation by removing a couple of nursing sessions, then by the time the vacation rolls around, you can stop entirely. This is the ultimate distraction and change of routine for both you and your little one, and can help make what can be a challenging time into an exciting time.
- You Can Be Sad. It’s important to give yourself permission to be sad. It’s completely normal for you to feel a mix of emotions surrounding the weaning process. After all, you are losing those intimate moments with your child that nursing has provided. But, while it’s ok to be sad, remember to celebrate this new stage of life your baby is entering. There are so many exciting moments to look forward to.
Do you have any good tips for weaning your child? Share in the comments below.