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How to begin weaning baby off the breast? This is something we recently went through (and actually still are going through).
There’s ALL this talk about why women should breastfeed their babies, all the benefits of breastfeeding for mom & baby, but you don’t see or hear much talk about how to know when to stop breastfeeding.
So in this detailed post, we will cover (sorry it’s long, but it’s well worth the read if you are a breastfeeding mama or even thinking about breastfeeding):
Make sure you read each point carefully to fully understand how to stop breastfeeding with minimal side effects!
How to know when to stop breastfeeding?
Believe it or not, there is NO set time period that officially says when to stop breastfeeding your baby. In my opinion, it’s a very personal decision that should be respected in all regards.
The World Health Organization encourages moms to ‘breastfeed for a minimum of 6 months for up to 2 years & beyond’.
For most of us, breastfeeding can be very overwhelming. If you’re planning to wean because you’re tired of it, I’d encourage you to check out my post about overcoming some common breastfeeding challenges.
If you’re suffering from certain medical conditions, you should work very closely with your doctor and lactation consultant to make sure you have weaned safely for you and your baby.
How long does weaning take?
Weaning your baby off of supplemental feedings could be done quickly (which is usually done if there’s a medical concern or health condition).
The most ideal way to wean your baby is slowly, commonly referred to as ‘Gentle Weaning‘.
Gentle weaning is when you slowly eliminate feedings to be sure that you and your baby are adapting to the change positively.
For some moms, this could take weeks and for others, it could take months.
From my own personal experience, we’re about 3 months into gentle weaning and so far it’s going very well! I would anticipate maybe another 1-2 month before we’re fully weaned.
What are the effects of weaning on baby?
It’s important to remember that breastfeeding is NOT just a source of nutrition for your baby.
Many babies rely on breastfeeding for comfort and support, especially when they’re not feeling well.
By quickly removing a source of comfort they’ve relied on for so long can lead to a (reasonably so) unhappy baby.
You could see things like the ones below if you wean too abruptly:
- Increased fussiness
- Fighting nap-time
- Separation anxiety formation
- Increased night wakings or difficulty falling asleep
One method I felt helped is the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ method. When my son needed to nurse, we nursed. When he missed a nursing session, I didn’t press the issue.
I did offer him milk via his 360 sippy cup in place of a nursing session.
We also created new routines to take place over our old nursing times. For instance, at bedtime, we sing a song and read a book during the time we would have been nursing. It’s turned into its own sweet little routine that even my husband can join in on now!
How do you dry up your breastmilk after weaning baby off the breast?
Once your baby is completely weaned, it could take a little extra time until your body actually stops making breast milk.
Some methods to help you dry up your breast milk supply and officially be done with breastfeeding are:
- Drink Sage Tea to decrease your breast milk production, this method usually works pretty quickly.
- Use cabbage leaves to compress your breasts about 3 times per day for 20 mins at a time.
- If you plan to restart your oral contraceptives, estrogen-based contraceptives have been shown to lowering breast milk supply.
- Try drinking peppermint tea, it’s also been shown to possibly decrease supply, though it hasn’t been studied as widely as the sage tea above.
What is the most ideal breastfeeding weaning schedule?
As discussed above, there isn’t necessarily a cookie-cutter weaning schedule to follow.
Just try to take things slow for both you and your baby.
Abrupt weaning (unless for medical/health reasons) can cause some side effects for baby mentioned above.
In addition, abrupt weaning can also cause side effects for mom as well such as:
- Breast engorgement
- Mood swings
Post-weaning depression (and other side effects you should know about).
While weaning baby off the breast you may experience the feeling of sadness or depression.
You may also notice increased mood swings or irritability. This is all due to the hormonal changes occurring during the weaning process.
Some easy and basic tips to help you cope with these feelings (which should go away soon, if they don’t please seek professional help!):
- Exercise regularly. If you need tips on what exercises to do or are limited to fitness equipment, you can get more ideas here.
- Get more sleep. Now that you aren’t having to wake for nighttime feedings or pumping sessions, try going to bed a bit earlier to refill your tank!
- Practice daily self-care. Normally, I think weekly self-care is more then enough, but if you’re emotionally going through a difficult time, I have found it so refreshing to practice daily self-care.
- Get out of the house. On days I’m mentally out of it, getting out of the house with my little guy or alone always helps me to take my mind off the negatives.
- Cherish the memories forever! Given our struggle to begin breastfeeding, once we got close to the end it just felt bittersweet. My husband was amazing and ordered me a gorgeous keepsake ring from Mama Bear Milk – Keepsake Jewelry (see photo below). I love my ring so much and wear it every single day to remind me of the huge accomplishment we achieved together.
What body changes after stopping breastfeeding will you experience?
Physically, you will likely feel breast fullness and tenderness. Use the tips above to help you dry out your supply to minimize engorgement or mastitis.
Also, don’t be afraid to hand express some milk out if needed. Don’t completely drain your breasts, just a light expression should help.
You may notice your breast sagging after breastfeeding. I hate to break it to you, but your girls may never look the way they did pre-breastfeeding. BUT hey, this is why they make cute lingerie and push-up bras for, right?
Lastly, you may start to feel less hungry! I don’t know about you, but breastfeeding made me feel RAVENOUS! To not feel like you’re starved 24/7 is definitely a bonus here!
Recommended Posts You’ll Also LOVE:
>> Easy ways to pump out more breast milk
>> What to do when breastfed baby won’t take a bottle
>> Breastmilk Storage Guidelines every mom should follow