When and how do I stop breastfeeding
So you have finally got the hang of breastfeeding and then you realize it’s time to wean your baby. Each phase of your child’s growth is very short lived so try to take things easy and slow and enjoy each phase despite all the difficulties you face. In my last article, I wrote about introducing solid food to your baby. Now that your child has grown up and is eating solid food you might want to consider weaning your baby off breast milk.
What is the right age to wean the baby
Nursing mothers often wonder, “What is the right time to wean the baby off breast milk?” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises to exclusively breastfeed your baby until he is 6 months old. From 6 months onwards you can serve a combination of breast milk and solids until the baby is 1 year old. However, weaning is a personal decision and is based on what is best for the mother and the family – for example, you may be returning to work and therefore prefer formula feeding your baby. According to the AAP, most mothers wean their baby off the breast at 4-7 months old.
How to tell that your baby is ready
How can you tell that your baby is ready to start solids? Is he holding his head in an upright position when he sits with support and does he express an interest in what you are eating? This means the baby is ready for solid foods. Additionally, he may show indifference or be cranky when you try to breastfeed him.
Schedule the weaning off process
Set a date on the calendar and try to wean your baby off breast milk by that date by making a strategic plan. Give yourself a month to successfully complete the process of weaning. Giving it a month gives an allowance for any setbacks and obstacles you may face.
Choosing the right time
If you are planning to move or are starting a new job, or if your baby just started teething, then you shouldn’t start the weaning off process. The reason is that stressful situations and weaning don’t go together. Another aspect to consider is if your baby is too tired or too hungry then he is not likely to respond well to the idea of being weaned. If your baby is not cooperative, be patient and try again in a few days or a week.
Make a plan
Setting a weaning routine helps you and your baby adjust to the change. For example, you may start by omitting one breastfeeding session a week and drop all feeds one by one until the baby is solely feeding via bottles or having solids.
Comfort your baby
Now that you aren’t giving your baby the comfort of your breast it is important for you to nurture him in other ways. This could include activities such as cuddling, reading a book, singing lullabies, going to the playground, etc.
Allow your baby to breastfeed when he wants to
One of the initial strategies that you can adopt when you start to wean your baby is to let him breastfeed when he wants to but not to offer him the breast yourself. This might be a very slow way of weaning the baby but this way your baby’s emotional and nutritional needs are met.
Focus on your routine
Let the dad or another caregiver help you out with the process of weaning. If your baby doesn’t take the bottle from you, let someone else try while you are in another room. Or you are the one giving him the bottle then maybe try giving it to him in another room or change your or the baby’s position. If this doesn’t work, breastfeed him for a few more days, and then try again.
Weaning Older Babies
If you are weaning a baby who has crossed the 9-month mark, then it is a good idea to wean directly to a cup because in a few months you will otherwise have to wean her off the bottle. For children above 1 year of age, wear clothing that makes it complicated to breastfeed for example a dress with a zipper down the back. This will help in weaning your child. While you cut down on nursing time, make sure you comfort your baby regularly.
Dealing with engorgement
It is best to take the process of weaning very slowly because if you don’t use your breasts then these are likely to get engorged. The reason is because so much milk is being produced but not being consumed. You can soothe your breasts with acetaminophen or ice packs. Secondly, use the breast pump – you can give the baby breast milk in a bottle or can use it to make your baby’s cereal.
Give yourself time to let go
It’s not just your baby who needs to adjust while wearing. The mother herself has to deal with her emotions. Some mothers might be thinking about how to get their body back while others may feel as though the baby is rejecting them when he doesn’t take the breast. Some mothers might feel that their baby is growing up too fast. If you are feeling low or dejected, it’s a good idea to talk to other breastfeeding moms who will be able to relate.
Serve nutritious food to the baby
The first food that most parents serve their baby is a teaspoonful of single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal that is mixed in about 5 teaspoons of breast milk. Once the baby starts eating cereal it’s time to introduce pureed fruits, vegetables, and meats. It’s a good idea, as per the AAP, to introduce new foods one at a time and wait for 2-3 days in between of foods to see if the baby has any food allergy. By 9-12 months you might want to try giving baby mashed graham crackers or dry cereal. Best of luck for the process of weaning your baby off breast milk!