Weaning from breastfeeding
The decision to wean your baby from breastfeeding is an intensely personal one. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life and it is widely known that breastfeeding for as long as possible is the best thing for your baby. However, there are multiple reasons why a mom might decide to wean her baby at any given time, whether it’s because of a medical condition or a personal choice. According to lactation consultant Catherine Miller-Mort, “whether you are weaning at 4 months or 4 years there are ways that you can make the process easier for both you and your child.” Here is our best advice to make it as comfortable as possible.
Take it slow
The key to a successful wean is to make sure it’s gradual. Miller-Mort recommends taking care to notice how your body is adjusting and moving as slowly as you are comfortable with. “For most people weaning is a lengthy process that can take from a few months to a few years,” she says. You can begin with a partial wean, by substituting one or more feedings with a cup or bottle, and then one at a time, dropping other feedings. Avoid weaning when your child is undergoing other significant changes, like starting daycare or learning to walk. It might be too much for them to handle.
Continue to promote intimacy
The weaning process comes with a lot of mixed feelings—on the one hand, you want to continue enjoying the intimacy between you and your baby and on the other, you may be craving more independence for both of you.
“Weaning can also be a big change for your relationship,” confirms Miller-Mort. “You can replace the closeness with extra snuggles.” Hold and cuddle your baby even when you are giving them the bottle, this will reassure them and give you the extra intimacy you’re craving. However, be aware of the cues you communicate to your baby. You might want to change your routine slightly, and not sit in the chair where you usually give them the breast, which would confuse them.
Take care of yourself
Miller-Mort says you’ll have to look out for blocked ducts when weaning and treat them as you would any other time. It’s best for you and the baby to avoid an abrupt wean, as it will be harder to manage your supply. If you’ve cut out a feeding, express just enough milk so you can no longer feel uncomfortable. “After 12 months, you don’t need to pump while you’re away during the day” says Miller-Mort. “Express to comfort in the first few days and your supply should regulate. Many toddlers love to nurse when they are reunited with you at the end of the day.”
Make informed decisions
There is never a right or wrong time to stop nursing. The important thing to remember, is to do what feels right for you and your baby. “Going back to work (for example) doesn’t mean that you need to wean,” says Miller-Mort, “unless you want to. Many parents continue to nurse their children before and after work and at night.” There are very few reasons why you would necessarily have to stop giving the breast, primarily if you’re taking medication that could impact your baby. Make sure to inform yourself before taking any decisions and take full advantage of all the resources available in your community. If you feel overwhelmed and just want your body back, that’s ok too. Never succumb to any type of mommy guilt.