There are several different techniques for weaning from breastfeeding. Some moms will wait until their baby is nearing the 12 month mark, and others may want or need to wean their babies sooner or later. There is no right or wrong time to wean your baby. You need to make the choice that is best for your family.
When you’re reading to stop creating breast milk, weaning can be a challenging concept both emotionally and mentally. You should be proud of yourself. This season can be amazing, but also tough. Give yourself a pat on the back and a hug.
Don't offer, don't refuse
This is a good method for babies that are at or near their first birthday. Basically, the choice is left up to baby when to breastfeed if at all. Parents can offer a snack of solids or sippy cup before they anticipate baby may want to breastfeed.
Dropping one feeding at a time
This is the best method for a mom that needs to wean her baby well before the first birthday. It will be the most comfortable for her breasts. Begin by choosing one feeding to eliminate, but continue to nurse at all other times as usual. Allow 3-7 days for your body to adjust to that lost feeding (comfortable breasts, no engorgement) before dropping the next feeding. If your baby is old enough to replace the feeding with solids, that is an option. Otherwise a bottle of pumped milk or formula should be supplemented.
Distraction or substitution
For a baby that is opting for a nursing session for comfort, this technique is helpful. You can vary your daily activity to distract your baby from a usual feeding or you can offer a snack instead. Try a sippy cup of water or milk, a snack, cuddles, read a book or get outside. For older nurslings you can tell them that its not time to nurse now but you will later. This may be met with some frustration and it's a good point to use the distraction techniques listed above.
Shortening Nursing Sessions
Again, for an older baby that is taking solids and a cup or bottle, mom can end a nursing session after a few minutes and encourage her baby to engage in another activity. Pick the feeding that is least important to you and your little one and nurse for less time. Sometimes it can be helpful to sing a song, read a book, or play a sound and when the song/book ends or the sound goes off, it’s a cue that that session is done. Once you have eliminated the one feeding and are comfortable (no breast fullness at all) then you can move on to the next one you want to eliminate. Just approach it the same way and remember to nurse as usual for the remaining feedings. Don’t offer to nurse for the feeding(s) that you have dropped, but if your baby is persistent it’s your decision if you want to nurse or not.
It can be emotional weaning from the breast. Try these techniques to honor those feelings:
Journal your feelings
Draw/paint how you feel or how your breastfeeding journey made you feel
Take pictures and videos of your last few nursing or pumping sessions
Save a small amount of milk for breast milk jewelry
Additionally, the weaning blues are a real thing, check out some resources below:
Need more help with weaning? Book a visit with Wisco Lactation! We offer home & office visit in SE Wisconsin and NE Illinois. We also offer virtual visits worldwide.