Weaning: 10 things to know

Weaning: 10 things to know
Image: @claireguarry

Breastfeeding is such a natural and intuitive process for every mother. But it all changes when it is time to wean. When best to do it? How to get your baby ready? Are there ways to make the whole process a gentler ride for the baby and the mom to avoid stress and guilt?

We speak to a breastfeeding expert who answers the 10 most common and important questions around weaning. It is all about the mother’s mindset and the baby’s readiness to take the plunge. So let us get right to it.

1/ How to gently wean your baby if it falls asleep breastfeeding?

Gentle weaning makes the process more pleasant for both the mother and her baby: breasts do not get as full and the baby learns to sleep by itself. But before you stop breastfeeding altogether, it is important to teach your child to fall asleep without it, which is only possible by around the age of two.

Bedtime breastfeeding
Image: @claireguarry

2/ How to stop breastfeeding at night-time?

Night feeds stop by themselves as children get older. Frequent awakenings at night are often linked to teething and the development of new motor skills. For a baby aged 1.5+ years you can try giving them a drink and gently stroking their back. As for the mother, it is important to change tactics: do not rush to breastfeed at the baby’s first request but also try not to cause your child to have a tantrum and cry.

3/ Which feeds should be stopped first?

Day feeds are usually the easiest to stop. A toddler can be distracted by an engaging toy or a shared task which will make them feel involved. A child’s urge to breastfeed in the day fades with age and soon they are able to go without any milk when they are awake.

4/ Should a mother leave home during weaning?

No, it is important for a mother to be by her baby’s side during the weaning process. It is a big shift and change in their relationship. A child learns to interact with their mother in a new way. Losing sight of the breast and Mom all at once can be a huge source of stress for the baby. This will have a negative impact on its behaviour in the weeks to come.

5/ Can a baby be weaned without the help of others?

Yes, of course. Weaning is first and foremost about the child’s relationship with its Mom. While the help of other caregivers can be beneficial, a mother can do perfectly well without it.

Lactation reducing medication
Image: @claireguarry

6/ My son is 1 year and 8 months and he won’t let go of my breast. He has about 10-15-20 feeds in the day and 5-8 at night. He refuses to eat any other food. What should I do?

A baby’s rejection of other foods is not caused by breastfeeding as such. It is important to address the process of introducing new foods first and then slowly reduce the amount of daily breastfeeding.

7/ My son is 2.5 and I still breastfeed him. The doctor suggested that I start taking medication to stop producing milk. The idea is that a child will lose interest in the breast without the milk. Is this a good approach to take?

Lactation reducing medication is certainly not the best approach. It can also do more harm than good to your own health. The amount of milk you produce is not the main issue when it comes to weaning. What is key is the baby's ability to be consoled and rely on falling asleep through breastfeeding.

8/ I do tandem breastfeeding for my 3-months-old daughter and my son who is 2 years 3 months. Will they get enough milk?

Tandem breastfeeding is a great solution for mothers of children who are one year apart. Simultaneous feeding helps reduce jealousy between the siblings. With tandem feeding the eldest baby will automatically have limited access to the breast and learn to use it less frequently. They get to accept the fact that the younger child is a priority. It is important to make this relationship clear with the older child.

Breastfeeding at night-time
Image: @claireguarry

9/ My baby is 1 year 2 months. We stopped breastfeeding a week ago without any issues. The baby is doing well but I feel terrible. I can’t help feeling guilty for interrupting this bond. What should I do?

An abrupt end to breastfeeding is known to foster negative emotions in a mother. It is all to do with your hormones. This sudden hormonal change makes you feel tearful and depressed. But the fact that you have already breastfed your baby for an entire year should be a cause for celebration in itself! You will be better soon. But if you feel the urge to reintroduce breastfeeding a week after you stopped, it is certainly an option. Follow your gut!

10/ What is the best substitute for bedtime breastfeeding? Cow milk, formula or kefir?

There is no reason why dairy should be the food of choice before bed. An hour and a half before sleeping, try feeding your baby other dinner foods and then give them some water or another unsweetened drink right before heading to bed.

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