How to wean and when:
The WHO advise to exclusively Breastfeed until six months with the introduction of solid foods then as well as continuing breastfeeding up to 2 years or beyond. However, it is a personal choice, for a mum, when to wean. Choosing how to do it is important. The following are ways to go about it:
Gradual Weaning from Breast:
This is easier on both Mum and baby as it allows Mums milk supply to gradually reduce due to the decreased demand, thus preventing a build up of milk, which can result in blocked milk ducts,engorgement . This could further lead onto mastitis if not resolved. It also allows baby to adjust to a new method of feeding and eases the transition.
Gradual weaning takes about 2-3 weeks to accomplish but can be done more slowly depending on the reasons for doing it. However it may take longer with the older baby/toddler. Time and patience is most important to make weaning a positive experience.
How to Wean:
- Start by eliminating one feed per day every 2-3 days or go as slow as you like. This will help to reduce mums milk more gradually.
- If breasts feel full then you can express enough off to make them feel comfortable but do not empty them. Massage also to relieve any lumpy areas, this is often easiest in the shower or bath.
- If your baby is under 12 months you will need to substitute with formula milk by either bottle or cup, depending on baby’s age, as your baby still needs an adequate milk intake.
- With the older baby/toddler changing daily routines, bargaining, being flexible, offering healthy snacks to substitute.
This is often a good alternative for some mums especially when returning to work. Partial weaning involves eliminating some breastfeeds while continuing others. It is still possible to continue with morning and evening feeds and maintain a good supply without becoming uncomfortable at work or needing to express. It also eases the return to work for mum as she has the feeding time to look forward to on her return and time to reassure and connect with her baby.
This is when your baby decides to move on from breastfeeding and is usually a gradual process too. When solids are introduced and possibly cup drinking the gradual demand reduces as does mums’ milk. Eventually baby stops looking to breastfeed and naturally moves on.
Weaning is “letting go” which can cause feelings of loss and sadness for mums, but it in itself is a natural progression and this too will pass.
Introducing combination feeding:
Some babies will transition over to cup or bottle without any difficulty. For those who don’t then here are a few suggestions:
- Try offering the cup or bottle before baby is crying and hungry- anticipate a feed and start before baby demands it (expressed breastmilk may be best to start with).
- Different positions may help - try the breastfeeding cradle hold or baby may prefer to be more upright in a chair, rocking gently in your arms….try different ways.
- Place spout near baby’s mouth and allow him to root for it and draw it in (tickle his lips with it).
- Run warm water over the teat to soften it as often it is the hardness of the teat, when cold, that makes your baby refuse.
- Try different teats and different flows….it may take time to find one your baby likes.
- If baby is upset and refusing to bottle feed then put them onto your breast for a few minutes to calm, and then move back to the bottle and try again.
- Keep trying as it takes some babies time to adjust and learn how to take the bottle.
- Allow Dad or another family member or friend to try, as often baby will not take a bottle from Mum as they expect it to be from the breast.
- Try not to get too stressed about this if your baby is refusing to bottlefeed, and stay calm as your baby will sense your anxiety.
- If your baby continues to refuse bottlefeeding, then continue with a sippy cup, and milk can also be added to baby’s solids to ensure an adequate amount is taken.