Sooner or later, the time comes for every baby to be weaned. It is up to you and your baby to decide when is the right time to stop nursing. As a guideline, institutions such as World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend you should breastfeed your baby until they are at least one year old. You may decide to wean depending on your own personal needs, or you may let your baby tell you when they’re ready to make the transition. Whatever your situation is, don’t allow the pressure of the environment or the expectations of family and friends to influence your decision.
You may be having mixed emotions regarding weaning – breastfeeding allows you to spend quiet moments bonding and cuddling with your child, and you may be worried that this connection will be lost. Weaning only means that your child will start eating pretty much the same food you are eating, but there are many ways to keep the emotional bond strong. Dedicate some special time every day that you spend with your child, whether it’s playing, reading a book or just cuddling. It will help you both to go through the transition without feeling insecure. Just don’t give in to baby’s request to nurse, but rather try to stick to the schedule you’ve decided to follow.
There are two popular methods that can help you determine the right time for you and your baby. As we’ve mentioned above, you can let your child decide by observing when they start losing interest in nursing, which is usually around 4 to 6 months after starting solid foods. On the other hand, you may feel that it is the right time to stop breastfeeding, whether it is because you are starting to work or because your gut feeling is telling you so. If this is the case, it may take more time, effort and patience since the process should be gradual.
There are some reasons that may justify postponing weaning for a month or two. If your child is ill, you should wait until they recover. Also, if your little one is going through a major life change, such as moving home or getting a sibling, it would be wise not to cause even more stress by starting to wean.
First of all, start gradually and don’t rush the process. This will prevent engorgement and mastitis as your breasts will have enough time to get used to smaller levels of consumption and it will also help your child get used to nursing less, gradually.
You can start the process by skipping a feeding and offering your child a bottle instead of breast. Leave it at this for a few weeks, then try skipping another feeding once your child has adjusted. Another method is to start shortening the time your child nurses by offering them some solid foods after feeding. Then try offering them food prior to nursing, so that their appetite for breast milk is reduced. You could also start postponing feedings for 10 or 15 minutes at the time (this is particularly efficient for evening feedings, or when you’re only nursing a couple of times a day).
If you are having trouble skipping the bedtime feeding, have your partner put your child to bed, while you’re in the other room or out seeing your friends. Your child may cope better if you are not around.