As your baby is growing, there are things and habits they will have to learn to let go of, as time goes on. One of them is nursing. Doctors suggest that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and then their diet can be turned into a mix of breastfeeding and solid foods. Though some moms prefer to continue breastfeeding over the six-month mark, it is not very feasible for many others. The reasons can range from health issues to having to go back to work and thus needing a flexible approach to feeding.
Wherever you are on this journey, these twelve tips will give you a better insight into weaning so that you and your baby go through this transitional stage in the most comfortable and safe way possible.
1. Let this be a gradual process
Just like it took you and your baby some time to get the hang of breastfeeding- from the latch to the position, it will also take you both time to get on track with weaning. Do not rush into it. Understand that it can be a bit of a trying time for you both, so patience is definitely key here. It will take a few weeks of trial and error before your baby begins to ween consistently.
2. Use the bottle
When your baby asks to be nursed, offer them the bottle after some time. Taking into consideration the age of your baby, you can switch to the bottle a few minutes into breastfeeding. It will go on to get your baby accustomed to bottle feeding and in a way that is not jarring or forced.
3. Distract your baby
In the process of weaning, other family members and activities can massively help you out. If your baby is feeling frustrated or getting worked up about not getting to breastfeed, you or other members can offer them a toy, or read them a book. You can take them to another room and engage in an activity together. As breastfeeding also helps babies to sleep, you can take them to a park in a stroller, and as they begin to tire out, encourage them to take a nap. When you do nurse, do it in a different position and room, so that your baby is not reminded of the usual experience of nursing.
4. Find a schedule that suits you
It helps to have a clear finish line in view. So what you can do is decide the date you would like to be finished with weaning. Leave out a month or so in which period you can tend to any problems or setbacks that occur.
5. Expect some sort of resistance
Keep in mind that breastfeeding is not just a source of food or nutrition for your baby. For months, this daily process has also provided your baby with emotional and physical comfort.
Thus, it is totally understandable that your baby resists decreased nursing sessions, etc. Do not be too hard on the baby or yourself.
6. Talk to and reason with your baby
If your baby is old enough to be reasoned with, you can communicate aspects of weaning to them. You can refuse to breastfeed by telling them that they are all grown up, and only babies nurse.
7. Follow the process of elimination
What this essentially means is that because weaning is best done in a gradual manner, you can begin by eliminating one nursing session every couple of weeks. Start with the one session your baby seems to be least interested in, and work your way from there. When your baby tries to initiate nursing here, you can distract them or offer solid foods.
8. Don’t offer, don’t refuse
All this age-old rule means is that in the process of weaning, it is very helpful to shift from offering to breastfeed your baby to let them come to you to breastfeed. This ensures that your baby significantly cuts down on nursing sessions over time.
9. Introduce them to solids
Because babies are just beginning to get an idea of food outside of formula or breast milk, it is very important for you to introduce them to new foods that interest them and draw them away from nursing, but also meet all their nutritional needs.
10. Reduce the time spent on each nursing session
Do not let your baby spend the same amount of time during a nursing session as before. Wrap it up in a steadily decreasing amount of time. This can be from two to five minutes per nursing session. You can talk or engage your baby in another activity so that they feel included in time with you nonetheless. This ensures you two get to bond as usual too, just in a different way.
11. Understand your emotions
Do not be afraid or hesitant to feel all the emotions you are feeling. It is okay to feel a kind of loss, so mourn as you want to. Reach out to your doctor or support groups online and offline. They can help you connect with others who are going through these same feelings so that you do not feel alone or alienated.
12. Take care of yourself
During weaning, there are measures you can take to avoid the clogging of your milk ducts and any infection that can lead to mastitis. For example, do not abruptly stop or decrease your nursing sessions. Give your brain time to register that it now needs to decrease the milk supply. You can also use breast pumps, and add the milk to your baby’s cereal, etc.
These tips and methods are drawn from parents with a variety of experiences and needs. Anything may work for them, may not work for you, and vice versa. Thus it is necessary that you put in the time and energy to find the route that works best for you and your baby. Weaning is often an emotional process as well, so it is helpful to find other ways in which you and your baby can continue to bond as well.