In this third article in our Gentle Weaning series, we will start the conversation about different techniques you can try to gently wean your baby. If you are wondering about how to pace the weaning process, check out our last article, Gentle Weaning: What is the Process?
Every breastfeeding mother eventually weans her child. It is part of the evolutionary process. Whether your baby is a few months old or a preschool-age child, there comes a time when the act of breastfeeding no longer occurs. When the time is right for both you and your child to wean, there are quite a few techniques you can use to help make the process go more smoothly.
I have searched books and the Internet to find some of the best resources out there. I would love if you would please share your own resources and experiences, as well, so that we can all benefit from them!
Techniques for Gently Weaning your Breastfed Child
Choose one feeding per day to replace with something else. If your child is not on solid foods yet, then this would have to be some other nutritionally-based liquid. Consider using previously pumped milk, or donor milk, in a bottle or cup. If you child is eating solids, replace this breastfeeding session with fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, etc. Fill a cup with water, pumped milk, or another nutritional liquid to help keep your child hydrated.
When you replace this feeding session, don’t stimulate your breasts at that time. Skipping this nursing session should help to slowly decrease your milk supply, without the discomfort of engorgement. After a week or two of skipping that nursing session once a day, choose another feeding to drop. Continue this process until you have completed weaned. This process may take weeks or months…. It is completely up to you.
Don’t offer, don’t refuse. This gentle weaning technique is more appropriate for an older child, rather than an infant. What it means is that you don’t offer to nurse your child unless he/she asks to nurse. This process may take longer than the other, as your child is never denied a chance to nurse if he/she needs to or wants to breastfeed.
Save naptime and bedtime as the last feeding sessions to wean. Bedtime and naptime are often the most difficult nursing sessions to end for both emotional and convenience reasons. Save these for last. Attempt to drop all of the other feedings first before you attempt those associated with naptime and bedtime.
Create a new routine. If you and your child like to nurse before a nap or bedtime, replace this nursing session with another routine. Here are a few ideas:
Have your partner put your child to bed
Read your child a story
Sing to your child and relax in a rocking chair or bed (somewhere that is a different location than where you nursed before.)
If your child is old enough, ask him/her to choose what he/she would like to do instead.
Distract your child or offer something else. If you can anticipate that your child is going to want to nurse at a certain time, offer him/her something else to do. Kellymom.com recommends distracting with a favorite snack, a playdate with a friend, playing outside, or reading a favorite book as a few ideas.
Attempt nighttime weaning and daytime weaning at different times. Trying to daytime wean and nighttime wean at the same time can be extremely overwhelming. It’s best to choose one or the other and start there. Kellymom.com has some terrific suggestions for ways to nighttime wean.
Celebrate your breastfeeding accomplishments at the end. Weaning can be a very emotional process for both mother and child. I remember my last nursing session with my son like it was yesterday. We had this cozy, green rocking chair in his bedroom and I just sat there, rocking his soundly sleeping body in my arms, for about an hour after he finished nursing that last time. I reflected upon the breastfeeding challenges we had overcome and the joy it had brought to the both of us. I felt so blessed to have shared those moments with my sweet boy.
Now, this is NOT an exhaustive list of techniques to help you gently wean your child…not in the least. Here are a few of my favorite blog posts about this topic: