Understanding the Basics of Weaning Your Baby…

Whenever your baby stops nursing and he or she gets all his or her nutrition from sources other than breast milk, your baby is considered weaned. Weaning your baby is considered a natural part of the breastfeeding experience. If this is done gradually, this can be turned into a positive experience for both the mother and the baby.

In an ideal setting, babies will nurse until they outgrow the need. This is known as natural or baby-led weaning. Since babies actually have different needs and develop at their own pace, mothers should not set an arbitrary time limit on how long they will nurse their babies.

Abrupt Weaning and Why It Must Be Avoided

Baby weaning

The start of a reduction in breast milk

Weaning a baby is considered a process and not an event. In fact, you can actually start weaning your baby the first time you offer him or her solid foods other than milk. Weaning may be abrupt or gradual. Moreover, this can take several days, weeks or months. However, experts discourage abrupt weaning as much as possible, as this can have a negative effect on both the baby and the mother. If a mother abruptly weans her baby, there is a tendency that her breasts will become engorged, which could complicate to breast abscess or breast infection. In addition, the mother’s hormone levels can abruptly drop, which can result to postpartum depression.

Abrupt weaning also has a negative effect on the baby. For instance, this can cause an emotional trauma to the baby. Nursing or breastfeeding is not only considered food source for the baby, but also a source of emotional comfort and security. Taking this source abruptly can become rather disturbing on the part of the baby. Thus, weaning gradually is much more preferred, as you can slowly substitute other kinds of attention to aid in compensating for the loss of the closeness offered by breastfeeding or nursing.

When Should You Begin Weaning?

As the mother, you are the best judge when it is time to wean your child. In fact, you do not need to set any deadline. You just have to make sure that you and your baby are ready to start the weaning process. Experts recommend breastfeeding for at least a year. Moreover, they encourage mothers to breastfeed even longer if preferred.

Weaning is easiest to accomplish when your child begins to lose interest in breastfeeding or nursing. This often happens when the baby starts to eat solids around six to 12 months. If your baby shows signs of being fussy and impatient when he or she nurses or perhaps your baby is easily distracted, this may be a sign that she is ready for weaning.

Weaning may also be decided by the mother. You may decide when to start weaning your child, especially if you are returning to work or when you feel that it is the right time. When weaning is initiated by the mother, the process can take a lot of time as well as patience. However, the success of the entire process will depend on the baby’s age as well as how the baby adjusts to this change.

Weaning may also be initiated due to medical reasons. In such cases, weaning may be done abruptly. Before deciding to do so, you have to make sure that there are not other options available. It is important that you consult with your health care providers and ask if there are available alternatives. For instance, if you are taking a medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding, you can ask your doctor if there is an alternative medication that you can take that is safe for breastfeeding.

How Do You Start the Weaning Process?

Regardless of the baby’s age, mothers should proceed slowly, as abrupt weaning can become a traumatic experience for your child. There are several ways on how you can actually make this process tolerable for both you and your baby and turn the entire experience into a positive one.

  • Skip a Feeding. You can try to skip a feeding and offer a bottle of milk instead of nursing your baby. As a substitute for nursing, you can give expressed breast milk or formula milk.
  • Gradually Reduce Feedings. You can reduce nursing periods one at a time over a certain period of time. This will help your child adjust to the change. This way, your milk supply will decrease gradually, without resulting engorged breast or breast infection.
  • Shorten Nursing Time. You should also consider shortening the time of nursing. If your baby nurses for ten minutes at a time, you can reduce the time to 8 to 5 minutes.
  • Follow Feedings with Healthy Snacks. After nursing your baby, you can provide a healthy snack in the form of a milk formula or an applesauce right after. The snack however, that you provide your child with should be age appropriate.
  • Postpone and Distract. Postponing nursing and distracting your child is another method that you can try. If your baby asks to nurse, you can distract him or her with other activities or offer him or her solids foods or snacks instead.

What Happens When Weaning Becomes a Struggle?

When the entire process becomes a struggle and you have already tried everything and nothing seems to be working, it could be the time is not right. Other reasons why weaning is not successful includes the following:

  • Your Baby is Still Adjusting. It could be that your baby is still adjusting to the new routine.
  • Your Baby is Sick. Another reason why weaning can become a struggle is that your baby may be sick. Sick babies often want to frequently nurse. For a sick baby, breastfeeding is a source of comfort as well as nutrition.

When this happens, you can actually try again in another month. It could be that your child is not ready yet, but he or she will eventually be ready when the time is right.