Let’s face it: breastfeeding is not for everyone! For moms who want and are able to, it can be challenging to survive long nursing sessions, sore nipples, engorgement, biting and more. I was one of the lucky ones, though, who had it relatively easy. My son latched correctly just a few minutes after he was born and apart from some small challenges the process was very natural. My pediatrician recommended that I nurse him until at least his first birthday, so that is what I planned to do.
However, as the finish line approached I started to become anxious about weaning. While some moms may wish to continue nursing for longer or wait until their child self-weans, I was (perhaps selfishly) craving my body, and a little independence, back. I started to worry that my son, who was still very attached to nursing, would want my body to serve as a comforter for him for a long time to come.
I began to research the weaning process and was surprised at how few resources there seemed to be. While pregnant, I was gifted La Leche League’s book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Before my son was born and during his first months of nursing, the book proved to be a great resource; but of the 493 pages only a mere 25 are dedicated to weaning! And the section I needed was titled “How to Wean Faster than Nature Intended” which didn’t make me feel great about my decision. However, in my heart I knew the time was right and that this was best for me and my family. I forged ahead, having conversations with my pediatrician, family and friends about tips for success.
Whether you’re weaning from breast of bottle, here are some tips to try:
- Make a schedule and stick to it. When I began weaning, my son was nursing four times a day: when he woke up, 10:30 am, 2:30 pm and before his night time bath. My pediatrician advised dropping one feeding session at a time, so as to not shock him and to help me avoid engorgement. After he had gone 2-3 days without that session, I could drop another. I decided to begin with mid-morning followed by mid-afternoon, as that is when he was most active and naturally less interested in nursing. Which leads me to tip number two…
- Keep them busy. The week that I began weaning my son I made sure our schedule was packed. A good friend has suggested that if he was busy chasing after his buddies he’d be less concerned about nursing, as opposed to if we were at home snuggling on the couch. I scheduled lots of play dates with friends and trips to the park. Being out of the environment where he was used to nursing distracted him away from thinking it was time to nurse.
- New cups. I could probably count on both hands the number of times my son drank from a bottle. He always nursed from the breast, which was part of why I thought breaking the habit would be hard. I decided to buy new cups that were just for milk. This way, he was excited about having something new and different and I could reinforce that we drank milk from this special cup.
- Become a milk mixologist. Some babies who are accustomed to breast milk notice the difference in taste or texture and reject cow’s milk. You may consider mixing the two milks at first to help your child adjust to the taste – 75% breast milk and 25% cow’s milk to start. Then, as your child gets used to it, slowly increase the amount of cow’s milk until there is no breast milk in the cup.
- Offer snacks. At first my son would only take a few sips of milk and then decide he was done. Since I was fearful he would not drink enough, I offered him snacks that would make him thirsty. After a mouthful of snacks, he wanted something to drink and would easily suck down a cup of milk.
Finally, be sure to also care for yourself while weaning. I was so focused on helping make the process easy for my son that I didn’t think too much about how it would impact me. I did suffer some engorgement and would suggest taking the process slowly, spreading it out over the course of 1 ½ – 2 weeks if you can so your body has time to adjust. Also, be aware of hormonal changes which may make you feel sad. Continuing to make time to cuddle with your baby may help you both feel better, but if you find yourself depressed for a long time be sure to speak up about it and get some support.
While I enjoyed my time nursing my son, he is now completely weaned. He does not seem to miss it, and I love watching him become more independent.
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Rachel is a stay-at-home-Mom to Rosco, who was born in May 2013, and a French bulldog, Tank. She and her husband Ross met in New York City while she worked as a sales proposal writer at a finance firm. She loves her faith, family, traveling the world, photography, going out to eat and cheering on the Dallas Cowboys.