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Weaning Your Baby From The Breast

There will come a time in any breastfeeding journey for your baby to be weaned off the breast. Whatever that time, whether it is as an infant or as a toddler, it always seems to be an emotional roller-coaster.

My story is a point in fact. I had been exclusively breastfeeding for six whole months, at which stage I decided to introduce formula for top ups. I didn’t feel great about this, as I had planned to keep feeding exclusively for much longer, but was getting very run down.
As I stood crying in the supermarket car park, a friend spotted me and asked me what was wrong. Luckily, being a wise mammy, she was able to console me and congratulate me for my amazing efforts thus far.

I’ve put together some pointers to help anyone who needs to introduce a bottle, or wean your baby off the breast. I can’t guarantee this will stop you balling in a car park, but it should give you some practical advice.

Magic weeks to introduce a bottle

The time between 6-10 weeks seems to be the best time to introduce a bottle to your baby. Before 6 weeks, breastfeeding is still a learning and development experience for both of you. After 10 week, the little suckers seem to be reluctant to want anything but you and your boobs.
 
All the studies show that breastfeeding is the best thing for both you and baby.

Tips for introducing a bottle:

  • Use expressed milk at body temperature. 
  • Mom must leave the house. The baby will smell you and you will not be able to listen to any refusal noises. Get another woman you trust to do this job. And stay away. 
  • Have your baby fed when they are peckish but not starving hungry. It’s all more relaxed this way.
  • Leave a buggy or car seat for them to be fed in rather than the cuddle position if they refuse.
  • Use a latex orthopedic teat. Nuk are my favourite. They are similar to nipples and don’t feel as odd to the baby.
  • Ensure you pump for each feed your baby has, to help maintain a supply. It will supply all the nutrition your baby needs for six months.
  • Supplementing with food and formula before that time is not recommended. With all the best will in the world, it is often our friends and family may offer unhelpful comments and advice such as, “Just give him some food”, “Are you still doing that?”, “You know you’re making him dependent on you”, and other such nuggets. If you’re happy to keep feeding. Ignore everyone around you. You know what is best for your baby.

Growth spurts

There will be times however, when it feels like you have become the dairy queen. Oh God, those growth spurts when the baby is feeding continuously for what seems like days on end! During the first 12 months these can happen at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months and 9 months (more or less). They can last from 2-3 days. But, remember babies are not clocks, so yours may differ. Try to surrender to it with the knowledge that this growth spurt will at some stage end.

Combination feeding

If you are returning to work and want to continue your feeding journey, but not during the day, it is entirely possible. You can bottle feed your baby during the day and keep up with a night and morning feed. You may have to pump a little to keep your supply up, but you can continue with these dreamy and morning feeds as long as you are both happy to do so. You will find some babies will just want to give up themselves. They don’t have to work so hard with a bottle. On the other hand, many just love the snuggle and closeness of mammy and her milk.

Weaning your baby from breast milk

If night and morning feeds, or pumping and expressing are not the way forward for you, and the time has come for you to stop feeding your baby breast milk, get some support from a good female friend who has done the same. Just a hug can help. Many women miss this once it has stopped.

The best advice I can give is to do it gradually. Slowly start to reduce feeds from the breast three weeks before you intend to stop and increase the amount of bottled or cup fed milk you are giving your baby. I would suggest dropping one feed every few days to allow your own supply to match your baby’s requirements. The night time feed being the last to go. You can then move night time over to a lovely new bedtime routine with a snack and cuddle. Make it a new special time for you both to enjoy. Stories, snacks, cuddles and the like.

Introduce a cup at 6 months old and start to use this instead of a bottle. This will help the baby become a lot more independent at feeding time and soon, they can even pick one out for themselves! Try and avoid familiar nursing positions or places to help avoid triggers for feeding. Sitting up with a cup again can help with this. Or feeding in a buggy or chair.

Going cold turkey is really hard with breastfeeding. So I would try and avoid this at all costs. Sometimes. life throws us curve balls and this has to happen. Just be careful not to get blocked ducts; let out some milk by expressing. Keep checking your breasts for any lumps or tenderness to keep problems at bay.

If you have any problems with weaning, always seek the help of a counselor or lactation consultant to support you. If you have emotional problems; homeopathy can help both physically and mentally.
Do you have any comments on weaning? Share them below!

About the Author

A birthing educator helping parents, midwives and other healthcare professionals in their journey into parenthood. www.the-elbowroom.com

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