Are you thinking of stopping breastfeeding? If so, here are a few tips to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Alternately, if you are wondering about if and when it is okay to stop breastfeeding, click here to read my article on how long you should breastfeed for.
Tips for stopping breastfeeding: (1-3)
- To make the weaning process easier, it’s a good idea to make sure your baby is already used to eating/drinking the food you are going to be giving in place of the breast milk. For example, if your baby is not yet eating solid foods, get him/her going on formula — perhaps just one feeding a day to start — to get him/her used to the bottle, and to ensure that the formula you’ve chosen is working well for your baby digestion-wise.
If your baby is eating solid foods, make sure she/he is familiar with, and used to, eating/drinking the food you are going to be giving in place of breast milk. Undertaking these activities before you fully stop breastfeeding should make the transition smoother for you and baby.
- One way to wean is to do it gradually (although of course this is not always possible). If you are able to wean gradually, perhaps the easiest approach is to replace one feeding at a time. Many mothers I know start by replacing the day time meals, leaving the early morning and/or evening feedings till last.
Some mothers, instead of replacing one meal at a time, use a process of shortening the length of each breast feed. Using this method, each meal time would then consist of a combination of breast milk as well as formula and/or solid food and/or milk (depending on your baby’s age and what foods are appropriate for them). Over time, the amount of breast milk consumed becomes less and less, while the amount of formula and/or solid food and/or milk increases. NB. This method is generally more labor-intensive than the “replacing one feed at a time” method.
The bottom line on gradual weaning is that either of these two methods (or a combination of both techniques) works well. Go with what makes the most sense for you and your situation. Also, just go at your own pace — know that there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long weaning should take.
- If you have to stop breastfeeding suddenly, it might take your baby (and you!) a bit of time to fully get adjusted to the change — especially if you are still in the early months and have been breastfeeding exclusively.
Rest assured, however, that your baby will adjust, as will you. Just remember that sudden weaning is….. well, sudden. As such, it might just take a bit of time for your baby to adapt to her/his new diet.
- If you are stopping breastfeeding suddenly, the physical discomfort (from your breasts becoming engorged) can be significant. To help with this, you can express just enough milk from your breasts to relieve the engorgement (this tip is also for moms who are weaning gradually and happen to experience some engorgement).
Also, try to wear a bra that gives you a lot of good support (you can even wear it to bed). Hot compresses and/or hot showers are also know to help relieve the discomfort of engorged breasts.
It is also worth noting that sudden weaning can increase the risk of infections and other complications. Therefore, if you wean suddenly and are experiencing symptoms such as breast pain, fever, or flu-like symptoms that last more than 24-48 hours, you should contact your doctor or health-care practitioner.(2)
- Stopping breastfeeding can sometimes be an emotional experience. It is also a process accompanied by hormonal changes in your body. So don’t be surprised if stopping breastfeeding stirs up your emotions, feelings and/or moods. This is, for the most part, an expected and normal thing. Don’t worry, as you work your way through the process of weaning — and whatever emotions accompany this process for you — the feelings will settle.
Of course, if you experience prolonged symptoms of depression and/or feel like you’re not coping (regardless of whether it’s related to stopping breastfeeding or not), seek help and support.
Sources for this Stopping Breastfeeding article:
1. Douglas, Ann. The Mother of All Baby books. Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 2001.
2. Eisenberg, Arlene, Murkoff, Heidi and Sandee Hathaway. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 4th Edition. New York: Workman Publishing, 2008.
3. Spock, B. and R. Needleman. Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, 8th Revised edition. New York: Pocket Books, 2004.