If you think you and your baby are ready to start weaning, follow these steps.
7 Steps to Start Weaning Your Baby
Step 1: Figuring Out Feeding Schedules and Cues
The first thing you need to begin the baby led weaning process is to reflect on your breastfeeding routine. Try answering these questions:
- What normally happens before you start a nursing session?
- How does a nursing session normally end?
- What happens after a nursing session?
- Does your child follow a predictable nursing schedule?
- Are there certain events that prompt your child to ask to nurse?
Knowing your child’s nursing schedule and cues will help you determine which sessions to eliminate first. It’s also important to understand the role breastfeeding plays in your daily routine.
Does your child breastfeed to stay hydrated? Or do they breastfeed for comfort? Perhaps they breastfeed to help them fall asleep?
Understanding why your child breastfeeds will help you think of alternative activities you can offer your child in place of nursing sessions.
Step 2: Drop One Feeding Session at a Time
Weaning can be stressful for both the mommy and the child. That’s why it’s best if it’s done gradually. Going cold turkey is not only jarring for a baby or toddler, but it may also lead to engorgement, plugged ducts, or mastitis.
What is mastitis? Mastitis happens when there is a blocked milk duct, which inflames the surrounding breast tissue. The inflammation itself is mastitis, and there is a possibility of getting an infection with it.
To help your baby and your body adjust, drop one nursing session every 5-7 days. Drop the morning and afternoon nursing sessions before you attempt night weaning. If your child refuses to skip a nursing session, shortening nursing sessions may be a better way to begin the weaning process.
Step 3: Find a Replacement
Keep in mind that your child breastfeeds for a reason. Babies who are six months old or younger primarily breastfeed because they’re hungry. So, if you’re weaning a baby, you will need to replace nursing sessions with bottled formula or pumped breast milk.
As your child transitions into toddlerhood, they start breastfeeding for other reasons. Some toddlers breastfeed for comfort or because they’re thirsty.
If you know why your toddler is asking for a nursing session, you can offer an appropriate substitute. For instance, if your toddler nurses because of thirst, you can offer his/her favorite drink in a special sippy cup instead.
Tip: You can avoid a meltdown if you offer the replacement before your child actively asks for a nursing session. This is why it’s important to learn his/her breastfeeding cues.
Step 4: Avoid Saying No
It’s hard to explain why you need to stop breastfeeding a toddler. The last thing you want is for them to feel rejected and unwanted as a result of the weaning process.
If your toddler asks for a nursing session, try to avoid saying no. Instead, try telling them “not yet” and let them know you can breastfeed at a later time. In the meantime, offer them a drink from their sippy cup or distract them with another activity.
Step 5: Cover Up
Sometimes, toddlers will want to breastfeed simply because they’ve gotten used to it always being available. When they remember that breastfeeding is an option, they’re more likely to ask for it.
In the early phases of the weaning process, you can help your toddlers out by covering up. Other moms have reported temporarily giving up shirts that show their cleavage.
Some choose to wear jackets or sweaters so that their breast aren’t as accessible. Don’t worry, once they’ve weaned, you can go back to your regular wardrobe.
Step 6: Reassure Your Child
One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is the built-in intimacy that comes along with every nursing session. That’s why weaning from breastfeeding can be tough on your baby or toddler, but ending your breastfeeding journey does not have to mean you have to end that closeness as well.
During the weaning process, find ways to provide them with the emotional equivalent of what they would normally receive from breastfeeding sessions.
Reassure them of your love by showering them with hugs and kisses. Make an effort to spend quality time with them. That way, they’ll understand that mommy is still there for them, even if breastfeeding has come to an end.
Step 7: Involve Dad
The weaning process is also a great opportunity for dads to step up. Dads can help take a toddler’s mind off of breastfeeding by taking them out for the afternoon. They can also take over nap time or bedtime routines, making it easier for toddlers to disassociate sleep from breastfeeding.
It’s easy to cave and give in to your child when you’re doing it all by yourself. Involve dad in the process so that you can tag him in whenever you feel like your resolve is about to crumble.
Weaning is an exciting time for both parents and babies. Find out more baby weaning hacks and tips from My Fussy Eater (Ciara Attwell):
Weaning isn’t an exact science. Each child will respond to the weaning process in different ways. It will also play out differently depending on the child’s age.
Just like learning how to breastfeed, moms can figure out what works best for her and her little one. It may seem challenging at first, but with these steps, we hope weaning can be a little less stressful.
Do you have any tips for moms who are about to start weaning from breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments section.