Weaning your baby from breastfeeding can be very difficult for some mothers. Although there are many children that self-wean for various reasons (such as mother’s diminished supply due to supplementing with formula), laying out a plan for weaning involves many factors. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed for at least one year. However, it is estimated that only 16% of women reach that goal.
There are many reasons you may want/need to wean your child. Women who choose to let babies wean themselves often become extended breastfeeders, sometimes nursing their child for several years. Although that is perfectly healthy, many women may feel that is a long time to be tied down breastfeeding. Also, a mother who is returning to work may not be able to keep her supply up with pumping alone. It is also hard for many women to get pregnant while nursing, so fertility issues may be the reason behind weaning.
Whatever your motives, be sure to involve baby’s feelings in all this. Your breasts have become your baby’s main source of comfort, so wean slowly. It is also better on you to go slowly, as your breasts would become very engorged otherwise, possibly leading to infection. Try to start the process about two months before your desired cut-off date. Begin by substituting one meal a day with a bottle or sippy cup. (A cup is probably better, as you will only have to break him of the bottle habit soon, anyway. Don’t worry, infants can be trained to drink from a cup.)
Should your breasts become engorged, pump a little out to bring them back down. Save the milk for use in a bottle, however. You can slowly begin mixing pumped breast milk with formula if your baby is under one year of age and still needs one or the other. After baby is completely weaned, you may still need to keep pumping a little to keep your breasts from getting infected and clogged. Eventually, your milk will subside, but don’t be surprised to see a little leak out occasionally for several months (some women claim to see milk drip out on occasion for up to a year or two!).
Weaning is a time consuming process. Don’t decide it is time to stop breastfeeding and think that you can do it immediately. There are many physical and psychological factors to consider. However, with a little sensitivity and patience, there is no reason why your baby can’t be just as happy with a bottle, cup, or solid foods. Remember, breast is best, but your options are always open if you decide you can’t do it any longer.