A baby is considered weaned when he or she stops breastfeeding and gets all of their nutrition from other sources than the breast. Weaning can also be applied to bottle-fed babies but most often the term refers to when a baby stops breastfeeding.
Weaning can occur two ways: when the baby decides to stop and when the mother decides to stop. When weaning is the mother’s idea, it can be an exercise in time and patience depending on the age of your baby or toddler and also how well your child adjusts. The overall experience is different for everyone.
Weaning is a long goodbye and can sometimes be emotional and painful. However, it does not signal the end of intimacy between you and your child – that level of intimacy developed during the nursing stage will continue beyond breastfeeding.
Simply put, weaning signifies replacing breastfeeding with other types of nourishment. You are the best judge as to when it is a right time to wean. There’s no deadline or age limit to breastfeeding so it is a matter of knowing when you or your child are ready to stop breastfeeding.
Relatives, friends and even complete strangers may bombard you with advice such as you should wean your baby when they begin to grow teeth or you should wean your child before you return to work. Again, there is no right or wrong time for weaning.
If you do decide to wean your child from breastfeeding, you should proceed slowly, regardless of what age your child may be. Experts say that you should never abruptly withhold your breast as this can be detrimental to your child’s physical and emotional health. The experience of suddenly not having the breast could potentially be traumatic to your little one. There are, however, healthy methods you can try to begin the weaning process:
Skip a Feeding
You can begin by skipping a feeding to see what happens and offering a cup of milk or other age appropriate liquid to your child instead. I personally began to offer yogurt to my little one in the mornings since it was her favourite breakfast at the time and it worked. She chose to get out of bed and have the yogurt instead of going on the breast.
If you reduce feedings one at a time, your child will eventually adjust to the changes.
Shorten Feeding Times
Try shortening the length of time your child is actually at the breast. If the normal feeding time is 10 minutes, try 5 minutes.
Postpone and Distract
You can postpone feedings if you are only feeding a couple of times per day. This method works great if your child is old enough to reason with. If your child wants the breast, say that you will feed him or her later then distract them with a fun activity or healthy snack.
Restrict Feeding Locations
To begin the weaning process with my daughter, I started telling her that “Boob is for home.” If we were out in public or at a friend’s house, she had to wait until we got home until she could go on the breast. This method combines the skipping feedings and postponing feedings tips.
If you have tried everything and weaning does not seem to be working at all, may the time isn’t right. You can wait just a bit longer to see what happens as you and your child have to determine the right time to wean together.