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Weaning: Helping your Baby off of the Breast

Susie Hamilton Breast Pumps Direct Product Expertby Susie Hamilton
Breast Pumps Direct
Product Expert

There comes a time in every nursing mother's life that she must face the inevitable weaning of her baby. It is a natural process in both the baby and the mother's development. If you are considering weaning your baby first you should decide what your motivation is. Many women have many different reasons for feeling it is time however, try not to be pressured into weaning by the expectations of other women.

There are several different approaches you can take if you have decided to start weaning. You can easily wean your baby gradually over a given period of time. You can partially wean your baby to a certain amount of feedings per day. Or you could simply eliminate nursing altogether very abruptly, which may sometimes be the only option in cases of illness or separation.

If your baby has strictly been nursing for complete nutrition, you may need to supplement any withdrawn feedings with a formula bottle. You must check with your pediatrician to help you determine how to still give your baby the proper nutritional requirements for healthy growth.

If your baby is eating solids and taking to other foods and drink rather easily and is at least nine months old, you may not need to substitute absent feedings. Check with your pediatrician before changing any diet patterns for you or your baby while you are breastfeeding to insure proper transition for you both.


Gradual Weaning:

Gradual weaning is the most natural way to wean a baby and therefore the most painless and comfortable. Begin eliminating one feeding per day every four days. You will probably not want to eliminate the first and last feedings of the day at first. At this rate of elimination your breasts and your baby will have the opportunity to adjust to the extra milk supply that is not being used to feed. After a few days your breasts will not produce as much milk during that time of the day, eliminating the fullness of breast slowly.


Partial Weaning:

Partial weaning is simply eliminating a certain amount of feedings a day but still maintaining a few feedings to continue breastfeeding. This is the perfect choice for a mother who may feel as though she wants or needs to have more freedom during certain times of the day. It is very possible to gradually wean your baby down to an early morning and bedtime feeding alone. Babies nurse for the comfort and bonding experience as well as for their nutritional needs. Once their nutrition is being maintained elsewhere, they will still crave the comfort of your breast. You may want to offer selective feedings for this reason only and allow them to naturally grow out of nursing towards being more independent.

Partial weaning also allows for the option of returning to a more active nursing schedule if desired. It can be a temporary means to helping a busy or overwhelmed mother have a little less to worry about. After a while you may want to pick up the number of feedings you can offer each day and with a steady milk supply you can easily build back up to as many feedings as you wish. However, your baby may not feel the same way, especially if you decided to supplement with formula or something sweet that he has acquired a taste for.


Abrupt Weaning:

Abrupt weaning should really only be an option if there is no possible way to partially or gradually wean your baby. There could be many physical and emotional problems for mother and baby if the proper amount of time isn't given for both during the weaning process.

Once a mother stops nursing her baby it takes a while for her body to quit producing milk. If the breasts get too full too quickly, sever pain and discomfort could lead to even more painful complications such as mastitis or an abscess.

If you are suffering from any amount of postpartum, abrupt weaning could lead to abrupt hormonal changes and cause even deeper depression. The hormone prolactin, which is released during breastfeeding will drop once the milk isn't being removed. Prolactin is associated with mental and emotional well being after birth. It is best to consider a gradual weaning method to aid your body and psyche while transitioning, especially if you suffer from bouts of depression.

If your baby must be removed from nursing on the breast immediately there is always the option to pump to help lessen the milk supply at a slower pace. Using a pump can be very healing in that it requires very little energy or interaction once put in place. For a mother looking to engage as little as possible with pumping but wants to gradually stop breastfeeding by means of pumping, it would be quickest and easiest to try an electric pump. A manual pump or hand expression may be used as well but certainly require more skill and focus than the other.

It will also be really difficult for your baby to adjust to the change. Be prepared to offer other physical means such as cuddling and rocking your baby if you are to wean so that your baby will not feel as though you have withdrawn from her as well.

If you are feeling the need to explore the option of weaning due to depression please seek out some support. There are many resources and people out there that can help you come up with a plan of action that will be the healthiest for both you and your baby. Postpartum depression is no laughing matter and should never be taken lightly.


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