As much as it’s a task to get a hang of breastfeeding, the next stage is equally challenging. Yes, Weaning. Whether it happens at 6 months or 16 months, weaning your baby from breastfeeding can be an emotional and vulnerable journey, and weird at times too.
But this topic is still left in dark for most mothers due to lack of dialogue on this aspect. In this post I will share “10 Things You Must know While Weaning Your Baby” instead of the generic “How to” stuff because weaning is much beyond a 5-step process.
At one point you might feel great to get your freedom and body back, at the other you might feel guilty of letting go of those cute loving moments with your munchkin. And if you are like me, you might just also feel loss of identity- as if the most important phase of motherhood i.e Breastfeeding/Nursing has been taken away- so what’s the job left now?
Our daughter self-weaned at around 15 months and the process was quite smooth because we never had an exclusive nursing relationship to begin with. But with my son, the process of weaning required a lot of effort, time & patience. He weaned for good at around 20 months and I still can’t believe it some times.
I miss those cuddly moments – those little fingers rubbing against my tummy, his little hand covering my lips for kisses while being fed. I miss that night-time routine and those mid-night feed sessions with him now. But yes, I certainly don’t miss being restricted to the clothes I had to wear (the front buttoned dresses & tops).
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Read on for my tips about 10 things to remember while weaning your baby.
1. Are you both ready ?
There’s no specific right or wrong age to wean. And you alone cannot decide if the time is right for weaning. Your baby has to be prepared and probably knows it better if the time has come. Baby-led weaning is smoother but might become difficult for the mommy as it gets tricky to understand if it’s just a phase or the baby is actually getting over breastfeed.
Hunger strikes, nipple biting, twisting & slapping the b**bs – these were a few signals that my daughter started giving which we initially misinterpreted as ‘just-a-phase’. But it’s better to stop fighting a losing battle and accept the fact. Just move on, Mommy!
Also read “8 Must-have Baby Feeding Essentials”
2. It’s hard to say “No”, even if you really are done with it
Normally if I decide on not doing something, it’s quite easy. Just set the limits and put a full stop. But when it comes to weaning, it’s really hard to say NO to that little baby for whom comfort is only in there. Even though you would be wanting to be just done with it forever, a part of you wouldn’t. The grieve of losing that beautiful nursing relationship is not easy to go through. blame it to the fluctuations in your hormones or the Mother Nature, be prepared for a lot of guilt & doubt.
Also read “Getting started with First Food for Baby”
3. It might take a while – Be Patient during this phase
Weaning takes time- expect the whole process to take a few days, weeks or even months. Weaning your baby gradually is best for both your baby and your own body. A sudden stop in breastfeeding could be traumatic to the baby and is not so safe for mum either. It could cause engorgement, clogged milk ducts and could even lead to mastitis.
I began to gradually drop feedings at about 12 months which happened naturally as the regular meal pattern was more or less settled for our babies.
Also Read “My favourite Breastfeeding Products”
4. Start With Mid-day Feeds
Children tend to be more attached to the first and last feedings of the day, when the need for comfort is greater. These feedings might be the last ones your child drops. As a result, it might be easier to drop a midday breast-feeding session first.
Go Mommy Tip: Drop afternoon feedings first, before dropping morning and night time feedings.
5. It’s Okay to be not-so-stringent
If you are going the gradual way by reducing number of feeds and increasing other meals, there will be times when it’s hard to hold the boundaries. Changes in routine, schedule, home or illness- these are a few situations when it’s fine to take a step back and soothe the baby rather than being too strict. You will end up hurting the baby and yourself that way.
6. Ask for Help
Let Dad, Grand mom or any other caregiver assist you in this phase. Babies have a tendency to smell the mother and then they would just act stubborn. So if the baby resists bottle from you, let someone else take charge.
7. Bring around some changes
If you breastfeed the baby sitting in a specific corner or room, change the location while bottle-feeding. If needed, consider holding the baby in a different position or side. It might help to think of activities to distract the baby around the times of your typical breastfeeding sessions.
8. Tricks DO work!
I would strongly recommend against going cold-turkey or sending the child away for a week so that he gets weaned. That’s just too much to take for that little heart. Instead, opt some tricks like saying “Milk is over” or “Mumma’s milk will come when sun comes out in the morning” etc.
Go Mommy Tip : Keeping a bottle of water on bedside can help for soothing the baby mid-night.
Also read “8 Must-have Books for 1 Year old Baby”
9. It might seem an impossible task – but You’ll suddenly realise it worked
No matter how difficult it is to get your child to be weaned, whatever bumps you encounter along the road, you will suddenly realise one day that it somehow happened. Sure, it took a while and the baby still clings on to you for nursing, but in general, your tot has moved to the next milestone of eating solids.
10. Know this is not the end, but the beginning
I felt a deep sense of loss when I stopped breastfeeding. It also didn’t help that my breasts were engorged and my body was just asking to breastfeed my baby. It takes a lot of mental strength and determination to not give in to our body’s primal desire and refuse our baby of what they want.
No matter what your body or mind is telling you at this time, know that this is not the end but only the beginning of a lifelong bond with your baby. The feelings of love, sweet cuddles and special bond associated with breastfeeding are just going to find new outlets here on.