I would like to stop breastfeeding my child, for various personal reasons. How can I do it in a gentle way, while being respectful of my child’s feelings and my own nursing aversions?
While it is recommended to breastfeed for at least two years, and even longer if the child still wants to, we acknowledge that it might not be every parent’s cup of tea. Breastfeeding is a very demanding part of parenting and sometimes, nursing aversions may prevent the breastfeeding parent from wanting to extend the nursing relationship. And that is perfectly fine. It is a very personal decision and everybody needs to respect that.
However, we also need to acknowledge that weaning can be quite traumatic on the child and mother when done all of a sudden, without approaching it gradually.
Your child carries good memories of breastfeeding and breast milk, and trying to apply anything bitter on your breast, while a very immediate deterrent to breastfeeding, is NOT a very gentle way to wean your child off breast milk.
Some gentle ways of weaning your child off breastfeeding are listed below.
- Night weaning/Day weaning – Never try and drop all the feeds at one go. While being personally traumatic for the child, it can also be a cause of mastitis or plugged ducts for the breastfeeding parent. A better idea would be to stop the feeds in the day or the night as a first step. Pick one time and stop the feeds.
- Change in the child’s routine – Identify the triggers for your child’s nursing demands. If your child breastfeeds to sleep in the afternoon, consider dropping their nap. If a particular place is where they breastfeed, avoid sitting in that place. Make their access to your breasts a bit more difficult with attire that restricts access. If they breastfeed just because they are bored, keep their day full with outings or other activities – you get the drift right?
- Distraction – Before your child demands a feed (you should be able to predict those times by nowJ), an outing, a snack, play date or visit to a park can be planned to distract your child from demanding a feed.
- Substitution – A subtle way of bribing ;) works really well, if the bribe is good enough! Try substituting a demand for nursing with a favorite snack or a new toy, a visit to a favorite place. Whatever works, right?
- Drop one feed at a time – You need to give your body time to adjust to the changes in amount of milk being demanded, when considering weaning. Drop one feed per week, and proceed to drop the next feed when you feel no fullness in the breast after dropping that feed.
- Postponing feeds – When your child comes asking you for a feed, pretend to be busy and say “not now, after some time”. Chances are that they might forget and get occupied with something else in that time.
- Shorten nursing sessions – Shorten the nursing length per session. It could be either allowing your child to nurse only one time on each side, or it could be limiting the time on each side to a few seconds.
- Don’t offer, but don’t refuse – This works very well for some parents. Do not offer to breastfeed, but if the child asks, do not refuse to breastfeed. This is admittedly a slower way of weaning, but over the longer run, the most gentle, if you have the time and patience for it.
- For older children - Talk about it. Older children are able to comprehend better, so prepare them for weaning. Some parents stop after a particular age, after discussing with the child, while others may throw parties or just host a very memorable dinner to remember the occasion.
Remember that, for weaning to be gentle, you need to take into account the discomfort of your child and work towards customizing this experience for them.
Different folks, different strokes.