Raising a child comes with so many changes and transitions. For those who can or have chosen to do so, breastfeeding is one part of childrearing that evolves with the needs of the child and the dynamic of the family. There are so many recommendations when it comes to nursing your child, but none of those recommendations tell you how to accomplish them.
As members of the breastfeeding community, we have to band together to help and offer advice to one another as we navigate these through these muddy waters called, “Motherhood.” Remind yourself to fondly look back on all the beautiful moments of your nursing journey while looking forward to the new memories that you will make as you transition past it.
Deciding to Wean
The decision to start the weaning process is very personal to the mother and child; it can be the source of a wide variety of emotions that are all very valid and justified. Nursing sometimes feels thankless and tiresome, especially with smaller babes, but it is such a rewarding experience when you see your child thriving and know that your liquid gold contributed to that success. Much like chapters in a book, even nursing has to come to a close.
While the reasoning may be different from family to family, what is the same is that we all gave our children the best nutrition that life has to offer, and we should be proud of that! It is important that you make a decision that you are going to wean and implement a plan to get job done. The recommendation for nursing is at least a year, but longer is perfectly healthy and encouraged too! If you are weaning before a year, please be sure to consult your pediatrician about meeting your child’s nutritional needs with breastmilk removed from the equation.
Ways to Wean
There are so many ways to wean and you have to choose what method works best for your situation. It boils down to who you’re weaning for: your babe or yourself. Whichever reason is fine, but the approach may be different depending on why you’ve decided to wean. Sometimes children become more interested in other things and that is a perfect opportunity to start weaning. Other times the mother has decided that it’s time to stop. In either situation, the key is to be vigilant, cautious, and willing to change your plan if either of you are suffering because the weaning process is not going as planned.
Being flexible makes the process so much less stressful for everyone involved! Some key tricks to try include the following: feed other foods first, offer the breast less often and for shorter amounts of time, and distract/ redirect nursing requests. Get family members involved in the weaning process by letting them spend more time with your little one and helping out with feeding. Introduce a bottle or a cup and offer it frequently. This is a good time to mix-up your normal: do things differently to make these changes more seamless. Change up your wardrobe or rearrange the routines to promote less nursing.
Tips for Weaning
Stopping cold-turkey can be super stressful (and painful) for mom and baby, so please avoid this if at all possible. Keep some Tylenol, compresses, and your pump around just in case you do feel any discomfort at any point during the process. You want to give your body time to adjust, but it does need help in some situations.
Regardless of what you are doing, be mindful that these kinds of routine changes can take time! Being emotional is very normal because your body will be changing, and hormonal balance will be shifting. It is okay to postpone the weaning process if it’s not going well, but it is also okay to reach out for help or ask questions! The moral of the story is that the process can variable, but the outcome should be the positive ending to a fantastic chapter in your book of parenting.
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Laria Herod is a wife and mother pursing her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is passionate about parenting and sharing her experiences with others in the hopes of educating and empathizing. She is a breastfeeding advocate in her community and loves to interact with new people from all walks of life.