Whether you breastfeed your baby for a day, a week, a month, a year or more, weaning from breastfeeding is almost always an emotional event in a mum’s life.
If you’d like your child to be the one to decide when to wean from the breast, it will usually happen at some stage over the age of two years (the biological age of weaning) so if your little one is younger than this, it’s often a decision initiated by mum.
There are so many reasons a mum may choose to wean and those reasons are often extremely personal and unique to your own situation. If you are upset about this decision, talk to someone about it. You can call our lactation clinic to discuss weaning and the Australian Breastfeeding Association has a 24-hour Helpline (1800 686 268) with counsellors trained to talk about breast safety when weaning and also to counsel you on emotional issues surrounding your decision.
How to wean from the breast depends entirely upon the age of your child and how much milk you have. When older children are down to one or two feeds, your body is usually able to cope quite easily with dropping down to not feeding at all. If your baby is younger and you’re having to drop down from more than about 4 or 5 feeds, it will take a bit longer. The main thing to do is to reduce your supply gradually. Think about dropping one feed for a few days and noting how your breasts feel in this time. If they are hot or sore, massage lumps in the shower and use ice packs on your breasts between feeding or expressing.
Once your breasts start to feel a bit more comfortable, you can think about dropping another feed and so on until you’re down to none. This process is different for every mother. Some mums find they can drop a feed every couple of days without being too uncomfortable, others find they have to wait a week or more between each reduction.
If your baby is younger than 12 months, you’ll need to replace dropped breastfeeds with infant formula. Chat to your maternal & child health nurse to find out how much to give based on your baby’s age.
If you don’t know which feed to drop first, think about whether your baby has a preference. Older babies quite often have feeds they are more ‘desperate’ for than others, usually feeds before bedtime, or first thing in the morning. Many mums find dropping the middle-of-the-day feeds the easiest as bubs can easily be distracted by a visit to the park, a fun game or some lunch. During the process, find someone to chat to, as many mums feel sad they are no longer providing their own milk for their baby. Try to think positively about your time together when you were breastfeeding, and reward yourself for a job well done on the time you were able to spend breastfeeding your baby.
Remember: If you have had your baby with us at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne you can call and access our Breastfeeding Clinic at any time. There is no cost associated with using our Breastfeeding clinic. Please call (03) 9411 7797 to speak with one of our qualified lactation consultants.