Many mothers are concerned with how long they should breastfeed for, and when it is best to start weaning their baby. This, as with most parenting decisions, is a highly personal decision, which needs to be made based on what is best for you and your baby. Generally, around one year of age is suggested to be a good time to start the weaning process, as your child would be consuming a variety of solids at this age, and is easily adaptable. Many mothers choose to start the weaning process earlier, often due to complications or a busy schedule, or much later. It is always best to do what feels right for your family.
Once you have decided you would like to start the weaning process, there are a number of things you can do to make things easier. Firstly, it is important to get your child used to having milk from a source other than the breast – you can choose to do this with breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk. Many mothers while weaning find it helpful to extract their own milk and to feed their baby by bottle. This is particularly great because it allows other people to feed their baby and prevents engorgement from decreased breastfeeding. If your baby is under a year old and being weaned and breast milk is not an option, ensure you pick a formula that is fortified with iron.
Secondly, it is really important to be consistent. Slowly adjust your schedule so there are fewer and fewer nursings. Some children, particularly those over the age of two, can resist weaning. By this age, it is more of an emotional desire than an actual need for breastfeeding. Ensure that you provide adequate closeness to your baby, so that they do not feel stressed out by weaning. Try to remove environmental cues that might relate to breastfeeding; for example avoid sitting with your baby in your breastfeeding chair, or wearing your breastfeeding clothes.
It’s important to make gradual changes – you don’t want to stress your baby out. Consider taking out one feed each week, cutting things down slowly will make things a lot less stressful for you and baby. Try to prevent offering the breast; if baby is insistent, then nurse, but otherwise do not offer. This way you’re providing your baby with that closeness and comfort that they desire, but you’re not encouraging the process to go on longer than necessary. Another way to help reduce breastfeeding is to start timing breastfeeding – it’s good to do with an egg timer or something similar. Set the timer, for a certain length of time, and when it goes off tell your baby that breastfeeding is over and remove them from the breast. This allows the baby to be soothed, but reduces their dependency on breastfeeding.
There are numerous benefits to breastfeeding, and here at My Breastfeeding Diet we hope that woman breastfeed as long as they feel happy and comfortable to do so.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at our how to stop breastfeeding page which is filled with helpful information.