Breastfeeding & Weaning

Weaning is the process when you begin giving your baby foods other than breast milk, although many people believe that weaning is when you completely stop breastfeeding their baby.

Although many mothers find weaning quite emotional, it is a natural stage in your baby’s development. You may feel excited because it enables you a new independence and/or you may feel sad because your baby is growing up and moving on to the next stage of her life. All of these emotions are normal so try not to feel guilty.

Weaning is better carried out gradually when the time is right rather than all at once. There is no right or wrong time to wean and it is better to carry on breastfeeding until the infant is at least six months old or longer as breastfeeding is good for you and your baby.

When you have established the right time to wean, you should remember to gradually wean over a period of seven weeks or longer. If you attempt to wean very suddenly, there may be consequences for both of you.

Abrupt weaning can cause you discomfort if your milk is not expressed, as your milk ducts may become blocked. You may also develop mastitis or a breast abscess. Abrupt weaning can prove to be upsetting for your baby. A sick baby should never be abruptly weaned.

Sometimes you have no choice but to wean your baby very suddenly for example due to sickness or separation from your baby. It is always advised to express milk during this time to prevent the above complications.

You both may find weaning easier if you first introduce the infant to a cup/bottle instead of the breast/bottle. It has been noted that breastfed infants learn to drink from a cup earlier (average 6 months) so expressing milk is a good idea to ensure they are still consuming the nutrients.

You can begin the process by replacing one feed per day. Avoid replacing the favourite feed of the day such as the bedtime feed. You may find it easier if this feed is given by another person and avoid a chair you usually use for breastfeeding as she will expect to be breastfed.

When you feel that your both ready to wean more, you can replace the next least favourite feed. This feed should be at the opposite end of the day to the first replaced feed. Continue this process or replacing feeds at a slow rate. Allow a few days interval before replacing another feed.

If you are going back to work but still want to breastfeed, you can partial wean. This involves substituting the feeds with a bottle or a cup along with breastfeeding. Remember to monitor your baby’s weight gain to ensure that she is getting enough.

You may find that your breasts are uncomfortable during this time. Express milk to relive. You can buy over the counter drugs such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help. You will find that compressing cold gel packs to your breasts will also offer comfort. Always check your breasts to ensure that you are not developing a blocked duct (feels like a firm, tender area of the breast).