Getting babies to breastfeed can be challenging from day one. But once babies latch on, and they get the hang of it, they don't like to let go. While it's not for everyone (no judgment), breastfeeding is more than just moms providing nourishment and satisfying the hunger of their sweet babies. It's also one of the first ways they forge that unbreakable mother-child bond.
When the time comes to stop, both mother and baby might have a hard time with it. In fact, sometimes quitting is as exhausting - both physically and emotionally - as starting in the first place. It can feel like the breaking of a strong bond, or it can feel like it was a long time coming. And that's okay. What is important is that moms are not so hard on themselves.
Sometimes the baby is ready before mom, and other times, it's the mom who leads the weaning. It can be a short process, or a gradual process that allows the baby to adjust to other forms of nurishment before feeding completely independent of breastfeeding. Either way mom does it, it will require some preparation, physically and mentally.
Preparing themselves for the journey is the first step to making the end of the era of breastfeeding more palatable for mom and baby. Lots of people wonder aloud about whether going cold turkey is the solution. It's not. Families have a better time when moms ease their babies into quitting time. Here's what moms can do:
15 Discover The Patience Of A Saint
This is a lesson for the ages, especially for parents. Once you have kids, nothing comes easy. Everything takes time. Trying to speed things up or get angry about it does not help anyone, least of all mom. Having a plan that includes when mom wants to stop breastfeeding is a good start. This way, she can work ahead.
If she wants to breastfeed for a full year, she will know to start strategizing about nine months into it. She should also prepare herself for setbacks. Baby might be extra fussy and require some more time to wean off breast milk. One 7-month-old baby in Italy experienced 40 days of diarrhea when his mom was planning to quit breastfeeding.
The doctors said he could only have plain pastina and breastmilk. She ended up continuing to breastfeed for more than nine months. Flexibility is the key to true patience. This is one of mom's greatest tools in the kit.
14 Be A Baby Whisperer
Just because babies can't speak doesn't mean they can't communicate. Many of them find ways to tell people (especially mom) what they want and need. In particular, moms tend to know when their babies are hungry, tired, wet, soiled, or just plain bored based on the time of day and baby's cry or expression.
When moms know their babies well, they can better decide on things, such as when to quit breastfeeding. In the end, mom is the ultimate decider. She's the grown up, and she may have good reason to give up on breastfeeding (baby's too big for it in her opinion, she has to go back to work, her health or the baby's health depends on it, or it just feels like the right time to move on).
But if mom can tap into baby's needs - and she usually can - then she can better plan for quitting time. There's a delicate balance between mom and baby. Recognizing both and trying to go with the flow, at least to some extent, can help the transition be smoother.
13 Recognize The Signs It's Time To Move On
There are all sorts of indicators that can help moms decide when to quit breastfeeding. The big ones include how mom is feeling.
Is she exhausted? Does she want her body back? Does she have to return to work and pumping at the office is inconvenient or too much of a challenge? Of course, baby has a say here, too. Is the baby showing less interest in breastfeeding? Is the baby over a year old and eating more solid food or moving onto cow's milk? Does the baby have teeth? All the better to bite you with, mommy!
Is there a medical reason for mom or baby to quit breastfeeding? All these signs could mean that it's time to move on. Families do best when they go with the flow and follow the natural course of things. So, paying attention to these signs can help moms make the best decision for them and their babies.
12 Lengthen The Time Between Feedings
After mom has decided to quit, she can begin offering fewer feedings to baby throughout the day. Most experts suggest making these changes gradually but also being consistent. For instance, if you normally feed at 5 p.m., then stretch to 5:30 p.m. and keep making the feedings further apart each day, according to What To Expect.
"Determine how long you are nursing on each side and gradually decrease by one or two minutes each day until the feeding stops," suggests What To Expect. "Eliminating feedings are another [way] to reduce the amount of milk produced." Stay focused and consistently lengthen the time between the feedings. Mom should try not to ever go backward. There are ways to deal with a fussy baby upset by the new schedule. Hang tough.
11 Pump It Up
Moms don't have to give up offering breast milk all together. They can pump and save the milk in bottles (or even freeze it) to have on hand as they wean their babies off the breast. This is extra helpful for those who have to stop breastfeeding suddenly for whatever reason.
In those instances, mom might face serious discomfort and pain from engorgement, when the breast fills with milk. Pumping would help them get relief. Recently, there have been a couple of stories of moms, who tragically lost their infants or experienced stillborn births, and wanted to donate breast milk in their child's memory.
People shared the story of at least one of them, which is moving and telling. The point to sharing this is that even those who have to quit breastfeeding have other options for their baby.
10 Then, Pump It Down
If moms keep pumping until their breasts are empty, they are going to keep making milk. As a result, they will also keep having pain whenever they try not to breastfeed. So, they should try to gradually lengthen the time between pumping, too. When they must pump to relieve the pain of engorgement, they should only pump a little bit.
Get a reprieve but don't empty the breasts. This will help dry out the breasts and get mom's body ready for this big transition. Dialing back on the pumping can be tough for moms. Besides the physical pain, it's just another sign that baby is growing up and life is moving forward.
Moms should try to remember that this is part of life, and there will be new memories to make as baby reaches other milestones and grows up. Pumping and breastfeeding less will help mom reach quitting time sooner.
9 Prepare For Engorgement
The good news is that most symptoms of engorgement are mild and easily soothed, according to WebMD. Cold compresses are your friend because they can keep down swelling. A supportive bra and ibuprofen can also be helpful, suggests WebMD. Women should use nursing pads in their bra in case they leak while weaning their baby off breastfeeding.
There are few things as embarrassing as showing up to the big meeting with two wet spots, looking like targets, on your shirt. What moms really have to be careful of, though, is getting an infection or a blocked milk duct. In those cases, they must go see a medical professional for help. On rare occasions, engorgement leads to an infection with symptoms that include a fever, swelling, and pain.
A clogged duct is a little different. "If you're making breast milk faster than it's getting expressed, it can get backed up in the duct," according to BabyCenter. "When this happens, the tissue around the duct may become swollen and inflamed and press on the duct, causing a blockage." Women with a clogged duct may experience a hard lump, swelling, redness, hot sensation, and tenderness.
8 Do The Cabbage Patch
Don't start dancing now. This is actually a reference to a natural remedy women have been using to stop breastfeeding for centuries, according to wikiHow and many a grandma. Apparently, cabbage leaves release enzymes that aid in drying up a woman's milk supply. Moms should take a rolling pin to the leaves and apply them directly on the breast.
Keep them in place with a bra that has no underwire. Replace them as they wilt, about every 24 to 48 hours. Cabbage can sometimes have a strong smell, so this might not be optimal for those working in an office or a job that requires some sweating.
Of course, there are no guarantees and cold compresses might be a bigger help to some moms suffering from swelling and pain. But it doesn't hurt to try what women have been doing forever. Some of this will be trial and error and that's perfectly fine.
7 Comfort Baby
Babies face a million changes in their first year of life. That's why they cling to their routines and their moms. Breastfeeding is one of the ways they bond with their mother, but it's also a bit of security for them. Taking the breast milk away, especially if mom is not just pumping and bottle feeding but actually breastfeeding, can be traumatic to baby.
Recognize how hard this is and be sensitive if baby is crying more, sleeping less, and showing signs of anxiety in the form of crankiness. Offer up extra cuddles. Do the things that usually sooth your baby, such as swaying, singing, or even allowing use of a pacifier. Try not to lose your cool if baby is having a hard time with this transition.
As always, try to listen to baby. From the start, ease into the process of quitting and stay laser focused on baby's behavior and reactions to determine how to best continue. While mom can't let the baby take control, she can comfort baby and show her love and support.
6 Distract Baby
Babies may be distressed when mom stops breastfeeding. When one of those cranky moments rolls around, mom can distract baby. Introduce a new toy, such as a plush or rattle. Clap hands, sing songs, or just try to talk to baby in a soothing voice.
Shift gears and offer baby some solid food (if that's age appropriate) to distract him or her from the missing breastmilk. Distraction is a trick parents need to learn. It's how to refocus children in anticipation of or during a tantrum. It's a way to move off a subject about which mom and dad don't want to talk.
And it can be an effective way to keeping tempers in check. Distractions, such as toys, lullabies, videos, or conversation, can also be soothing. The point is to get baby to focus on something other than the breastmilk and change in diet.
5 Bring On The Food
No one is suggesting that moms should starve their babies in the name of ending breastfeeding. While moms must lengthen the time between feedings, they should still offer sustenance to baby. Assuming baby is old enough for solid foods when mom wants to quit, then mom should start offering other options.
Perhaps, she can replace breastmilk feedings with cereal or mashed fruits or vegetables. While doctors suggest introducing one feeding of solid food a day to start, moms can gradually increase the feedings. So, as mom is decreasing breastfeeding, she can increase solid food feedings.
"Once [baby] gets used to his new diet, he'll be ready for a few tablespoons of food a day," according to BabyCenter. "If he's eating cereal, gradually thicken the consistency by adding less liquid. As the amount your baby eats increases, add another feeding." As baby grows and shows more hunger, mom can continue to feed the baby more and more solid foods.
4 Supplement With Formula
If baby is not ready for solid foods, mom can instead start introducing formula for those under a year old. Moms, who have pumped and served breastmilk in a bottle, have an advantage over those who are just getting started with the bottle. Either way, in between feedings, if baby is hungry, mom can produce a bottle filled with formula.
Moms might want to talk to their doctors about which formula to choose. Sometimes, breastfeeding moms find that their babies have a better reaction to formula for those with sensitive stomachs. It all depends on the baby. While moms don't want to continuously change the formula, it might take a couple of tries to find the one that is best for baby.
This is also good advice for moms who don't want to quit breastfeeding all together but need a bit of a reprieve or their child is demanding more nourishment. Still, there is a bit of warning. "Babies suck differently on a bottle than the breast, and some will not latch as well at the breast if they’ve had bottles (this is called nipple confusion)," according to Today's Parent. "This risk decreases if breastfeeding is well established before a bottle is introduced."
3 Pour Some Tomato Paste On Me
Some babies are more reluctant than others to give up breastfeeding. Mothers, especially those from old world Europe, have tricks up their sleeves to motivate baby to move on. Back in the day in many parts of the world, moms breastfed their kids for a really long time, sometimes, even until their third birthday. It was hard to get baby to give it up.
Desperate times called for desperate measures. Many Italian women would put something safe but sour tasting on their breasts, so baby would no longer want to breastfeed. In fact, some of them would use tomato paste. The bitter, slightly acidic taste of tomato was all together disgusting. Often, it was enough to get baby to give up on breast milk.
Of course, moms, who are weaning younger children, who have either not eaten solid foods yet or have only tried a limited number of foods, must be cautious. They don't want to use anything for which the baby might be allergic. Use common sense and consult a doctor first.
2 Get Advice
Sometimes moms feel like they are navigating motherhood all alone. But it doesn't have to be like that. Moms should talk to lactation professionals, doctors, and especially other moms, including ones in their family, to seek advice on this journey. Find out what methods they suggest using to both start and stop breastfeeding.
Discover how they deal with a fussy baby as breastfeeding comes to an end. Ask about how they handled the emotional aspect of giving up breastfeeding and the bitter-sweet feelings that come with it. Talk about the judgment and the worries. Share your sentiments and ideas.
Moms should have an exchange of dialogue to help them both cope with the change and figure out how to physically stop milk production.
1 Mama Needs To Love Herself
Many moms feel guilty for wanting to stop breastfeeding, especially if they quit before the recommended year. But breastfeeding is not for everyone. It's hard, and it can be painful. Women, who work, have a hard time being able to pump and keep up with it.
Then, they tend to beat themselves up for not following through on the promise they made to themselves. They feel as though they are hurting their baby. Worst of all, often, others judge them, and they recognize the raised eyebrows. Moms need to realize that deciding to quit, even if it's soon - far sooner - than the recommended time, is not the end of the world. There's nothing wrong with it.
Plenty of babies get fed only formula, and they survive. Nobody has the right to judge anyone else. Moms have to give themselves a break. Take it from a mom, Whitney Fisch, who writes in Huffington Post about her struggle to come to terms with her inability to breastfeed her baby.
"Instead of becoming an advocate for breastfeeding, I became an advocate for just letting every mother do what they know is right for their baby," she writes. "I hesitated the first couple times I mixed up some formula for her in public for fear of what other moms would think. But, I got over myself quickly.
I will never get back those precious first weeks with my newborn. I spent those weeks in an unnecessary downward spiral of shame and guilt when I could have been connecting and loving my child and myself. It’s a lesson I will take with me every day."