There is something inherently special about the bond between a mother and her baby. Science can try to explain this with all it’s jargon, lingo, and biological findings, but really it’s something that can’t be explained until it is felt.
When a baby is first born, one of the first things that will happen is mom holding the baby and locking eyes. In this gaze, an amazing connection is formed and becomes the foundation for motherhood. You don’t have to search too hard for a mom saying that was the most amazing moment of her life.
The next step in the bond between mom and baby is breastfeeding. This is literally a lifeline connection whereby mom continues giving nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to her baby. She has already been doing this while baby was hanging out in the womb, via the umbilical cord, but now it is happening externally.
Again, it’s a pretty special moment for moms when their baby takes their first drink. Despite the tenderness of the breasts and the swelling around that area thanks to the milk production, this is generally something wonderful for new moms. Perhaps it is even more special because moms know it isn’t going to last forever.
Weaning the baby off of breastmilk is one of the first steps towards giving them an independent life. Babies becomes kids and kids become adults, and adults eventually have to learn to feed themselves. It’s a natural progression, yet the initial weaning phase can be so difficult.
This transition from breastfeeding to solids takes both a physical and emotional toll for both mom and baby. There is no right or wrong time to do it, but typically moms starts weaning their babies around 4 or 5 months. Prepare yourself the best you can with some handy tips on how to convince your baby that breastmilk is old fashioned and a thing of the past now.
15 Make A Song And Dance Out Of The Bottle
Now let’s be clear we mean this is the most literal way possible. Having bottled milk or solid food in replacement of breastfeeding should come with all the bells and whistles. This instinctively makes youngsters react to it in a positive way, and make the transition away from breastmilk all the easier.
When it comes to bottle feeding or solid snack time, you can literally make it into a song and dance. This is true whether your child is 5 months or 18 months old, depending when they’re ready to wean.
When preparing the non-breastmilk meal, actually dance around. Kids love that stuff. Make them giggle, make them smile, release every endorphin possible in them through creating a fun atmosphere. When your child is eating solids or drinking out the bottle, have some soft, reassuring, and enjoyable music playing in the background. Cute nursery rhymes and boppy kids' songs that are catchy and refreshing should do the trick.
14 Strategise The Timing Of Snacks
Some things in life are all about timing, and this is certainly true for weaning a baby off of breastmilk. There are some right times to this, and some times that just won’t work quite as effectively.
Up until now, you’ve been breastfeeding your baby 7 to 9 times a day up until weaning starts. This means that there is plenty of scope to look closely at the timing of breastmilk meals that are going to be dropped.
Generally speaking, it is best to start with cutting out the evening breastmilk meals and getting your child used to the idea of dinner. The reason for this is that right after eating, you can establish a solid routine. For instance, night time routine can become a tasty meal, a soothing bath, and then story time before bed. These things can transition nicely together, and since you and/or your partner will be present throughout each activity, baby will be less anxious and confused without the breastmilk.
13 See What Baby Is Interested In
By the time it is time to say goodbye to breastmilk, baby is probably communicating better than mom realises. They have a way of letting adults know what they want, even though there are no verbal words coming out of their little mouth.
Babies communicate predominately through body language. Through eye contact, hand motions, and facial expressions, you can get a good sense of what your baby is interested in. This is particularly true for breastfeeding.
Given the amount that you’re breastfeeding before weaning, sometimes through the day baby is going to be super interested in suckling, and other times might want to do something else. This can happen if you interrupt an activity, such as tummy time or a music session, to feed. As soon as your baby is more interested in something else and not actively seeking your nipple, let them enjoy that activity for as long as possible and sneakily introduce some solids or a bottle in there once they do get hungry.
12 Use The Old Pacifier Trick
Just like Maggie Simpson in the classic yellow-skinned family cartoon, having a pacifier literally does sooth and, well, pacify a baby. Babies get a lot of comfort out of the sucking motion, especially when breastfeeding requires this sucking motion in exchange for nutrients and vitamins.
Depending on what strategy you are using for weaning, the pacifier can come into play at different times. For example, if you are using gradual weaning whereby you cut out one breastfeed at a time, introducing your baby to some solid food followed by giving them a pacifier to suck on can ease the transition. Another way to get baby off the breastmilk is to express the milk and pour it into a bottle. This way baby is still getting to suck at something and still getting the same taste, but moving step by step away from the actual nipple. This is a smoother transition both physically and emotionally.
11 Acknowledge The ‘Perfect Time’ As A Guideline
Like with anything, when it comes to parenting it is important to be informed. However, no amount of knowledge is going to surpass the understanding between mom and baby, especially when it comes to weaning.
There are many different strategies and approaches to weaning that ought to be acknowledged by moms. These strategies come with ideal time markers, but these really are just guidelines. Just because one article says a baby must be child-led weaned by age 2.5, doesn’t mean it has to happen smack bang on your toddlers 2.5 month anniversary.
Weaning is a long process that can start and end at different stages for everyone. You can choose to let your child lead the weaning process, or you can instigate it yourself. You can opt for partial weaning and express breastmilk into a bottle for some time, or you can go with gradual weaning and cut out breastfeeds one by one. At the end of the day, it is totally up to you and what feels right between you and your baby. Read the advice, but take everything as a guideline, not a solid rule.
10 Don't Hesitate To Delegate
There is one thing that new moms struggle with, and this is asking for helping or accepting it when it is offered. This is understandable, but also ridiculous. When someone offers to change the baby’s diaper, let them. When someone wants to cuddle the baby and let him or her fall asleep in their arms, let them. When someone asks to feed the baby a bottle, let them.
This latter point is actually really useful in the transition away from breastfeeding. Of course, it can go against motherly instincts to do everything for your baby. But you’re actually doing them a massive favour in teaching your baby to trust others in vulnerable times. They can always rely on you, but they have to trust other people as well.
And besides, take the break when it's given to you. Motherhood is hard, after all. Let someone else feed baby (especially your mom, other mom friends, or a grandma who have done it all before) and put your feet up. You’re allowed to that.
9 Remember Baby Is Most Needy At Night
It makes sense that baby feels most vulnerable during the night time. This is when they wake up in the dark and their senses have to adapt to different light changes. We all feel a little vulnerable waking up at night time, anyway. This is really true for baby, especially when they are hungry little tykes.
For this reason, it is a good idea to cut out day time feeds first. Breastfeeding during the night time are the last ones that should be cut out. It is standard for a baby to need night time feeds. Not only do they provide nutrition, but also reassurance and comfort from mom. It is also an instinct for mom to get up through the night and check on baby anyway. There is some evidence to suggest that the breasts are most full overnight, too.
However, after the age of 18 months, night feeds should be cut out. By this point, you’re going to walk to let your breasts rest through the night anyway!
8 Make The Goods Less Accessible
This is something that is more relevant if mom is dealing with a toddler who can’t give up the goods. Now, there is nothing exactly wrong with a toddler still breastfeeding, but it is a good idea to get the weaning process underway at this point. Toddlers should be down to just one, if not two, breastfeeds a day.
The problem with toddlers is that they have words and gross motor skills. This can make them more demanding than a 5 month old baby. For example, a toddler can physically grab at the breasts because they know that where the tasty milk comes from.
Something you can do is wearing clothes that literally make your breasts less accessible. Having high necked topped, loose flowing dresses, or things that do up at the back will actually make it less appealing for toddlers. If the breasts stand out less in your outfit, toddlers are less likely to notice them. Then again, you can always use the ‘eyes up here’ strategy with them, too!
7 Understand And Deal With The Emotions
Weaning a baby or toddler off of breastmilk is actually quite emotional for moms, more so than many realise. There is nothing wrong with experiencing an array of emotions when the child starts weaning and needing breastmilk less and less. In fact, it is totally natural.
It is really important, as soon as you start the weaning process, that you start to process your emotions effectively. This means identifying why you feel sad about no longer breastfeeding and how it impacts your future. The fact that your baby no longer needs breastmilk is a good thing, meaning you’ve raised a healthy and progressive baby thus far. But this can seem like little consolation.
Some things you can do include keeping a journal of the weaning process and writing down your thoughts, talking to your own mom or close friends who are also moms, about it, or taking photos and documenting the positives of your baby eating his or her first solids.
6 Jam Pack The Nutrients
Now that baby is chowing down solids, it is important that they have the same amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as that wholesome breastmilk had, if not more. Breastmilk is super healthy and filling for baby’s bellies, so solids have a lot of competition.
A good combination is giving your baby a bottle of milk, with added protein powder or something similar, in addition to a small meal. This way they get plenty in their belly. When it comes to vegetables, a combination of steamed carrots, broccoli, or potatoes pureed together packs a lot in one meal. With some added spinach, baby is getting just about all the important things in one. The same can be done with desserts in terms of bulking it up. Consider adding chia seeds to soft fruit purees or making a chia pudding, as these little seeds have so much protein and nutrients to create a feeling of fullness for longer.
5 Invest In Super Fun Cups
Again, this one is more aimed at toddlers who are weaning, but can also be relevant to babies 6 months and up. Well, really, everyone loves a super fun cup that is full of colours and patterns, even adults.
Having a fun cup that is special for your child makes them really excited about drinking out of it. Picture a colourful cup with cute images of animals, or even an animal shape on it. Cups that have handles or straws are even better for developing motor skills. If you can get a cup that makes noise or has buttons to push or different kinaesthetic textures, then you’re ticking even more boxes.
All these things are incentives for a child to take a drink. Give them complete ownership of the cup and make them feel responsible for it. Remind them how they are so lucky to use such a cool cup because they are becoming so grown up and mature. These things will make your child feel special and proud in the weaning process.
4 Make The Chest Region As Unappealing As Possible
It is the chest region that baby wants, but after a certain time it is the chest region that baby can’t have. Babies are actually scientifically programmed in their developing brain to be drawn to their mom’s scent. This is especially true for the scent of the nipple and breast.
There are some recipes that you can make at home to create a gentle weaning process. For example, chopping up a fine clove of garlic and mixing it with olive oil, letting this sit for a few hours before straining out the garlic, and then rubbing this on the nipples will really turn baby away from your breasts. Reapplying about twice a day and spending lots of time cuddling during transitions from breast to bottle work very effectively. Not only is this a natural and healthy solution, the oil is also great for soothing your nipples and softening the skin!
3 Weigh Up The Pros And Cons Of ‘Cold Turkey’
Like with anything going ‘cold turkey’, cutting out a major routine comes with its pros and cons. For weaning, there is a lot to consider on both ends of the spectrum with this strategy.
For instance, weaning a baby when you’re ‘supposed’ to do it, regardless of what events are going on around you, can be quite disastrous. If you have a special occasion coming up on your baby’s 5 month anniversary and desperately want them weaned at 5 months, think carefully about how this is going to affect baby’s mood and feelings for the special occasion.
It is easier to go cold turkey with toddlers who you can have a conversation with. For example, explaining to a toddler that they can’t have any more milk because ‘it’s all dried up’ is going to sit a lot better than trying to rationalise with a screaming 6 month old who doesn’t have those cognitive processes working yet. Cold turkey is very circumstantial and situational, and something that mom will know best about.
2 Trust Baby’s Instincts On This One
There is a lot to be said about mom’s instincts and baby’s instincts when it comes to the weaning process. Like how we said earlier that baby’s are communicating more than moms realise, it is a time that is really important to listen to what baby wants.
If your baby isn’t ready to wean at 5 months old, then they are trying to tell you something. Their natural instincts are letting you know that they still crave and require the nutrients of your breastmilk. They aren’t doing it to be difficult or annoying or problematic, they are just trying to tell you they still need your help.
This is the time to ignore what people are saying about how easily their baby weaned at 5 months, without any trouble. That’s great for their baby. If your baby needs a bit longer, that is totally fine. Remember, milestones in baby’s development are guidelines and not a one-size-fits-all. Trust what your baby needs and keep providing for them until they are ready.
1 Distinguish Between Feeding Cuddles And Just Cuddles
This one basically all comes back to weaning baby with plenty of TLC. During breastfeeding sessions, wonderful moments of bonding, love, and care are shared between mom and baby. Just because breastfeeding is being taken out of the picture with weaning, doesn’t mean the love has to go anywhere.
One good way you can create a difference between cuddles during breastfeeding and regular loving cuddles is to have separate spaces around the home. For example, having a chair specifically designed for breastfeeding helps baby understand what goes on there. Then, cuddles anywhere else in the house are just cuddles. Also, having a ‘breastfeeding teddy’ for instance separates breastfeeding again. Playing the same song during breastfeeding and then a different song for cuddle time elsewhere helps to separate the two. What is most important is that you continue giving baby plenty of cuddles and love, even when you’ve stopped letting them have that tasty liquid gold.
Sources: Raisingchildren.net.au, Breastfeeding.asn.au, Babycentre.com, Alphamom.com