Making the choice of when to start weaning off breastfeeding your infant is a struggle for many mothers. They are caught up in the mixed emotions of what is right for their baby, their own needs, and what everyone is telling them.
Weaning off breastfeeding can never be defined as a certain age, or certain developmental stage in your child’s life. The proper time comes down to only a couple simple items.
The first portion of the decision may come down to a lifestyle choice. Advocates of breastfeeding may hate to hear this, but sometimes our lives dictate change. If you have been breastfeeding through the first six months of your baby’s life and it is beginning to interfere with work and life you can make a choice to start weaning your baby. Plan on it being a gradual process.
The second portion of the decision comes down to your baby. Every baby has an internal clock which is going to be their own time to start the weaning process. If you are comfortable with continuing to breastfeed then watch your baby for clues. You will see them gradually decreasing the frequency they want the breast, and are more interested in solid food. This process can begin between 6 to 12 months, and sometimes as late as 18 months. As the process begins you can start offering more alternatives to speed the process if your desire.
One concern with weaning off breastfeeding is with the speed of the weaning. You can do it cold turkey but unless it is for a medical reason this produces major distress for both of you. The sudden removal of the breast will cause an unhappy baby, probably cause you to experience painful breast engorgement, and can lead to feelings of separation or depression in mothers.
The best method is to slowly reduce the frequency of breastfeeding and start offering more alternative choices. This can be in the form of more solid foods, formula in a glass, or even formula in a bottle. By reducing the frequency over several weeks it removes the stress on both of you making the transition easy and healthy.
If you are choosing to start weaning from breastfeeding because you are experiencing breast or nipple problems, but would really prefer to keep nursing, then you need to ask a few more questions. Many hospitals, pediatricians, and obstetricians can refer you to a lactation expert. This expert may be a nurse, doctor, or physicians assistant. They can give you great advice on how to overcome most problems and may delay your need for weaning.
When you have made the choice it is time to start weaning off breastfeeding it is always a good idea to replace the lost contact time with your baby with other activity. Start spending the same amount of time holding them reading books. Get down on the floor and play with them. Take them for a walk. Many times the greatest stress is not the change in diet, but the loss of attention. This is one problem you can remedy with ease. Weaning can be easy, if you just take time, and give it the proper thought.