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What are the Best Tips for Weaning After Breastfeeding?

By Angela Johnson
Updated May 17, 2024
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Weaning after breastfeeding can be a time of transition and adjustment for a mother and her baby. Many tips can help the mother and baby go through this experience with the least amount of discomfort. Gradually cutting back the number of feedings, introducing a bottle or cup as a replacement, and expressing milk when breasts become engorged can all help to complete the process of weaning after breastfeeding smoothly.

Some individuals suggest that following babies' cues can be helpful in determining the right time to wean. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of two years, though some mothers may decide to wean their babies much earlier. Determining when weaning after breastfeeding should occur may be based on a number of individual factors, including scheduling, need, and mother and child preferences.

The length of time the weaning process may take also depends on a number of variables. Sometimes, illness, work, or other factors require that weaning be completed immediately. These circumstances are rare and usually cannot be avoided. If this is the case, replacing breastfeeding with a bottle or pacifier may help to soothe the baby.

If a child is weaned abruptly, he or she may be fussy or difficult to soothe at first. The mother may also experience discomfort due to engorged, painful breasts. When possible, weaning slowly and offering other stimulation and alternatives to the breast may make the process easier. Sippy cups and solid foods can be offered if the child is old enough to handle them. Otherwise, bottles filled with formula, expressed breastmilk, or other replacements can be offered. Sugary drinks are not recommended.

A slow, gradual process of weaning after breastfeeding may be preferable to some mothers, as they find gradually reducing the number of feedings over time to be easier than weaning abruptly. Beginning with the least regimented time, usually when the child is not preparing to nap or go to bed, may be the easiest to eliminate. Once the child has adjusted to one eliminated feeding, the mother can begin to eliminate others. It is typically recommended to leave the last nighttime feeding for the end of the weaning process. The nighttime feeding can sometimes be the most difficult to eliminate. Replacing this feeding with another special bonding ritual, such as cuddling or reading a book, can make the transition easier.

Some mothers experience emotions such as depression and anxiety when weaning after breastfeeding. These mothers may have difficulty separating from the special bonding breastfeeding allows with their child. Though weaning slowly may help to reduce this possibility, the mother may also benefit from finding other ways to bond with her child.

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