Weaning is a normal process that babies go through after they begin to eat solid foods. It is a gradual decrease in feedings, as they begin to rely more on solid foods for their nutrition. If left to happen naturally, complete weaning from the breast usually occurs somewhere between two and three years of age, though some little ones find comfort in continuing the breastfeeding relationship for longer. In our modern world, however, women have a choice of how long they wish to breastfeed their babies. Often there are family, work or physical circumstances which limit the amount of time that a woman is able to breastfeed her baby. Weaning quickly can be an uncomfortable process. Deciding when and how you will wean and planning for the process will help the transition go smoothly.
When to Stop Breastfeeding?
The decision of when to stop breastfeeding your baby is entirely up to you. The World Health Organization recommends that a baby be exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of life, at which point solid foods can be introduced. They then recommend continuing to breastfeed in conjunction with solid foods until your child is two years or older. If this is possible for your family, it is the best choice for your baby; and we encourage you to continue breastfeeding as long as possible. However, each family has their own circumstances to consider when deciding how long to breastfeed. If you are dealing with a complicated work, family or health situation, or simply are unable to breastfeed, weaning to formula may be the healthy option for your family. See this article on choosing what we feel are the very best formulas to help your baby stay healthy.
How to Wean
There are several ways to wean a baby from the breast. When the time comes for your little one to wean, the following will help the transition to go more smoothly.
- Natural Weaning: If you are nursing an older baby or toddler and are able to wean naturally, it can be a slow and pleasant experience. Natural weaning occurs when your little one decreases the number feedings over time. After the first year, when your little one begins to eat regular meals, breastfeeding starts to centers around nap time, bed time, or when special comfort is needed. By 18 months to two years most little ones only nurse for long periods of time 2 to 3 times during the day; and may nurse for comfort here and there throughout the day. Decreasing comfort nursing and longer periods of nursing at nap and bedtime will naturally wean your baby. As the demand for milk decreases, your body will naturally slow production of milk. Most women find that when they are only nursing one or two times a day, they can comfortably stop nursing without the aid of anything to decrease their milk supply.
- Fast or Sudden Weaning: If your life circumstances have changed or you find yourself needing to wean faster, there are several things you can do to help make it a more comfortable process. No matter how you choose to do it, you will need to express, pump or continue to nurse as you wean. Do not allow milk to build up in your breasts to an overly uncomfortable level, as this can cause risk of mastitis infections.
- Pumping: If you are pumping your milk, you can gradually decrease the amount of times during the day that you are pumping. Within a week or two of doing this, your body will have naturally decreased the amount of milk you are producing. As with natural weaning, most women find that they can stop pumping once they have decreased to once or twice a day.
- Green Cabbage Leaves: As you decrease the number of times you pump or nurse, you can use green cabbage leaves to decrease your milk supply faster. You can use cabbage leaves chilled or at room temperature. Peel two leaves off of the head of cabbage and rinse and dry them. Then apply them to your breasts. They can be left in your bra until they have wilted. Do this several times a day.
- Sage: Taking the herb sage is also an effective way to dry up your milk. It can be taken by adding it to food, in capsules or as a tea. To use regular sage powder in food or capsules, take ¼ of a teaspoon 3 times a day until your milk production has ceased. If you would prefer a tea, you can steep 1 teaspoon of sage in hot water and then drink the tea 2-6 times a day. If you are taking any other medications or have health concerns, please contact your doctor before trying this weaning aid.
- Sudafed: Sudafed is an over the counter cold medication meant to help dry up mucus. Because of its effect on mucous secreting glands, it can also dry up your breastmilk. Take a normal dose once a day. If you are taking any other medications or have health concerns, please contact your doctor before trying Sudafed as a weaning aid.
If you have decided to wean your baby before he is ready to stop having a bottle, there are many good options for formula that will continue to nurture your baby’s growing body. We at "My Organic Formula" hope that you will look into our pure organic formulas to insure this process goes smoothly and your baby remains healthy. For more information see the links below: