How to stop breastfeeding: A handy guide to weaning

How to stop breastfeeding: a handy guide to weaning | Mum's Grapevine

It’s been quite the journey, and now breastfeeding your little milk monster is down to just one or two feeds, most likely just for comfort.

At some stage, the breastfeeding story does come to an end. Whatever the reason behind weaning, there’ll be a transition period for both you and your child, and a bit of adjustment for you both. So we asked our lactation consultant, Lynne-McKensey Hall to walk us through the best way to stop breastfeeding.

“The end of the breastfeeding story”: The title implies to me that while your baby might be happy to keep going, the breastfeeding is pretty much down to the odd one or two which are quick and more for a cuddle than a real need for food. So here is how to help your child with the end of your breastfeeding journey.

1. Use a cup

I’m a big fan of cups with straws that babies can generally use from about four months of age with water (or milk) so they don’t need to transition to a bottle. However, having a drink bottle can also be useful. Having the cup on hand is a very useful tool to distract a baby from breastfeeding.

2. Be prepared

Have food ready so that when you would be breastfeeding – you have interesting food they really love, ready to go. This distracts the baby and fills their tummy and lessens their interest in you. Have the cup with water handy to quench thirst at the same time.

3. Distraction is key

I watched our grandson lose the last feed he had before bedtime. He was fed in his high chair with the cup handy. He would then have a bath and a story and a cuddle and be given a bottle of warm water with his dummy to go to bed. Anytime he looked as if he wanted a breastfeed, we distracted him as quickly as we could.

Blueberries were and still are his favourite fruit and I happily admit to having lots on hand to help with the distraction. As a one-year-old, he didn’t need the breastfeed replaced with formula or cow milk and warm water in a bottle worked well.

4. Provide other comforts

His dad did the first few nights and if you have someone else who can replace you at this time it can be helpful. There were no tears as daddy stayed with him in the dark until he settled to sleep. After a few days, our daughter was able to put him to sleep without breastfeeding.

There were a couple of glitches and he did have a couple of feeds if and when he got very upset but I think that was more because he was a little later than usual eating and going to bed and became overtired.

5. Slowly does it

If you do have a couple of feeds that need to be stopped, I suggest going with the one you think will be the easiest to drop first. The fewer tears and anxiety with this feed can make it easier to drop the next feed.

I hope it goes easily for you. Keep everything calm, lots of favourite food or toys to distract your little one, something to take to bed either a bottle/cup/dummy – anything that makes it easy and tear-free. It can take a few nights and maybe longer than a week but lots of cuddles and another pair of hands to help you as much as the baby is always worthwhile if you can.

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Lynne-McKensey Hall is an internationally certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) working as Lactation Consultant and Endorsed Midwife in Sydney. She specialises in antenatal breastfeeding and birth classes and ongoing breastfeeding support. She consults via Better Beginnings in-home, in her clinic and via Skype or FaceTime anywhere in Australia or overseas.