I have to stop, but how? The best way to stop breastfeeding
Breastfeeding a baby is perhaps one of the richest experience for a mom. However, there comes a time when one has to consider weaning the baby, and it can be for a variety of reasons. Whether you are getting back to work or starting off solids for your baby, for whatever reason, weaning a baby can be daunting to some mothers.
Pediatricians recommend breastfeeding babies exclusively for 6 months and then suggest continuing to breastfeed till the mother and baby are comfortable with it. On an average, most mothers tend to breastfeed their babies till they are 1 or 2.5 years old, though some mothers may continue further than that too. After six months, the baby’s body undergoes developmental spurts and starting external food is a good idea. This can be in form of solids or formula milk. So what is the best way to stop breastfeeding?
Stages to follow to stop breastfeeding
It is always good to wean a baby slowly in stages. Abruptly stopping breastfeeding can be traumatic to the baby as well as the mother. Weaning should occur gradually over a period of few weeks. The best way is to follow the following stages, just as I did:
- Start by slowing eliminating one feed at a time.
This should be the feed when you feel that your baby is not interested in the feed and you can replace this one with formula or external milk. You can either start with the bottle or use a sipper.
- Remember that you may find it difficult as your body adjusts to the skipped schedule, breast engorgement is common while weaning. It usually takes the breasts 2 to 7 days to become soft and comfortable
- As soon as your breast adjust, stop one more feed, again when you feel your baby is not very fussy and is ready to take external feed
- Again, give your body some time to adjust to this second elimination
- Continue replacing every breastfeed with a bottle of formula or cup of milk until you wean your baby completely. It is the best to keep the last feed for early morning, when your breasts usually have a lot of milk or late in the evening, when your baby is ready to sleep, letting him/her soothe to sleep.
- It usually takes weeks or sometimes, even months for the babies to stop breastfeeding completely. Do not rush the process.
Following these stages just makes it easier for the baby to adapt and adjust to the new food schedule and makes it easy for us as we lower our milk production slowly.
How can i make it easier for the baby
Babies may resist stopping breastfeeding. Some babies adapt quickly to a bottle or sipper, while some babies refuse to take it. The easiest way to start solids or external feed is to take it one step at a time.
To start off, let your baby finish a full feed of breastmilk and just before it ends, start by giving him/her some external feed, whether it is solids or formula. Ensure that the portion size is small and the baby does not get very overwhelmed by it. Introduce new food and different textures, but continue breastfeeding.
Once the baby gets used to the external feed, try to introduce the food earlier. You could start off by feeding her some breastmilk and then switching over to the external feed so that the baby gets his/her nutrients from the external feed. Do not force feed the baby, but do not give up either.
After the baby is accepting external feed, try to stop breastfeeding completely. Try and continue the early morning feed or the late night feed if you want to continue to do it. I continued breastfeeding my baby in the late night, just before putting her to sleep. It was soothing for her and was easy for me, to feed her and put her to sleep.
The best way to start weaning is to look for signs from your baby. The baby will let you know subtly that he/she is ready for starting external food. He/she may take a sudden interest in what everyone around them is eating, or will lose an interest in breastfeeding. These signs are indications that your baby is ready to commence the process of weaning.
Here are a few videos which will help you start the process of weaning.
My baby took about a month to get adjusted to the new schedule. Some days she would cry a lot and refuse to take any outside food. It would be frustrating but I continued to persevere and she adapted to the external feed eventually.
What happens to you when you stop breastfeeding
Each mom experiences different reactions when they stop breastfeeding. However, some of the common reactions include
- Mood changes:
Some mothers are anxious, while some are irritable, upset and tearful. The hormonal imbalances caused in the body often is seen in the form of mood swings. Another reason why you should stop breastfeeding gradually. The hormonal change occurs slowly making it easier for the body to adapt. If these mood swings become severe, do consult a doctor.
Breast engorgement due to excessive milk production is one of the most common complain which mothers have while they start the process of weaning. It takes time for the breasts to dry up completely and if the engorgement gets very painful, do make it a point to consult a doctor.
In breastfeeding mothers, mastitis is caused due to a build-up of milk inside the breasts. While this can happen even as you are breastfeeding your child, when you start weaning, due to excessive milk build up, there are chances of it occurring as well. The best way to avoid this is to stop breastfeeding in phases.
- Return of the menstrual cycle:
In most mothers, the menstrual cycle does not occur when they are exclusively breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is, in fact, a well-known way of birth control. When you start the process of weaning, be prepared for your menstrual cycle to commence.
- Breast size reduces to pre-pregnancy size:
Once the milk-making cells stop producing milk, the breast size returns to the pre-pregnancy size.
- Expressing your milk:
In case you suffer from engorgement, often expressing out your milk works well. You can always store the milk for later use, or even give it away to a breast milk bank.
- Wearing the right bra:
Weaning often causes breast size to vary, and it is important to invest in a good, firm, well-fitting and supportive bra, which has an allowance for adjustments as the breast size changes. Leakages are common and you can use a breast-pad to help prevent leakages.
I suffered from engorgement as well as mood swings when I started weaning my baby. Thankfully, I had a wonderful doctor who gave me the right advice and I was able to get back to normal soon.
What happens if my baby refuses to stop breastfeeding
The key to stopping breastfeeding is to be patient. Some babies are just not ready to accept external feed, and the best way to tackle this is to be patient. Some of the ways you can try are
- Soothe the baby in some other way, like cuddling, or singing to the baby
- If your toddler is asking for a feed, then speaking to him/her works. Postpone the feed by letting the toddler know that he/she needs to wait until bedtime for the feed.
- Start the process of weaning when you and your child are ready for it. Be in a positive frame of mind and don’t start the process when the baby is sick or you are anxious about something else.
The best way to stop breastfeeding your baby is just to take it slowly. Take it one feed at a time and remember that weaning requires a lot of patience. For a baby used to exclusively being breastfed, weaning is a completely new experience and he/she may resist it. Taking it one feed at a time and introducing formula via bottle or sipper, will make it more comfortable for the baby. Introduce new types of food, tastes, and textures, but only one at a time.
The baby will definitely give you indications when he/she is ready to stop breastfeeding. No matter what, always remember to start the process when you and the baby are comfortable with it and do not succumb to any societal pressure.
Do you have any experiences which you can share with our readers about stopping breastfeeding? What method worked for you and your baby? Do let us know in the comments section so that our readers can enrich their knowledge.