How will I know when it is time to stop breastfeeding?
Weaning your breastfeeding baby is truly a personal choice that may be made for a variety of reasons. This list offers some of the most common reasons moms begin the weaning process; you may find some of your own thoughts listed below. Lets take a look at it the decision to wean from two different perspectives: first, from mom’s point of view and then from baby’s perspective.
Mommy Scenario #1
When mommy starts thinking: “Breastfeeding is taking too much of my time.”
Some infants love nursing and could spend every waking minute on the breast. When a mother can’t find any time to be with her child without having him or her on the breast, it might be a time to wean down, not necessarily quit, and try something new.
Mommy Scenario #2:
When mom says, “I haven’t slept more than 2 hours in a row in months!”
It may be time to consider slowing down at night and begin to offer the occasional bottle.
Mommy Scenario #3:
When mommy thinks, “I hate leaking at work and feeling uncomfortably full.”
When a back-to-work routine hinders mom’s ability to pump and nurse, it may be time to slow down milk production during the day. Plan to keep the morning, evening and nighttime feedings until you’re ready to stop completely.
Mommy Scenario #4:
When mom realizes she is ready to get back into her regular lifestyle and routines.
At some point, mom should begin going out and getting back into regular routines, such as going to the gym, special events and parties. However, she must also understand that the quality of her milk may be compromised from these kinds of activities and changes to her schedule. Weaning should be considered if this begins to occur, so an alternative source of nutrition can be identified as soon as possible. This could include frozen milk, formula, goat’s milk or safe donor-milk, and finally, solid foods.
Mommy Scenario #5
When Mommy is thinking, “Baby will only sleep in our bed because he or she only sleeps when on or near the breast.”
This is a sign it might be time to stop night and nap nursing. Sleeping and nursing are not supposed to be linked together after the first 3 to 4 months of life, or after baby is 12-15 lbs. in age-appropriate weight.
If baby can only sleep with nursing, it may be time to look into some kind of sleep organization training.
You do not have to use the cry-it-out method. There are many ways to help your baby learn how to self soothe and calmly go to sleep.
Mommy Scenario #6
When mom realizes, “My clothes don’t fit!”
It could be time to gently wean and get back to pre-pregnancy size. Choose the easiest feeds to drop out, one at a time and talk to your baby so he or she knows where you’re going with this new feeding schedule.
Mommy Scenario #7
When mom and dad start thinking about having another baby.
If you are planning to have another child, continuing to breastfeed or start weaning is a good topic to discuss with your health care professional. He or she will be able to make suggestions for the safety of a new pregnancy and whether or not it is a good idea to continue nursing.
Mommy Scenario #8
When mom says, “I am so over being in pain and taking course after course of antibiotics.”
If mom is suffering with frequent instances of plugged ducts and breast infections, it could be time to consider weaning. When mom is taking antibiotics, baby is exposed to the medication too. Discuss this issue with your healthcare professional and explore the options.
If at any time, mom feels sleep deprived, nutritionally deprived or cannot recover from an illness in a typical time period, it may be a sign that her immune system is suppressed more than normal and this can have a significant effect on the production of milk. Weaning may be the best way for mom to get back to optimal health.
Baby Scenario #1
Baby is sleeping for longer than usual and may not be eating enough.
Eventually, baby begins to sleep for longer periods of time. But, mom and dad often think baby isn’t eating enough, so they continue to wake their sleeping baby for feeding sessions. This pattern is not ideal for baby or for parents. A discussion with a lactation consultant or the pediatrician will determine the best steps for moving forward with a new schedule for everyone.
Baby Scenario #2
When the baby starts pushing off the breast, turning away or refusing to go into a nursing position.
Sometimes baby may be done with the breast, but mom still needs or wants that special nursing time together. It may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.
Baby Scenario #3
Mom has weaned some but not all nursing sessions.
When mom has weaned all daytime feedings and only nurses in the morning and at night, baby may start to reject the breast at either or both of the feedings, or prefer to bottle feed. It might be time to think about pumping only in the AM and PM, or begin the weaning process.
There are so many reasons moms consider weaning. We’ve given you just a few, but not all possible reasons. In fact, it may not be time to wean but it might be an opportunity to recalibrate and re-evaluate everyone’s needs.
As baby gets older and more independent, it is always best to follow baby’s lead. Baby-led weaning is ideal, when possible, and is usually the best time to make the transition to solid foods.
Looking for more guidance on weaning your baby? Become a member and one of the lactation consultants on our team can help.