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Baby Led Vs. Mommy Led Weaning

Katlyn Joy |22, August 2014


When to wean your baby from the breast is a question for your family to decide. For some, you have set a date or age and had this in mind from the very beginning. For others, you might see how it all goes and decide when there is about to be a big change, such as you returning to work, or another baby on the way. And then there are the families who wait for signs that their baby is ready to move on, and give up nursing.

While experts advise nursing for the first months of life exclusively, and then continuing to nurse after solids are introduced for the first year of life, there are variations and different needs for different families.

For someone whose family tree is packed with allergy-prone people, nursing towards the longer end of the spectrum may be best. For moms who are having children close together, nursing too long may overlap with the next baby's gestation. Decide without guilt what is best for you and your baby.

If you decide it's time to wean baby away from the breast, you need to help your baby get ready for the big change. Don't go cold turkey; wind down nursing gradually if at all possible. This will you're your baby adjust more easily, and will also be easier on your breasts! You don't want to experience engorgement, with sore breasts that seem more like boulders.

Start by cutting out the least important nursing session of the day. Once he/she manages that without much fussiness, you can eliminate another nursing session. Eventually, he/she will only be breastfeeding once a day, and that will probably be the nighttime nursing. This will be the most difficult one to break.

To ease the process, build a routine where baby associates more things with bedtime than just nursing. Give a warm bath, a story with cuddles, a special song or nightlight. Hold your baby in a different place than he was breastfed. Also, try to hold your baby in a different position. If you sit in the rocking chair, with baby nestled close, it will only remind her of breastfeeding. He/she can also smell the milk, so try to eliminate as many associations as possible.

Let Dad help out especially at bedtime to try to make it less trying on you both. He can snuggle and rock, and read and sing without reminding your baby of your nursing times.

If you are wanting to wait for signs from baby that he is ready to give up nursing, look out for simple refusal to nurse. Your baby may be too busy to nurse, and decide to play with a toy instead. If you are feeding solids, giving baby a meal at a typical nursing time may be a good idea, too.

Your baby may nurse for a bit, then sort of hang at the nipple and look around the room. He/she may seem bored or disinterested. If so, go ahead and engage him/her in another activity.

Some babies begin tugging at the breast or biting. While this may just be a temporary behavior, it may also be another sign baby isn't really wanting to nurse then. Don't allow your baby to use you as a teething ring, regardless. Simply insert your finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to break the suction, and say a firm and rather loud, "No!"

If your baby has dropped yet another nursing session from the day, and you are feeling sad, try not to dwell on what you are leaving behind, but rather what you have to look forward to with baby. Use that usual time for tummy time play, or teaching baby songs and fingerplays. Just because you aren't breastfeeding, doesn't mean you won't have tender moments, or plenty of hugs and kisses now.

Be glad for the time you and baby had together, whether you have to wean or baby is insisting upon it. You did a great thing for baby, and it's an investment you can't replace. But now it's on to bigger and more exciting adventures together.

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