There are many reasons that a mom may be told she has to wean, or she may feel it is necessary. Most of those reasons are unfounded and breastfeeding can, and should, continue. Some of these misconceptions about having to wean, include:
The baby’s teeth begin to erupt**
The mother develops mastitis
The mother is planning on returning to work
The mother is prescribed a drug or needs to undergo some medical tests
Mother or baby is ill or hospitalized
The mother is pregnant
If you want to wean your baby because of any of the above reasons, please consult your counselor, a lactation consultant or your doctor. They will be able to help you continue to nurse under these circumstances.
If you want to or need to wean for other reasons, please see the guidelines below to help you.
GRADUAL WEANING – This is easiest for both mother and baby. Eliminate one feeding per day* no more often than every two or three days. This will allow the mother’s milk supply to decrease slowly, without fullness and discomfort.
PARTIAL WEANING – This allows the mother to eliminate one or more feedings a day*, yet still continue to breastfeed for the other feedings.
ABRUPT WEANING – Breastfeeding is stopped completely in one day. This is most difficult for mother and baby. This should be done with the help of your counselor, lactation consultant or doctor.
PLANNED WEANING – This is when the mother decides to stop breastfeeding before receiving cues from her baby that he is ready to stop. Follow the steps for a gradual weaning to make this transition better for mom and baby.
NATURAL WEANING – This is when the baby decides he no longer wants to breastfeed. This very rarely happens before the age of 1. Follow you baby’s cues and breastfeed as often or as little as he wants.
IMPORTANT! If the baby is younger than 1 year, you need to consult with the baby’s doctor about what to substitute for the breastmilk. If the baby is exclusively breastfeeding you will need to substitute formula-feeding(s) for the eliminated breastfeeding(s). If the baby drinks well from a cup and is eating other foods, you may be able to substitute other drinks and foods for the eliminated breastfeeding(s).
**Weaning is not necessary just because your baby is ready to get his first tooth. Keep in mind that a baby cannot bite while he is actively sucking. As a baby breastfeeds, the nipple is positioned far back in his mouth and his lips and gums are positioned about an inch behind the nipple on the areola. The baby’s tongue extends beyond the gums, under the breast and covering his lower teeth, making it impossible to bite while sucking. Most babies never even attempt to bite, but if your baby does, learn to anticipate and prevent the biting. Most biting occurs at the end of a feeding when the baby loses interest and is not actively nursing. Watch your baby and break the suction if you notice this loss of interest. Give your baby eye contact, touching and talking to make it less likely that he will bite to get your attention. Don’t force your baby to nurse if he has indicated that he is not really hungry or interested. If your baby bites as he falls asleep at the breast, anticipate this and remove him from the breast. If you notice that the sucking pattern changes from long, even sucks to short, choppy ones, or if you notice a playful look on the baby’s face, end the feeding. Your natural reaction to biting is to startle and take the baby off the breast. For many babies this reaction is enough to discourage them from ever biting again. If your baby is persistent, calmly and firmly say, “No,” end the feeding, and wait for at least a half hour before offering the breast again.Don’t expect your baby to bite, because most babies do not. If you do experience this problem, remember that it usually ends as suddenly as it began. Biting is a passing phase and not a reason to wean. Your breastmilk continues to be the perfect food for your baby, providing protective antibodies against illness, and all the ingredients necessary for his growth and development.