HoneyKids had a chat with experienced maternity nurse Madelena Sousa for tips on weaning baby off breastfeeding.
We get it. Breastfeeding ain’t easy – and we know this from experience. It’s not like we can rely on hubby for help in the middle of the night while bub is crying their head off – it’s something we gotta do all by our lonesome. Don’t even get us started on cluster feeding and the sleepless nights or having to pump at work.
We understand that at some point, for most mums, it starts to absolutely suck – literally – but weaning baby off breastfeeding isn’t exactly a piece of cake. That’s why we’ve consulted Madalena Sousa, a former nanny and an experienced maternity nurse. Thanks to her, many new mums and dads have settled in quite nicely with their new bub and learned the ins and outs of raising their bundle of joy, including setting routines and breastfeeding. HoneyKids recently had a chat with Madalena to get her insight on weaning baby off breastfeeding and how to make it easier for mums.
Hi Madalena! What are some things mums can try to wean baby off breastfeeding?
There are many ways to wean baby off the breast, however, what may work for one person may not work for another. There are a couple of things to take into consideration before choosing a method. But whichever method you decide on, do give yourself at least two to three weeks to fully wean baby off.
Method 1: Drop one feed every two to three days
I think this is one of the most gentle and least uncomfortable ways to wean baby off the breast. However, it will take longer to fully wean baby off. This method works best if you have an abundant milk supply and no deadline.
Method 2: Shorten feeds or cut feeds in half (if baby usually feeds for 20 minutes, shorten the feed to 10 minutes)
Ideally, you would have a supply of stored breastmilk or would have started offering formula. Start the feed by giving baby the bottle first, then offer your breast. Your baby will drink less as they won’t be as hungry. You’ll eventually start producing less breastmilk since there is less demand as well. This method works best if you have a good supply or if you feed on demand.
Method 3: Stop giving baby the breast aka going cold turkey
Going cold turkey is the quickest way but could also be the most painful, soI wouldn’t advise someone with an abundant or good supply to try this out (you could be at risk of mastitis). This method is better suited to someone who has a low supply and usually needs to offer a top-up of formula or one bottle per day.
Whichever method you choose, do take into account how much you currently produce and make a plan based on that so you can gradually slow down production. If you start to feel uncomfortable, you can use your breast pump (if you have one) and express some milk but try to keep this to a minimum. This should be your last resort.
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Why do you think it’s difficult to wean babies who are breastfed?
There are a few reasons why some babies find it hard to be weaned off breastfeeding. Maybe it’s because it’s all they’ve ever known. Maybe they don’t like the way the bottle teats are shaped. Maybe it’s because the bottle teat flows too fast or slow compared to mum’s breast. Maybe they don’t like the bitter taste of formula because it isn’t as sweet as mum’s milk.
For all the above reasons, there are solutions. If you decide you don’t want to breastfeed for a long time, I would start offering the bottle when bub turns four weeks old and give one to two bottle feeds of expressed breastmilk per week. Also, it’s important to assess your milk flow. If you have a fast flow but give baby a bottle with a slow-flow teat, it’s only natural that baby will prefer breastfeeding. If you feel like your baby doesn’t like the bottle because of the taste of formula, you could add a little breastmilk to the formula.
When do you think mums should start trying to wean their babies off the breast?
I don’t believe there is a specific time for mums when weaning babies off breastfeeding – it’s completely up to you! However, if say you want to stop breastfeeding before your baby turns one, I would advise introducing one bottle feed every couple of days from three to four months.
Which bottles are the easiest to transition to from breastfeeding?
In my opinion, if you’re bottle-feeding, it’s best to choose bottles that are anti-colic. However, if you start offering the bottle around six months, you might have to try a few different bottles, so plan ahead and have a couple of different bottles at home.
How do we choose a formula? What should we look out for ?
There are so many different formula brands out there, I feel it’s up to the parent to choose one that suits their ethos. However, I would suggest choosing a hypoallergenic one to start with since it’s easier for baby to digest.
When can kids drink cows’ milk? Is it even necessary?
Again, it’s up to each parent to decide, taking their personal beliefs into account. In Europe, children have cows’ milk from one year, and give typically two to three feeds of 150–180ml per day.
When do you think cup feeding be introduced? Is that a better alternative than a bottle?
Cup feeding is a good alternative, with a newborn who is struggling with latching on the breast and the parent does not wish to offer a bottle just yet. However, it isn’t very practical or doable long-term.
How do you wean baby safely without causing mastitis?
As mentioned, take your current breastfeeding status into account and choose a method that best suits you. When you start to feel very uncomfortable, express a little. Although, if you have had blocked ducts or mastitis in the past, you may have it again whilst weaning baby off. If you think you have mastitis, please see your doctor.
I’m worried that the bond between me and my baby will change – will it?
Just because you’ve stopped breastfeeding doesn’t mean your bond will change. Remember, you’ll still be feeding your baby, holding them close and meeting their emotional needs. You’re their mum and nothing will ever change that!
How will I be able to settle my child now that I’ve decided to wean them off? Isn’t it tough?
Of course you will! But it might take some getting used to, especially if they’ve been dependent on the breast to fall asleep. You might struggle to settle them without it the first few times, but give it time and stay confident that you eventually will.
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