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So You Want to Stop Breastfeeding – Specific Techniques to Wean Your Baby

Updated on October 29, 2008
Photo: RaphaelGoetter, Flickr
Photo: RaphaelGoetter, Flickr

Breastfeeding is an emotional topic. It seems that whatever idea is dominant at the time in history – whether that be anti-breastfeeding or pro-breastfeeding – women who go against the grain are villified and judged. Today we are told to breast feed exclusively for a year or more and while many women are successful with this, others are not. It’s in nobody’s interest to make mothers feel guilty. Whether you tried breastfeeding and are need to stop, or your child is ready to wean, these techniques to stop breastfeeding may help.


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Mixing Breast Milk Into Formula

One great way to wean a breastfeeding baby (especially when you have to return to work) is to mix formula into the breast milk. Many women find they can pump some breast milk even on lunch and breaks at work. This will provide enough milk to mix with the formula so that the baby gets used to the difference in flavor and consistency gradually. Over time you can slowly increase the amount of formula mixed in with the breast milk. By the time your milk supply is totally depleted your baby should have no problem making the switch to 100% formula.

Feedings & Feeders

Another way to wean your baby off the breast is to alternate feedings between breast and bottle. It helps to have someone else give the bottle if you can. Babies are less likely to take the bottle from their mothers because they know something else is available! Starting with one feeding a day, give the bottle. Some women eventually work into a schedule where they do a morning and evening feeding on the breast and use the formula/breast milk mixture in the bottle for everything else.

Older Children May Wean on a Cup

Many mothers find that although their older baby will not take a bottle or pacifier, they will drink from a sippy cup. There’s nothing wrong with drinking formula and/or milk from a cup if the child is ready. Give it a shot – what do you have to lose? 

Cabbage Leaves Provide Relief  

You can call it an old wives tale if you want, but I’ve heard it too many times to discount it. Besides, those old wives didn’t get that way by being dumb! If you want to alleviate the engorgement that comes when you stop breastfeeding, wrap your breasts in raw cabbage leaves (cold from the refrigerator or freezer). Then put on the tightest bra you can stand. Keep your breast pads handy to absorb the leakage. Change the cabbage leaves after they wilt. Many women have had their milk dry up in just days using this method.

The most important thing is to have faith in yourself and your instincts. Women have been having babies, feeding them, and weaning them for thousands of years. They did all this long before there were doctors, consultants, and books to tell them what to do. I’m betting they didn’t all follow the same formula  - so to speak! Get all the information, use your own judgment, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for your choice!



Submit a Comment
  • poweranni profile image

    Anne Gillingham 

    4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

    The idea that we should have a little ball and chain tethered to our nipples until the child is ready to wean is absurd. Some kids would take the breast all the way until they go to college, if given the choice. I am exaggerating but you get my drift. Others obviously loose interest at more appropriate times. Prolonged breastfeeding, for better or for worse, does not gel with the way our culture has evolved. It is actually quite awkward for a mother who gets funny looks "you are STILL breastfeeding?" and it also might inhibit the type of independence that at some point, the child is going to have to accept, like it or not. Frankly, the reasons you listed that come down to "I've had enough" are also valid. Women have different lifestyles, sensibilities, preferences, health situations, emotional wiring and financial situations, and until we walk a mile in somebody else's shoes, it is seriously best to butt out. I also think that a lot of lactation advocates misunderstand the reasons for why some less technologically developed cultures breastfeed to a late age. They might be doing it, simply because it is the most efficient way to get nutrition into the body of a 3 or 4 year old. People who live in a state of chronic food shortages would be foolish to wean any earlier than they have to. If their economy and lifestyles gave them affordable access to formula, microwave ovens and sterile bottles, perhaps they would prefer to bottle feed. It is not like any of these outspoken breastfeeding advocates have ever taken the time to ask. Don't get me wrong: I support breastfeeding 100%. But I too, resent the guilt and the hype that comes along with some of the parenting theories that coast under the wings of this larger issue.

  • Leisa St Ledger profile image

    Leisa St Ledger 

    10 years ago from Australia

    Great Hub Lela. I've always been a fan of breast feeding and giving my kids the healthiest start I can. I breast fed all 3 for arounf 12 months. There are just so many benefits to breast feeding and if you can do it, I would highly recommend you do.


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