The Gradual Wean: How to Stop Breastfeeding
Forget what everybody tells you, you're really the only one who knows when to stop breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding is a personal decision, nobody else's business but you and your baby's. If you need to stop breastfeeding, that means you have been breastfeeding for some period of time, and whatever that was - a week or a year - it was good enough. This article gives practical tips on how to stop breastfeeding. If you need more guidance about when to stop breastfeeding, read I Want to Stop Breastfeeding, Why Do I Feel So Guilty?.
The first thing you need to know about how to stop breast feeding is that there are many ways to approach it depending on your situation. It's important to note that in some cases, it's necessary to stop breast feeding due to a baby not gaining adequate weight, but this is relatively rare. Most women choose to stop breastfeeding for other reasons.
The Gradual Wean
Perhaps the easiest on you and the baby is to gradually move baby from breast to bottle. You can do this by cutting just one feeding at a time. Start with one or two feedings a week. (This is a great excuse to get out of the house and let someone else feed the baby!) The benefit of gradual cessation of breast feeding is that your milk production decreases slowly so that you don't become engorged and the baby had time to adjust to the flavor and experience of bottle feeding. You may want to consider building up a stock of breast milk to mix with formula if your baby seems averse to the flavor of formula.
Many women keep night feedings as long as possible, even when all other feedings are by bottle. Many working women find this to be a nice compromise to stopping breast feeding altogether, and for some people it works. A lot of women love that they can offer the breast once a day. Just remember that everyone's different and not all women's bodies will accommodate this schedule. Go easy on yourself, listen to your own body's cues, and do what feels right.
To relieve full breasts, pump or hand express just a little. Expressing small amounts of milk in place of a feeding will cause milk production to decrease and make you feel better. The less milk you remove, the quicker your body will adjust. One very simple way to take out just the right amount is to take a hot shower. Breasts will leak out the excess milk.
How Long Will It Take?
Interestingly, in my research I tried to find a quicker method of weaning and the advice I found was exactly the same! Therefore, you can go as slowly or as fast as is comfortable for you and your baby. If outside circumstances force you to wean faster than you'd like, that is just something you have to deal with. There really is no magic answer.
Relief For Engorged Breasts
No matter what you do, it's possible you'll suffer from a little breast engorgement. This will pass and fortunately there are some comforting actions you can take.
- Cool cloth or cabbage leaves - anything cold and flexible!
- Express just enough milk to relieve breast fullness, but not so much as to stimulate more production.
- Gently massage breast lumps in a warm shower.
- Never bind breasts. Contrary to popular myth, it does not help your milk to dry up. It can cause infections and plugged mild ducts.
- Some women say not to eat oatmeal when you have too much milk.
- Don't expect it to happen overnight.