All good things must come to an end (eventually), and nursing is one of them. Whether you’re celebrating the closing of the era or feeling nostalgic for your breast milk bonding sessions, knowing how to wean your child off breastfeeding and into the next phase is important. Pumps for Mom is here to help—there’s not necessarily a wrong or right way to stop breastfeeding, but there are a few tips to help with the process.
It’s recommended that you breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, then gradually introduce more solid or complementary foods. At that point, your baby will still drink breast milk as their beverage of choice until at least their first birthday, but it won’t be their primary food source anymore. From then on, continuing to breastfeed is a personal choice but no longer as highly recommended.
Not everyone operates on the same schedule or decides to stop breastfeeding solely based on timeline recommendations. Some moms stop breastfeeding due to pain, lack of breast milk, returning to work, getting pregnant again, or medical reasons. Slowly stopping breastfeeding makes it easier for mom and baby to adjust and helps prevent problems. It may be easiest to pick one feeding session, such as night feeding, to drop at a time. A schedule change will help your baby ease into a new routine.
Make sure to comfort your baby throughout the process, as they’re used to that close one-on-one time during breastfeeding. Another thing to consider is letting them lead the process—some babies will naturally get off the nipple on their own if you let the situation unfold slowly. You can also try having someone else bottle-feed your baby to switch up the routine and see if that reduces any anxiety they have around not breastfeeding.
Keep in mind that you may experience engorged breasts or mastitis when stopping breastfeeding. Your breasts may feel lumpy initially, and a sore lump can indicate the beginning of mastitis, an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes involves an infection. You may also notice flu-like symptoms if you’re experiencing mastitis. While it may be painful, it’s ideal to continue feeding if you feel sore to prevent further blockage. Speak with your doctor about treatment, which is typically quick and easy.
If you haven’t already, consider using a breast pump to store milk and make the weaning process easier. This is also a great solution if you only stop breastfeeding due to scheduling conflicts, not because you would otherwise. This way, your baby still gets the nutrients from breast milk. If they’re getting older and are ready to stop nursing, bottle-feeding will help wean them without having to totally give up breast milk.
Finally, remember that you may feel new or mixed emotions around breastfeeding. It’s totally okay, mama! Feel your feelings, whether you’re excited to move into the next phase with your baby or mourning your breastfeeding days. It’s all part of the journey.
At Pumps for Mom, we can help you get a free breast pump through insurance during pregnancy and after. We also offer accessories and maternity compression garments that aid in making you feel your absolute best. If you need help with anything during the breastfeeding or pumping process, reach out today to get started.