By Gail Macklin RN BSN IBCLC
I get so many calls about weaning and how to go about starting the weaning process. I think the thing I have come to find most interesting about weaning is that is a physical process as well as an emotional process for both mom and baby. It can be difficult for both.
The first question I usually get is "how do I start the weaning process?" This can depend a lot on the age of the baby. in general, the usual rule of thumb is to drop one feeding every 3-7 days. The first feeding to go is usually a mid-afternoon or late afternoon feeding. You would replace this feed with a formula feed and then skip nursing or pumping at that feeding.
The important thing I always tell moms is to listen to your body. If you are extremely full after dropping a feeding you may be going to quickly and may have to pump or nurse a 1-2 minutes on the 2nd or third day. This may be the case if your baby is older and you have been nursing for many months. If you are finding you are severly engorged after dropping one feeding your body is telling you to wean slowly!
Once you safely drop one feeding and it has been 3-7 days, you can go ahead and drop another feeding. Remember you need to replace the feeding with a formula feed (if your baby is below 1 year of age). In general, most women drop one feeding every 3-7 days. The last feeding to go is usually the first in the morning or the last one at night. I have many moms who have kept these last two feedings in place as they give lots of comfort to both mom and baby.
The other important point I want to say is once you are completely done weaning, it is not uncommon for you to feel full or engorged about a week after your last pumping/nursing session. The advice I give is to pump or nurse to the point you are comfortable one time. Let 3-7 days go by and if you feel full again at any point, just listen to your body and let pain be your guide. You may need to pump/nurse again for a few minutes until you are comfortable. Generally, one or two additional one time pumping/nursing sessions will help you safely wean without getting a breast infection.
Many women call me and say they want information about weaning and I come to find out they really don't want to wean at all. They may be getting pressure from family and/or friends. Remember, this is your relationship with your child and you should be the one to make the decision when you want to wean. No one is entitled to make this important decision for you.
If you are certain you are ready to wean, consider the emotional needs of your child. If you feel it is too stressful on your baby, you may consider postponing weaning.
The other issue many women call about is how to wean a toddler. This can be a challenge. Often you need to find some distractions as older children nurse a lot for comfort as well as nutrition. Following are some other good articles about weaning.
Weaning from Kellymom.mom by Kelly Bonyata BS IBCLC