Breastfeeding
How do I wean my baby off breastfeeding?

Parenting doesn't stop for a pandemic and neither do we! Tresillian is here for you - 7 days a week. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties you can now self-refer to Tresillian services by calling our Parent’s Help Line on 1300 272 736. Call now to talk to one of our experienced nurses about which Tresillian service will best suit you.

Gradual Weaning

There are two ways to approach weaning breastfeeding. One approach is to wean slowly or gradually over time; the other is to wean abruptly. The first is definitely the preferred method. It can take a little longer and is usually baby-led. It is easier if weaning is mutual, when both you and your baby decide that it is time to wean. Your breastmilk supply usually diminishes gradually and comfortably because of the decreased frequency and feeding pattern of your baby. The role of breastmilk transitions from being the primary source of your baby’s nutrition to a lesser or secondary role.

A gradual approach allows your baby’s digestive system to slowly get used to other food provided from another source. It also provides time for your breastmilk supply to gradually reduce. This lowers the risk of engorgement and mastitis. The amount of time it takes to wean will usually depend on how much time you have available. Gradual weaning can be either a relatively short period over several days, or progress slowly over several months.

Many women returning to paid work partially wean, but continue breastfeeding for many months first thing in the morning, when they return home or overnight if necessary. Increasing the number of breastfeeds on the days you are at home will help sustain and support your breastmilk supply if there is no pressure to wean.

To gradually wean consider:

  • The amount of time you will take to wean – a week, a month or three months.
  • Which feeds are optimal for you and your baby to retain or which ones could be replaced. Wean at these feeds first. Keep the most enjoyable or essential feeds until last.
  • Maintaining the first feed of the morning, as this is when you will have the most milk and your breasts need to be empty and comfortable before work, or the last feed of the day when you share quiet time together before settling into bed. The night feed will also keep your breasts feeling comfortable overnight.

How to wean from breast to bottle

There is no right or wrong pattern to weaning. If you are wondering how many breastfeeds, the following are examples of a gradual weaning pattern you can adapt to meet you and your baby’s needs:

Over a 4 week period (5 feeds)

weeks

 

Feed 1

Feed 2

Feed 3

Feed 4

Feed 5

1

breast

bottle

breast

breast

breast

2

breast

bottle

breast

bottle

breast

3

breast

bottle

bottle

bottle

breast

4

breast

bottle

bottle

bottle

bottle

 

Over a 2 week period (4 feeds)

days

 

Feed 1

Feed 2

Feed 3

Feed 4

1

breast

bottle

breast

breast

6

breast

bottle

bottle

breast

10

breast

bottle

bottle

bottle

14

bottle

bottle

bottle

bottle

 

Abrupt Weaning

The abrupt weaning approach means making a decision to wean at a certain feed and then no longer offering the breast again. Your baby goes from being fully breastfed to being fully weaned. If possible this abrupt method should be avoided. There are very few reasons for abrupt weaning. The main one is if you or your baby require medical treatment that is not compatible with breastfeeding. In some situations with breast refusal, it is the baby who decides they will no longer go to the breast. However, you usually get some warning that they are no longer willing to breastfeed by their feeding behaviour and preferences.

If you are abruptly weaning, you will need to take special care of your breasts as they may become engorged, lumpy or uncomfortable. For the first five to 10 days you may need to intermittently massage and express your breasts, but only enough to make your breasts feel comfortable and drain lumpy areas. Removal of small amounts of milk for comfort only will not prolong lactation. If any lump remains persistent or painful, contact your child and family health nurse, lactation consultant or doctor for assistance. Any breastmilk you express can be stored in the refrigerator and offered to your baby.

How long should my baby breastfeed for?

Many parents are concerned their baby is receiving the right amount of breastmilk. Baby should be feeding frequently and be having lots of very wet nappies. Weight gain is also a sign and worth discussing with your local Child & Family Health Nurse. You’ll know your baby has had enough when their body is looking relaxed and contented with hands open and extended legs. They may even fall asleep at the breast.

Breastfeeding FAQ's

  • I have to return to work but I am breastfeeding. I don't want to wean. What can I do?

    It’s a shame to have to interrupt such an enjoyable routine, yet it’s quite possible for Some mothers are able to continue to fully or partially breastfeed their baby for many months after returning to work. It does take some pre-planning, but it’s worth the effort. Don’t be put off easily. Discussing your desire to breastfeed with your employer may help to gain some support. Start by expressing extra breastmilk and freezing it. If you haven’t been expressing, it might take a little while to build up your milk supply to be able to express more than a few milli-litres of milk each time you express. Hiring an electric breast pump may make the process easier. You may need to express at work to keep your breasts comfortable. Keep the milk refrigerated and bring it home in an insulated cool bag. Some mothers find regular expressing difficult to maintain. However, your baby can be offered an infant formula when you are at work, and still be breastfed at home. Many mothers and babies are able to continue to partially breastfeed for many months with this more flexible arrangement.

  • Our 2 year old has started to become very demanding and has regular tantrums. His naughty behaviour usually occurs when I am trying to feed my baby?

    Going from being the centre of attention to having to share attention with another can be very difficult when you are 2 ½ years old (see Introduction). Organise a snack for your 2½ year old child to have while your baby is feeding. Make the snack fun by putting the food into a lunch box and adding interesting healthy foods. Place a rug on the floor so he can have a picnic. Having a special DVD or television show to put on while you feed can help keep your toddler occupied and happy. Have a special book to read or toy to play with during feeding time. This can act as a distraction and make feeding a special time. Tell your son that you will spend some time playing with him when you have put the baby down to sleep. Make sure you carry through with any promises you make to spend time with your son. Providing some structured attention with mummy or daddy can really make a difference as does encouraging extended family and friends to share some of their attention with both your son and baby.

  • I am going to be in the hospital for a couple of days, but I'm still breastfeeding my newborn. How do I manage?

    As you have a couple of weeks until you are admitted to hospital, building up a supply of breast milk in your freezer will provide milk for your baby when you are unable to feed. In hospital, arrange ahead for your baby to room in with you (as per hospital policies to promote, protect and support breastfeeding), with the support of your partner or alternately to be brought into you at regular intervals to breastfeed. When you are being admitted talk to the nurses about your needs as a breastfeeding mother. You may need to ask for assistance to sit up to breastfeed or to express when you have returned from the operation. At home, your baby may be a little fussy or even refuse the breast when they are reintroduced to the breast. This may be a reaction to the emotional and physical separation of mother and baby and if the baby needed to be temporarily offered milk feeds from a bottle. Gently persist in offering the breast, as it may take a little while before baby settles back into a good feeding pattern.

  • Does Tresillian support breastfeeding?

    Our nurses and paediatricians are committed to supporting breastfeeding if this is the mother’s chosen method of feeding her baby. Breastfeeding encouragement, education and support is provided to mothers striving to overcome difficulties breastfeeding. However, if a mother makes the decision to wean this will be respected and supported. If a mother chooses to give her baby an infant formula or has to wean for whatever reason, the nurses will support and help the mother to ensure that infant feeding is an important and pleasurable experience for both her and the baby.

  • Is it safe to have a COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding?

    Please refer to detailed information here from Commonwealth Department of Health. Copy and paste this link into your browser. https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2021/06/covid-19-vaccination-shared-decision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregnancy-covid-19-vaccination-shared-decision-making-guide-for-women-who-are-pregnant-breastfeeding-or-planning-pregna_0.pdf

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