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Baby Breastfeeding How do I wean my baby off breastfeeding

How To Wean Off Breastfeeding

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 gradual method is definitely preferable for both you and your baby. 

Gradual Weaning - how to slowly wean off breastfeeding

Gradual weaning 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. Over time, you baby will be feeding less frequently as they eat other foods. 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 foods, whether it's from a bottle or solid food.

Weaning off breastfeeding gradually also provides time for your breastmilk supply to reduce over time. This lowers the risk of engorgement and mastitis.

How long does it take to wean from breastfeeding

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 weeks, or progress slowly over several months.

Many women returning to paid work partially wean, but continue breastfeeding. You may choose to feed first thing in the morning, when you  return home and overnight.

Increasing the number of breastfeeds on the days you are at home will help sustain and support your breastmilk supply if you don't want to wean completely.

What are some things to consider when gradually weaning breastfeeding?

Think about the amount of time you will take to wean. Will it be over a week, a month or three months?

Which feeds could you and your child keep or which ones could be replaced. Wean those feeds first. Keep the most enjoyable or essential feeds until last.

Pay attention to your child’s early hunger cues, and respond with offering food or a bottle, so that they are not refusing and demanding the breast.

Wear shirts/clothing with a tighter neckline and waist that makes access to your breasts more difficult.

Prepare to distract your child when they start requesting a breastfeed other than for hunger. You could have special toy sets or activities prepared, like bubbles, puzzles or blocks, or for a smaller baby, a rattle or sensory toy. 

If you can, maintain the first feed of the morning. This is when you will have the most milk and your breasts need to be empty and comfortable before work.

Another feed to keep is the last feed of the day as it's an opportunity to 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 child goes from being fully breastfed to being fully weaned. If possible this abrupt method should be avoided, due to the risk of you developing mastitis.

There are a few reasons for abrupt weaning. The main one is if you or your child require medical treatment that is not compatible with breastfeeding.

In some situations with breast refusal, it is the child who decides they will no longer go to the breast. However, you usually get some warning that they don't want to keep breastfeeding by the way they behave during feeds. 

How to deal with engorgement after 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.

Removing 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 either in a bottle or in their food.

Weaning FAQ's

Engorged breasts are painful, especially when trying to sleep, when your baby isn’t demanding a feed, or you are weaning. 

Using ice packs and pain relief will relieve the discomfort of engorged breasts. Pouring water into 2 disposable nappies and freezing them are the perfect ice packs for breasts. You may also choose to take some oral pain relief, such as paracetamol.  

You may choose to try to feed your baby to relieve the pressure. If your baby is not waking for a feed to drain your breasts, you might like to hand express a little from the breasts. Don't forget that the more milk that is removed from the breast, the more milk your breasts will make, so only remove enough milk to remove the pressure of engorgement. 

Some women find taking a shower and hand expressing their breasts provides the relief required, followed by using ice packs. 

It’s quite definitely possible for you to continue to fully or partially breastfeed your baby for many months after returning to work. 
It does take some pre-planning, but it’s worth the effort. Make sure you discuss your desire to breastfeed with your employer so they can help support you.
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. 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.

breastfeeding my newborn. How do I manage?
If you have a couple of weeks until you are admitted to hospital, build up a supply of breast milk in your freezer to provide milk for your baby when you're not able 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. Alternately they could 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 help 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're reintroduced. This may be a reaction to the emotional and physical separation and your baby may need to be temporarily offered milk feeds from a bottle.
Gently persist in offering the breast, as it may take a little while before your baby settles back into a good feeding pattern.

Yes! All Tresillian staff are committed to supporting breastfeeding if this is your chosen method of feeding your baby. We provide breastfeeding encouragement, education and support if you're trying to overcome difficulties with breastfeeding.
However, if you decide to wean, this will be respected and supported. Regardless of the method you choose, we believe that infant feeding is an important and pleasurable shared experience for both you and your baby.

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