Earlier this week I had the privilege of having a chat with @jessicaelderauthor all about weaning and sleep. Check out the recording here if you'd like to hear our weaning stories, understand when you're ready to stop breastfeeding, and learn about Jessica's weaning book.
I strongly believe in all the BENEFITS of breastfeeding (even long-term...my 4 year old still has a short feed before bed!), so please don't let my weaning post make you consider weaning before you are ready!
I recommend waiting until at least the age of 1 year. At that age (and beyond), your child is likely to have well-established nutrition with solid foods and communication becomes easier as they become verbal.
For those who are ready to wean, here a few concise steps you could take: (Hint: there's no one right way to do it!)
- Firstly, make sure you're ready to wean and you don't want to or can't nurse anymore. Don't do it because you think it will help your child sleep better at night! It may, but there is NO guarantee of that. If you take away nursing, which may be their most fool-proof way of falling back to sleep, be prepared to soothe them back to sleep in other ways if they still wake at night!
- Begin by communicating with your child around weaning. Explain to them that mommy's milk will eventually be going away. There are some great books for weaning that can help, such as "My Milk Will Go, Our Love Will Grow", "Milkies in the Morning" and "Nursies When the Sun Shines".
- Decide if you will wean from night OR daytime feeding first. After that, you can fully wean or you can, for example, stop breastfeeding at night but continue feeding during the day. Whatever works for your family is fine!
- Begin shortening the duration of nursing sessions. You can do this by estimating, setting a timer, or simply counting down to the end of the nursing session. This could be for daytime or nighttime, depending on which one you'd like to eliminate first.
- Once you have reduced the length of the feeds, try the "don't offer, don't refuse" approach. You don't offer the breast to baby, which helps reduce how often they're getting it. Feed them when they ask for it. All of this reduction will help your hormones adjust, decrease your milk production and prepare your child for nursing less.
- When you are ready to stop nursing altogether, establish the boundary with your child. If you night wean first, you may have one last feed before bed and explain to your child that the milk will go to sleep at nighttime and your child can have milk again in the morning. Be sure to talk about this in advance, instead of giving them an unpleasant surprise at bedtime!
- Remind your child of all the other ways you will comfort them. Validate their feelings. Stay with them and help them navigate their anger and frustration. It is likely there will be some strong feelings!
Remember that our journeys will look different & that's ok!
Some babies will stop breastfeeding on their own.
Some families will make a parent-led decision to wean.
Some families will wean very slowly over time.
Some families will need to wean very quickly.
Some babies will protest hard against the change.
Some will show minimal resistance.
Some families will night wean only at first.
Some families will fully wean their babies day and night.
During the challenging times, remember that you can look forward to all the extra cuddles and bonding time that often come after weaning! ❤️