The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth and a combination of breastfeeding and solids until your baby is one. Some moms may choose to extend breastfeeding for longer while others may be ready to wean earlier. When to stop breastfeeding is a personal choice and one that may cause both sadness and relief. Try these tips to help ease the transition.
1) Let baby lead the way
You’ll have more success and less stress if you allow your little one to lead the process. In most cases, the transition will happen naturally as baby begins to become more interested in her new food options and more easily distracted.
2) Don’t rush it
In the case of an injury or serious illness, weaning may be necessarily abrupt. However, the ideal is to allow the process to unfold gradually, easing baby into her new reality. This may take days, weeks, or months. Allowing for a slower transition will ease baby’s anxieties and also help to prevent engorgement as your breasts will gradually decrease milk production.
3) Make time for cuddling
Breastfeeding isn’t just about nourishment. It’s also a form of comfort and bonding, which can make giving up the breast an emotional experience for both mama and baby. To ease that aspect of the process, be sure to spend lots of time snuggling with baby to reassure her that mama’s still around when she needs extra affection.
4) Avoid weaning during stressful times
While sometimes stressful situations make weaning necessary, this is usually when babies (and even some mamas) are most in need of the comfort and routine of a nursing schedule. If you’re returning to work – a time that can be stressful to both mama and baby, maintain early morning and nighttime feedings. These tend to be the most stressful times of the day, and breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin and prolactin, which create a sense of calm and peace.
5) Make the most of distractions
Distraction is a practical tool throughout every stage of parenting. Refusing to breastfeed will often cause your little one to become hyper-focused on nursing. Instead, offer an alternative like expressed milk in a bottle or cup or a new food.
6) Pump for comfort
As you wean your little one, your breasts may become engorged and feel uncomfortable. Remember that an empty breast will produce more milk, so it’s a good idea to pump just enough to relieve the engorgement until your body adjust to the new levels of production.
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