How should I start the weaning process?
For most babies and mothers, stopping breastfeeding is a gradual process. As the baby begins to grow and more solid foods get incorporated into the diet, breastfeeding can be stopped gradually. However, it is necessary that you make sure the milk does not get replaced by solid foods suddenly and completely. Breastfeeding must still continue after the first six months although fewer number of times a day, as breast milk helps in the digestion of solid foods as well.
Stopping breastfeeding can begin by skipping one feed at a time, preferably during the day. If your baby is younger than a year, replace the skipped breastfeed with infant formula. However, if the child is over a year old and has started having solid foods, then the infant formula or the replacement feed wont be necessary. At night, you can breastfeed so that the baby sleeps comfortably.
If you feel the baby is growing increasingly uncomfortable during the process, then you should consider breastfeeding for a little longer. Although this problem does not arise when the process is gradual, you can try distracting the baby with toys or different activities to get his/her mind off the thought of having breast milk.
Once the baby is used to the pattern of one skipped breastfeed, you can gradually skip another feed, and so on up to the age of two years.
When is the right time to stop breastfeeding?
As mentioned earlier, it is completely up to you to decide the right time. There can be other reasons for a mother wanting to stop breastfeeding before the child turns one. Such reasons include getting back to work, having sore breasts (mastitis) or expecting another baby. However, if you are experiencing physical discomfort while breastfeeding but do not want to stop, you should visit your doctor.
How long will it take to stop breastfeeding completely?
This, again, depends on the child and the mother. If the baby is well adjusted to the process of skipping breastfeeds, then the process of weaning will not be longer than a few weeks. However, since there are many factors which come into play, completely stopping breastfeeding can take a few weeks to several months.
What if the baby is not adjusting well to stopping breastfeeding?
In such a case, patience is the key. It is important to understand that the baby enjoys breastfeeding not only because it provides nutrition, but also great comfort. So do not be rigid when it comes to weaning.
There are a few ways in which the mother can distract the baby. These include playing games, rocking the baby to provide comfort, singing to the baby or even taking the baby out for a stroll.
You can also try to postpone the breastfeed by telling the child that you will breastfeed later and distracting the child with something else. This way, they will get used to the waiting and will find it easier to do without the feed.