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How to Gently Wean Your Little One Off Breastfeeding When the Time is Right

This post is sponsored.  This means we were asked to review or try something new, and then remunerated to share those thoughts.  Since you are reading this post, it ALSO means that we enjoyed the experience. Friends don't let friends make false recommendations! 

Nothing lasts forever.

At some point you’re going to pack up those bottles, sell all those Fisher-Price toys, and store that crib. You will even, mark my words, change your last diaper. #LifeGoals

You know what else is going to come to an end?

Breastfeeding. 

At some point, you’re going to find yourself in one of these situations:

  • You’ve been sailing these breastfeeding seas for a while now and feel it’s time to drop-anchor and retire “the ladies” to a life of leisure.
  • You’ve only been nursing for a few months, but it’s been pretty rough sailing and you’ve exhaustedly decided that your craft just can’t take it any more.
  • You’ve discovered that there’s a new sailor growing in the hold and it’s time to prepare the older sibling-pirate to get off the “good stuff” now, before there’s competition.

In other words, a time is coming when you realize that a change is in the winds, but feel nervously unsure on where it’s blowing.

No fear, matey! This here is your treasure map. A personal guide to get you through those stormy seas of transition and into the calm waters beyond.

Weaning Off Breastfeeding:
When is the Right Time?

First of all, accept that it’s okay to wean.

Remember, you’re not a good mom based on how long you breastfeed (or if you breastfeed at all). Your value as a mother isn’t dependent on your feeding choice.  You can be an awesome mom whether that bottle is filled with breastmilk or formula. It’s the feeding that matters.

This means you can ask the question on how to stop breastfeeding without feeling guilty:

Q: When should you stop breastfeeding?

Ready for the insanely complicated answer?

A: When you (or your child) feel like stopping.

Yup. As long as you’ve got a healthy alternative feeding source, the right time to start weaning off breastfeeding is when you’ve decided it’s time. How’s that for empowerment!

Sometimes, though, your child will decide it’s time to stop breastfeeding. If that happens, don’t feel like it’s a personal rejection. He’s just too busy and excited about the wide world to stop and nurse.

Let’s assume, then, that you’ve decided that it’s time to leave the Nursing Harbor. How do you cross that scary ocean without running into Boulder Boobies and Mastitis Monsters?

Weaning Off Breastfeeding Step #1:
Start with Nighttime Feedings

Your first step to stop breastfeeding is to put away the motor and slide open the sail. You want this journey to go slowly. Depending on your normal milk supply, this process could (and should) take weeks or months.

If your baby is over 6 months old (or your doctor has given you approval to reduce night feedings), it is usually easiest for both of you if you start by weaning the nighttime feedings first.

Here’s how:

  1. Track the feedings and waketimes over several days in your sleep log.
  2. Start cutting back on the feedings you want to get rid of by 2 minutes every two days.
  3. When you’ve got those feedings at 2 minutes, the next step is to stop them altogether and then use a gentle coaching method for those wake-ups.

Not only will this method make it easier for him to eat less at night by gently helping his body adjust to fewer calories, it will help your body get used to feeding less at night, preventing early-morning Boulder Boobies that can be so painful.

Weaning Off Breastfeeding Step #2:
Tackle the Daytime Feedings

Now that you’ve got her feedings gone (or at least down to one) at night, it’s time to turn your attention to reducing the number of breastfeeding sessions during the day.

If your child is 6 months or older let solid foods be a strong First Mate on your weaning adventure. Fill her tummy with the delicious fruits and veggies that are safe for her at that age this will naturally help reduce the amount of milk she is drinking, furthering your weaning goals.

If you haven’t already, offer her a bottle in the morning for her first feeding.

Learning how to suck on a bottle requires a slightly different tongue movement than breastfeeding, so start early to help her learn those movements. If, after several weeks of trying she still rejects the bottle, go ahead and skip straight to a sippy cup.

Ease into weaning off breastfeeding during the day by skipping one of the feedings in the middle the day.  After 5-7 days without that feeding, choose another feeding to drop. Then the next, etc. Usually the morning and before-bed feedings are the last ones to go.

Avoiding Boulder Boobies and Mastitis Monsters at Sea

If you start to feel uncomfortable after skipping the feeding, go ahead and use a breast pump to alleviate the pressure. Just be careful not to pump yourself empty, because otherwise you’ll accidentally be increasing your milk supply, instead of decreasing it!

Keep in mind that weaning can be uncomfortable (or even painful) for some mothers. If your breasts are crazy-sensitive, talk to your doctor. There are some prescription medications (including birth control) you can take to help reduce your milk supply and avoid those Boulder Boobies.

Also, I would recommend picking up a head of cabbage. As bizarre as it sounds, putting a cold cabbage leaf in your bra can help relieve breast swelling.

Mastitis is when one (or more) milk ducts get clogged and an infection settles in. It’s painful. You don’t want this to happen, so go slowly and massage your breasts occasionally during the day. Avoid wearing tight clothing and wear a supportive bra to further help prevent extra pain or discomfort.

Here’s a few signs that you need to call your doctor:

  • You develop a fever.
  • Your breasts are swollen, red, or hot.
  • There’s a green foul-smelling discharge from the breasts (I know this sounds gross, but infections usually are.)
  • You are struggling with feelings of depression or anxiety, these symptoms can increase during weaning for some moms!
  • You are struggling to feel connected or bonded with your baby post-weaning.

How to Stop Breastfeeding
Without Risking Your Baby’s Health

Besides the risk of Boulder Boobies and Mastitis Monsters, there’s another lurking danger in the Sea of Weaning that you need to watch for.

The Lethargy Leviathan is a sneaky, much more dangerous foe.

Slowly, you’ll see your previously energetic and active baby slip into a constant malaise and and limpness caused by malnutrition.

Yikes! This is NOT what you want to happen while you’re weaning off breastfeeding. Remember, by weaning you are removing your baby’s most nutritious food.

Obviously you need to replace that with a really strong nutritional formula to take it’s place. Notice I didn’t say “really strong nutritional foods“.

Nope.

I said you need a FORMULA.

Just hear me out.

Breastmilk is incredibly complex. This magic liquid changes itself over time to fit perfectly fit the nutritional needs of your growing child.

Honestly. That’s amazing.  

Magic like that doesn’t come with a short ingredient list. Actually, if breastmilk had an ingredient list, it would be LONG and full of nutritional words you probably wouldn’t recognize. (For example, did you know that “cyanocobalamin” is actually the name of a natural form of Vitamin B12? I know! It looks like it should name some freaky deaky chemical! #themoreyouknow)

Don’t be fooled by the “short ingredient lists are always best” argument. That’s not only poor logic, it’s dangerous for your baby’s healthy growth.

Sure, foods are a necessary part of a healthy diet for young children, ages 6 months to 2 years, but they shouldn’t be seen as the main player.

There is no way that tiny tummy is going to consume enough food to cover all the nutrition he needs for a growing body and mind. He needs a power-liquid. 

Since you’re weaning, it makes sense that you use a nutritional supplement based on the same components and structure of breastmilk.

In other words, you want a formula that started with a magic list of what makes breastmilk so amazing, and then tweaked a different milk source to copy that list as closely as possible. And that’s exactly what Kabrita has done with their goat milk formula.

Please note that said “formula that’s been adapted from goat’s milk”! Kabrita isn’t goat’s milk. It’s formula ADAPTED from goat’s milk. I don’t recommend feeding your baby straight-up goat’s milk, because the protein level is too high for his tiny kidneys. In these formulas, though, you can get all of the benefits of goat’s milk without the kidney risk.

Why Didn’t I Discover This Earlier:
Goat Milk Formula

To continue my Sea of Weaning analogy, I think it would be helpful to picture Kabrita’s goat milk formula as a very special sail. There are plenty of other mothers on this sea using other sails, but this sail moves you to the non-nursing side a lot faster.

Why?

Because one of the biggest obstacles on the Sea of Weaning is avoiding the Constipation Cliffs. Up until now, your breastfed baby has enjoyed the digestive bonuses that comes with breastmilk.

Yeah, that cruise is over. His digestive enzymes are about to jump into overdrive. The question is this: is your baby going to get banged up and bruised on the Constipation Cliffs? Or is there way to sail safely past them?

How Goat Milk Formula Helps Your Baby Avoid the Constipation Cliffs

The protein source in breastmilk and most formulas is balanced between whey and casein.

  • Whey stays in liquid-form the whole way through your baby’s digestive system.
  • The casein curdles (think cottage cheese) when it meets the stomach’s acid, forming a curd that digestive enzymes have to break into tiny pieces to send down into the intestines.

Formula based on cow’s milk creates a denser “curd” in the stomach of your growing baby than the curd of a goat’s milk formula. So for a baby who has been used to easily-digested breastmilk, switching to a cow’s milk formula after weaning can lead to some unpleasant constipation and gas.

Formula that has been adapted from goat’s milk creates a softer curd in the tummy, with a lot of space for those digestive enzymes to move around and gently dissolve the protein.

It’s like the difference between eating cotton candy and taffy.

Regular cow’s milk formulas are like the taffy. They are harder to break down in the stomach. It can be done, but it’s going to take more effort….effort that your previously breastfed-baby isn’t used to having to do.

Kabrita goat’s milk formulas are like cotton candy—much easier to digest. Doubt me? Use the coupon code GENTLEKABRITA to save 10% on your order.

Sailing Smoothly Across
the Sea of Weaning

We’ve finally got our treasure map across the Sea of Weaning! Let’s recap your major map-points towards success:

  1. Start the weaning process at night.
  2. Go slowly and remove the middle-of-the-day feeding sessions one by one over several weeks.
  3. Make sure his nutritional needs are still being met and avoid the Constipation Cliffs by supplementing with Kabrita’s Goat Milk Formula.

These things cover the physical steps required for weaning off breastfeeding, but you know what? Breastfeeding is more than a physical act. It’s an emotional one too. 

Breastfeeding is a lot more than just “latch and load”. There’s a tenderness involved, a bonding that happens as you watch your body nourish his. There’s a bond between you that exists in those little nursing moments.

Weaning off breastfeeding is going to require some emotional adjustments. It’s okay to feel sad as you watch the horizon fade away and realize that, at least for this child, you won’t be returning to Nursing Harbor again.

Let yourself feel those emotions for a little while, but then turn your face from the back of the boat to gaze towards the glorious horizon ahead.

Something is ending, yes, but something else exciting is just beginning. Your baby is growing and changing into a little person. Every stage of parenting has it’s joys, and you’re about to discover a whole new set of them!

Have you ever tried Kabrita’s Goat Milk Formula before? What are your weaning tips?

If it’s been a few weeks and you’re still struggling to get past the emotional loss that weaning off breastfeeding can bring, call your doctor. In some cases, weaning can mess with your hormones and open the door for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. Reach out and let your doctor help!

This article was sponsored by Kabrita USA who met with me for TWO HOURS on the phone as I asked a zillion questions about goat milk formula (and took 5 pages of notes!). The fact that they had enough science to handle all my questions and keep me interested for that long says something about how seriously they take their formula. Why not give Kabrita’s Goat Milk Formula a try and find out for yourself exactly why I’ve become a Kabrita Believa’? 

Have You Read These Yet?

 

We ♥ Citations

How to Stop Breastfeeding: Nine Tips for Weaning. MedicalNewsToday.com
Why Goat Milk Formula? KabritaUSA.com
How to Stop Breastfeeding. TodaysParent.com
Milk Digestion. How Long Does It Take to Digest Milk. KabritaUSA.com
How to Abruptly Stop Breastfeeding. Livestrong.com

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