We often learn and speak a lot about establishing breastfeeding and all that comes with that but equally as challenging and emotional for many mums is the time of weaning your breastfed baby.
For me personally I never thought I would be still breastfeeding at 16 months. My first goal was literally to make it to a week, then 6 then 3 months and 6 months. After heaps challenges at the start it became second nature, it became mine and Remi’s special time and it became the way she would fall asleep.
Now the time came to wean her from breastfeeding for medical reasons as I need to have my breast implants removed as they are ruptured and I felt so clueless in what to do because no one really speaks about it. So what I thought I would do is simply share what we did or to stop Remi from breastfeeding. Simple but helpful tips and insights to help you navigate stop breastfeeding and moving on to a new chapter with your baby no longer breastfeeding.
I am certainly no expert in any of this but Ive been inundated with so many in my online community wanting to know what we are doing and how. Keep in mind Remi was a boob monster who was fed to sleep from the day she was born with no other comfort – wouldn’t take a bottle, dummy or attach to a comfoter. This blog is for weaning tips and next I’ll do one for getting baby to stop feeding to sleep.
GENTLE WEANING IDEAS:
GIVE YOURSELF AND BABY TIME
If you don’t need to stop breastfeeding abruptly gentle and slow weaning would be my preferred way and I guess is what we did to a certain point. I knew for about 3 months that I had to stop so I started to reduce the amount of feeds during the day and eventually Remi was only breastfed to sleep at nap time, bed time and then overnight. It can take months for a toddler who has always been fed for comfort to cut right down on feeds but if you have the time then its can also be the least stressful way.
DON’T OFFER, DON’T REFUSE
This is one that I found helpful as I approached the “need” to stop breastfeeding. I quickly realised a lot of the time I would actually offer Remi the breast as comfort with out her even really asking for it. So I decided to stop offering and only giving it to her when she would ask and not be able to be distracted or at bed time when I knew it was needed.
Distraction is key when trying to cut out feeds. Whether its with snacks, water, a toy, music, a TV show, dancing or twirling – trying to change their thought away from breastfeeding helped me a lot!
TALKING TO BABY/TODDLER
Our little ones understand a lot more than we give them credit for I think. Talking to and explaining to Remi that there is “no more milky” or “milk/boobie only at bedtime” was a way that I found helped Remi to understand even when she wasn’t happy about it she seemed to understand.
WEAR CLOTHING THAT COVERS YOUR BREASTS
When trying to cut out feeding I made it harder for both of us by covering up my chest so that Remi couldn’t pull down my top and I couldn’t easily access my bra. Sounds weird but it kind of worked and also I found Remi didn’t think of it as much. Also made sure I didnt get dressed in front of her so she couldn’t see my breasts and be reminded.
When I started weaning and Remi was still having feeds in the day and even over night I would make sure they were short and quick not long and just for comfort for a long time. Some people suggested a timer or feeding for a length of a certain song which I didn’t do but could see it could be beneficial.
Introducing a comforter to help with the transition – whether that’s a bottle or a blanket etc. This is the one I bought from Kmart and its Remi’s new little sidekick. She’s not 100% attached but I was surprised how much she likes it. I wore it around with me for a day and now we just take it everywhere. Something else that helped was getting Remi to pick it at the store so she felt in control and also naming it (BA BA) making a big fuss over it like it was our little baby and we all loved it, even Millie. This helped Remi to feel like it was important and had a place in our family.
Extra food and snacks really helped Remi to stop needing the breastmilk top ups. Remi won’t take a bottle or drink any kind of milk plain so she will have a smoothie in a cup and water from a sippy cup so we had to make sure she was eating enough food and variety.
Something I was not really ready for or overly aware of was the emotional toll weaning would have on me personally. I felt so many stages from guilt, shame, fear, anger, anxiousness and overwhelming sadness as we went on this journey of weaning. I worried that we would lose the bond we spent 16 months creating, guilty for taking away her comfort and anger that I hadn’t introduced another way of comforting her when she was younger for example. The sadness and anxiousness was overwhelming and Im guessing was also made worse by the change in hormones which occur when breastfeeding ends. It’s really only now a few weeks later that Im starting to feel less emotional although some days and in some moments Im still struggling with it too. Be kind and gentle with yourself of this weaning journey as it really does effect you emotionally.
HOW WE WEANED THE BOOB MONSTER…
Ok so those are a few tips but what I’ve been asked most is HOW THE HELL DID WE DO IT??
This is a long one because it really started a few months ago when I found out I needed to wean her by March. Remi was demand fed and fed A LOT all day and night – whenever she wanted. So for the first couple of months I would just try to not offer as much and cut down the day time feeds and give her snack more and distract her when she would come for a comfort feed. The night times continued on the same as she was fed and settled overnight with the breast. This was interrupted when we went to London and she started comfort feeding again more and more so when we got back I made the decision I really needed to stop breastfeeding her in the day and wean her completely in the day before starting on the over night feeds.
During the day I would use every distraction method I needed to stop her from comfort feeding but if she was super upset I would obviously give it to her. I also tried many times and every type of milk and formula and bottle to give her a milk supplement but she genuinely just doesn’t like milk. So instead of milk she will have a smoothie in the morning and one before bed if she didn’t eat much dinner which we still do now as it helps her sleep better.
The only other thing we had to stop was feeding to sleep at nap time. So instead of feeding to sleep I introduced a car or pram nap. Remi would easily fall asleep at nap time either driving or being pushed in the pram. Some days when I was brave I would try to transfer her to cot other days I just let her have her full nap in the pram or car.
Once we got to a point where we were no longer feeding during the day it was time to face the night weaning which was REALLY REALLY HARD!! I will not sugar coat it because it was an absolute nightmare at first because Remi had no other way to settle other than the boob.
I thought sending David and Remi away for a few nights would be the solution but it didn’t help us. When they got back Remi was more upset, more clingy and wanted the boob more than ever. I think she thought I was going to leave her so she became attached even more.
I then tried to go “cold turkey” and just use other ways to help her fall asleep like the car, pram, rocking anything else I could think of but unfortunately it didnt work for us either. All that happened was I ended up with mastitis from blocked ducts, I got so so emotional and anxious, we had an over tired and unable to sleep Remi and me driving around for hours on end in the middle of the night. We tried this for about 5 days when I gave up and realised this was not the way for us. Remi needed me to support her better through this and I needed to find someone to help me to understand WHY she wasn’t able to sleep and what support she needed to fall asleep on her own and stay asleep. So I decided to give her the breast to sleep again for a few days while I found someone.
I found Chantal a sleep consultant on the GC. I was VERY reluctant to use a sleep consultant as I have my own feelings towards needing to support my baby and respond to their needs but I was so desperate to get this sorted and decided that if I wasn’t comfortable with anything she recommended I simply wouldn’t be doing it. Chantal was very supportive of my gentle parenting approach and the relationship between Remi and myself. She gave me insight into why she thought Remi wasn’t able to sleep with out me and also about how she needed more food during the day and few other tips including the introduction of a comforter. Chantal gave me a plan for 5 days of gently starting put a routine in place to help Remi settle and sleep which still included feeding her to sleep. She then told me to contact her after 5 days when we would stop the night feeds completely but in a supportive way when Remi was ready.
I couldn’t see how this was going to happen but what I noticed after 2-3 nights was that Remi was no longer actually able to fall asleep while breastfeeding and needed to find a way to do so because neither of us were sleeping and Remi was frustrated as well.
Once Remi got to that point Chantal came and helped me support Remi through falling asleep independently which I will cover in another blog.
Once Remi had learnt to fall asleep on her own she no longer needed to breastfeed at all. She stopped asking and there were no more feeds.
I had to keep pumping out some milk each day to stop the blocked ducts and used cabbage leaves to help dry up the milk as well as relieve pain. It took about 7 days and my breasts completely settled down. I still could get some milk out now if I tried but my boobs are no longer lumpy or sore.
This is just our story and I know how hard it can be, how emotionally draining it is and that every baby is so different. The hardest part of all of this was that my heart probably wasn’t ready to stop our feeding journey but I had to for my own health and now that it’s done I can see that it was also the perfect time for Remi as she is now sleeping much better and is so much happier during the days.
Lastly, if you’re worried about loosing that special bond I totally get it!! I was and still do worry about it a bit but already I can see and feel that our attachment and bond we created over time will never be lost – my baby still needs me she just needs me in different ways now. Every season comes to an end but with every new season comes new beautiful moments and growth , now I get to see that and feel that as Remi grows and changes everyday and so does our love.
SOME WEANING MORE TIPS FROM OTHER MUMS:
Stick bandaids over nipples and tell baby “ouchie.”
Vegemite or garlic on nipples to change flavour.
Spend a few nights away from baby.
Offer a bottle instead of breastfeeds if baby takes bottle.
Use motion for nap and sleep time at first.
Get Dad or someone else to put baby to bed if they are fed to sleep and also to resettle at night.
Take Sudafed or cold and flu tablets to help dry up milk. (speak to pharmacist)
See your GP to be prescribed a medication that will dry up your milk supply.
Express but not too much and gradually decrease the amount each time so you don’t get mastitis but you also don’t encourage more milk production.
I hope this helps you in some small way if you’re trying to wean your baby from breastfeeding. Please leave any other tips below or on my Instagram.
Mar 11, 2020