Arggh weaning! Just the thought of going through it the way I did again gives me a tiny headache. Mostly because it involved some amount of tears on both sides; mine and my little ones. In Nigeria, we kind of have a ‘traditional’ method of weaning. It involves sending your child to your mum’s or some other close relative’s place for a few days and somehow when the child gets back, he’s completely over mama’s boobs. It’s essentially stopping cold turkey! Imagine my shock when I tried this with my son and it failed! If your mouth is currently hanging open, then you completely nailed my expression then. Most times, many mums would stay away from their babies for averagely 3-4 days. Knowing how smart my son was, I decided to extend his stay at grandma’s to 7 days. This child came back and was eager to start from where he left off like nothing happened. So, I had to switch tactics. I formed a solid team with my husband and together, we finally weaned off breastmilk completely.
Figuratively, weaning is defined as the ‘introduction of solids’. However, many mums refer the word ‘weaning’ to mean the cessation of breastfeeding. For the avoidance of doubt, I’ll be talking about the cessation of breastfeeding completely. This is one task that a lot of mums sometimes find difficult. Breastfeeding is a relationship between the mother and child. Mum may be ready to let go and your little one isn’t quite ready yet. It’s a lot easier when both parties are in agreement and are ready to let go at the same time.
It’s important to state that, at no point whatsoever does your milk lose its nutrients or content. Instead, it grows and changes as your child grows to provide him/her with the nutrients he/she needs. The fact that your child hits a certain age doesn’t change the content of your milk. Fun fact: Breastmilk is currently being studied as a possible treatment against colon cancer. Yup! Okay, so here’s everything you need to know about weaning!
Tips On Weaning You Should Know
- Remember how I said mum and baby may not be ready to let go of breastfeeding at the same time? Imagine this. If you had to suddenly stop taking carbs right this moment with no prior warning, how would you feel? I’d bet your emotions will go from angry, annoyed to cranky and to a deep craving for carbs right? See this is kinda what happens when mum says she’s ready to let go of breastfeeding and baby isn’t. Most times it’s sudden and there’s no prior warning. So, my number one tip for you is to gradually reduce feeds over a period of time. So this can only work for mums who have the luxury of time to wean over a month or two. Aim at dropping one feed per week leaving night feeds last. This way, your little one has a sense of what’s happening and your boobs aren’t on fire due to engorgement. This works best when you can replace the feed with either solids or an activity. Basically something to distract your child. You can decide to go out, go visit a neighbor or read an age-appropriate book if you like. You may even decide for your spouse (or anyone else) to be in charge of this activity. With night feedings, consider having something that’ll keep her full for longer so she’s less likely to wake up. You may also speak to your partner or anyone else to help soothe your baby when she wakes at night. If you co-sleep, consider switching your position on the bed. For example, my son would always sleep on the middle, I on the right and my husband on the left. When we were weaning, I’d switch to the left. When he would wake up to nurse at night he’d reach out for me only to find my husband and then my husband would soothe him or give him water to sleep back. If your baby wakes more than once through the night, you’ll need to keep changing tactics often. Be gentle, yet firm.
- My next tip is for mums who for one reason or the other, do not have the time to wean over a period of time and have to stop suddenly. This can especially be hard on both mama and baby. Engorgement is no joke and if not handled properly, could lead to mastitis. If you have to wean this way, you can:
- Use cold cabbage leaves to relieve the engorgement. Pro tip: use a knife to gently form slits on the thick veins on the leaves for some more comfort.
- Take warm showers often. This can help to relieve the engorgement.
- Consider using a manual pump to wean. This way, you’d pump just enough to alleviate the discomfort a few times a day. Gradually your body begins to down-regulate your supply automatically and you can save your milk for other things (you could donate to a mum struggling or save it for when your child has an illness or use it for cereal or something).
- Hand expresses a little bit if you don’t have a manual pump. Remember, just a little bit at a time.
- Wear a firm, comfortable bra
- It is not entirely strange to find that you may be emotional about weaning. You may feel a sense of loss or connection. This is normal. Sharing your feelings with a friend or your partner may help. Lots of cuddling and hugging your little one wouldn’t hurt either.
There you have it. My very best tips for weaning. Feel free to drop a comment below or share your concerns or questions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org