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Weaning can be an emotional journey, whether you have made the decision to wean from breastfeeding or the bottle for personal or medical reasons. For some families, the few minutes of quiet time spent snuggled with their child while feeding can feel like the only downtime in the day.
Although the journey of weaning can be a process for both you and your child, there are numerous ways to maintain the bond you’ve worked so hard to create.
The easiest way to wean is when your baby is ready. However, if you would like to start the process before that, there are gentle ways to wean without waiting until your child is 100% ready because let’s face it, some children would stay attached to the breast or bottle for as long as they absolutely could! Extended breastfeeding or bottle feeding may work for some families, however, it is not necessarily the goal for all families who may want to wean beforehand by choice or need to wean for reasons beyond their control.
*When weaning from the breast or bottle if your child is under 12 months old, they will still need either expressed breast milk or formula. After 12 months of age, they can drink milk.
When you are contemplating weaning from the breast or bottle, it is important to consider the timing as a factor. There may be instances where waiting for the ideal time is not an option, however if possible it is best to wait for the right moment in your child’s life.
Consider what other changes or life events may be taking place that coincide with weaning and make sure that when you decide to make the move you are not in the middle of battling the illness of the century or in the middle of a major life change such as the integration into child care. There may never be a perfect time but you do want to make sure that there are no major life events taking place at the very same time as weaning.
Whether you decide to introduce a sippy cup or a open cup it is important to allow your child to experiment, play, and test the cup before you start weaning.
Offer it often - don’t get discouraged if your child is not interested in the cup right away. It can take a few weeks for them to become accustomed to the new feeling and flow as well as figure out how to use it effectively.
You may have to purchase a few different types of sippy cups before you find the one that works best for your child.
To gradually wean from breastfeeding the goal would be to eliminate one feeding at a time. This will help your child and your breasts gradually adjust.
If you are nursing on demand you can start by creating more of a schedule for your child so that you can see how often and how long your child is at the breast for. Once you have a pretty set schedule, it will give you a better idea as to where to start eliminating.
An option would be to structure your nursing sessions at designated times of the day with a schedule that looks like this: Nursing when they wake up in the morning, mid morning, after their nap and before bed.
This gives you a base of which feeding to cut out first. It also gives some structure so that your child knows what to expect and what feeding will be breast and which one will be in a sippy cup. You can start by eliminating the morning feed, then a few days to a week later, the midmorning one and so on. Depending on your routine and if the weaning is happening because of child care, you can eliminate the daytime feedings and keep the morning and bedtime feedings until you are ready to wean from those.
A second scenario would be to stretch the time between feeds to help reduce the number of feedings per day.
Ex: If you typically nurse every 3 hours throughout the day, stretch it to 3.5, then 4, 5 and so on... Which would then naturally eliminate one feeding at a time at which point you can replace that feeding with a cup.
Weaning from bottle
If your child has become accustomed to walking around with the bottle, start by offering the bottle at designated times and taking it back once they have finished. Then move on to replacing one bottle feed at a time with a sippy cup. Replace one bottle with a cup every few days until you are down to all cups. Remain consistent throughout this process so as not to confuse your child.
Another option would be to diminish the amount that is in the bottle and offer them a cup with the remaining amount of milk afterwards.
Ex: If your child is used to drinking 5 Oz in a bottle, you could give them 4 Oz the first day with 1 Oz in a cup, the next day give them 3 Oz in the bottle with 2 Oz offered in a cup etc until they are drinking all of their milk in a sippy cup.
If you have to wean quickly, your child may not take to the cup right away so it may be difficult for a few days. If you keep offering it consistently, your child will quickly adapt. They will not starve themselves!
Like all things to do with parenting and raising your children, it is very important to remain consistent when you decide to wean, as your child will look to you for guidance. You want them to know that you are confident in this decision so that in turn, they will also feel confident. Your child might be a little bit more emotional during this transition so be mindful that they may need some extra snuggles and support from you to help them adjust to this change.