How to Stop Breast feeding | When to Wean

how-to-stop-breast-feedingHow to stop breast feeding and the appropriate time to stop breast feeding varies from one mom & baby to another. Whether you’ve breast fed your child for a year or a month, weaning is a decision for you to make or sometimes your infant makes for you.  Even if your child has decided to wean from direct breast feeding, you can certainly continue offering your breast milk by pumping & bottle feeding the milk.  How to stop breast feeding and when the time is right depends on many things.

Your decision to stop breastfeeding your infant can be influenced by many things — you may feel that you’ve met your personal goal of breast feeding to 12 months, you may be pressured by your spouse or boss to stop breast feeding or pumping, you may be ill or have been told by your doctor that you should stop for your own health.  Whatever the reason to wean from breast feeding is, just be sure it’s the right decision for your child’s physical and emotional health, your health, and your wallet’s health.

First of all, infants do need breast milk or formula until 12 months of age.  Babies who are given cow’s milk before their first birthday are more likely to be anemic from intestinal blood loss, have problems with digestion which can lead to diarrhea or constipation, or have more allergic reactions.  And, cow’s milk has an excessive protein load that can also overload a baby’s kidneys and has much less vitamins C, E, and copper.   An infant’s digestive system cannot digest cow’s milk well before that age and other sources of milk like rice milk, goat’s milk, or soy milk do not provide the right balance of nutrients an infant needs either.  So breast milk or formula until 12 months of age.

One thing to check on before you wean from breast feeding or pumping is the cost of formula.  Get your child’s health care provider’s advice on the type of formula to use and then price out how much it will cost to give that formula until your child is 12 months old.  Keep in mind, that as your infant takes in more & more solids (baby foods & soft table foods) then he’ll nurse less frequently or take in less formula.  A 6 month old typically will drink 32-36oz per day or 4-6 breast feedings per day.  A 9 month old will drink about 24 oz or 4-5 breast feeds per day.  And, a 12 month old needs about 16-18 oz of milk to drink per day or about 3 breast feedings per day.  So, with age an infant naturally “weans” from breast feeding as she takes in more and more calories from the solid foods.  This information may help you make a decision on whether to wean right now or to continue breast feeding.

How to Stop Breast feeding

Weaning gradually is typically recommended for your health and allows your infant to slowly transition to either formula (under 12 months) or cow’s milk (over 12 months).  For instance, let’s say your infant is breast feeding 6 times per day (6am, 9am, 1pm, 5pm, 7pm, & 9pm).  The first thing to do it to “drop” the 5pm breastfeeding and replace it with a bottle feeding (or cup if your child is over 6mo).  To “drop” a feeding you’ll skip breast feeding or pumping your milk at that 5pm time.  Take some green cabbage leaves from your refrigerator, squeeze the leaf to crack the veins on the leaf and lay the cabbage on your breast tissue (avoiding the nipple area).  Next, be sure to wear a sports type, tight fitting bra and then feed your infant with the bottle or cup.  The cabbage will help pull fluids from the breast tissue to help prevent engorgement.  Many moms will also take a dose of motrin(ibuprofen) and use ice packs off & on over the bra (10minutes on, 10minutes off) to help with discomfort.  Once the cabbage leaves wilt, throw them away.  Continue to breast feed at the other times of the day.  Do this for 2-3 days, skipping the 5pm breast feeding & using the bottle or cup instead to give your infant that feeding.  After 2-3 days has passed, then “drop” the 9am feeding and repeat the steps above.  Wait another 2-3 days and “drop” another feeding.  Typically the last feeding of the day and the first feeding of the day are the last ones to wean from.

While weaning from breast feeding, if your breast becomes red, painful, and/or you develop a fever, call your healthcare provider or your lactation consultant for advice.  Mastitis is inflammation and infection in the breast tissue which can happen during breast feeding or during the weaning process.  How you go about stopping breastfeeding can cause mastitis.  A gradual wean is advised.  How to stop breast feeding is important for your health and comfort.

Formula feeding your infant

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