When and how to wean your breastfeeding baby is a personal decision. A gradual approach is generally recommended.
Sudden vs. Gradual Weaning
Sudden weaning is not generally recommended unless there is a reason that makes it necessary. For example, new mothers undergoing surgery, hospitalization or taking medications not conducive to breastfeeding may be required to stop breastfeeding immediately. Sudden weaning can cause hormone levels to plunge, increasing the likelihood of mood swings, depression, and other hormone-related side effects.
Generally, gradual weaning is the recommended approach. It reduces your risk of developing plugged ducts, mastitis and breast abscess. Your OBGYN can offer more information about sudden or gradual weaning.
When To Avoid Weaning
Weaning adds stress for you and your baby so, it’s best to avoid high-stress periods. If your family has experienced major changes, such as moving to a new home or changes in childcare, postpone weaning until the stress has lessened. It’s also not ideal to begin weaning if you or your baby are not feeling well.
Gradual Weaning Process
When beginning to wean, start by removing one feeding every four days or so. Keep in mind the first and last feeding of the day is usually the most difficult to remove, so you may decide to save those for last. If you feel any discomfort, wait to decrease feedings until you feel better. For symptoms that persist more than a couple of days, contact your OBGYN.
Alleviating Discomfort During Weaning.
While gradual weaning can reduce the amount of discomfort you experience, you may still feel overfull or uncomfortable. There are several things you can try to alleviate these symptoms.
- Reduce stimulating milk production by feeding or pumping smaller amounts. Empty breasts stimulate high milk production, so you will begin to produce less milk if you only express enough milk to reduce the pressure and not soften the breast.
- Cold packs can relieve some of the pain, as well. Some women find ice packs, chilled cabbage leaves or even bags of frozen peas can help.
- Medications like anti-inflammatories or antihistamines can offer relief. However, you should check with your OBGYN before taking any medication when breast-feeding.
Call our office when you’re ready to begin weaning your baby.