Breastmilk is called the liquid gold & it is the best asset that you can give your baby as the lifetime gift.. World Health Organization recommends to exclusively breastfeed the baby for first 6 months and then the additional solid foods introduced after completing 6 months are just complementary feeds whereas breastmilk is the main source of nutrition till baby’s first birthday. WHO also recommends to breastfeed beyond 1 year at the least till 2 years of age. So, the ideal time to wean off breastmilk is after baby’s second birthday, though you shall continue breastfeeding till 5 years of age as there are many physical and mental heath benefits in breastfeeding beyond infancy. The choice is completely yours. If you have any breastfeeding issues, you shall refer this post(link) for more tips & insights about breastfeeding.
I had 2 personal reasons(one of which is a dental procedure for me) to wean off breastmilk, 2 months before my baby’s second birthday. For both my kids, I weaned off breastmilk on my own without the assistance of parents or in-laws. So, hope my tips & techniques would help mommies looking for weaning process.. It would take a month or two to wean off breastmilk gradually, without much fuzz for the baby & mom. Gradual weaning is highly recommended as it would avoid milk stagnation/breast engorgement in moms.
Before going into my weaning process, I would firstly advice you not to believe some myths like, “Stop drinking milk as milk produces more breastmilk”, “Eat less to stop milk secretion”, “Drink less water to decrease lactation”.. All these are not true. You can have your daily dose of milk, eat balanced diet and drink required water to keep yourself hydrated, as usual. Just try to reduce the over-consumption of foods rich in galactagogues (a substance that promotes lactation) like garlic, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek and green/raw papaya. There is no harm in adding few fenugreek/cumin/fennel seeds while cooking curries. But just avoid over-consumption like drinking a fennel tea or fenugreek tea(link) or cumin water(link) or fenugreek kali/pudding(link). You shall still add few garlic to your curries or chutneys but avoid exclusive garlic curry(link) or garlic bread. Hope you got my point !
Once you decided to wean off, first introduce cow’s milk as a drink. After 1 year, you would have introduced cow’s milk in porridges. But, now, it’s time to give it as a direct drink. I recommend to give cow’s milk in a small tumbler rather than bottles/sippers. Babies might get addicted to feeding bottles as they act as pacifiers as well. I didn’t use feeding bottle as again weaning it off might take time. Before continuing further, pls read this post(link) to understand more about cow’s milk for babies.
For more clear picture about the step by step progress of my weaning process, first have a look at the below table that shows my baby’s schedule(at 21 months) just before I started to wean off breastmilk.
|6 AM||Breastmilk(BM) 1|
|6 - 7.45 AM||Sleep|
|7.45 - 7.55 AM||BM 2|
|8.30 - 8.40 AM||Breakfast|
|9.20 - 9.30 AM||Bath|
|9.40 - 9.50 AM||BM 3|
|10.50 - 11.00 AM||Light snack|
|12.00 - 12.20 PM||Lunch|
|1.20 - 1.30 PM||BM 4|
|1.30 - 4.00 PM||Nap|
|4 - 4.10 PM||BM 5|
|5 to 5.10 PM||Snack 2|
|6 - 6.10 PM||BM 6|
|7.15 - 7.30 PM||Dinner|
|9 - 9.15 PM||BM 7|
|9.30 PM - 12.30 AM||Sleep|
|12.30 AM||BM 8|
|3.30 AM||BM 9|
Firstly, I introduced a small glass of cow’s milk before bed time so that BM 7(before night sleep) consumption is reduced. I started with 75ml and then increased to 120ml. Do not exceed 150ml. As baby feels fuller with cow’s milk, eventually baby will drink less breastmilk. But still, babies will wake up for midnight feeds as they are used to it. We are not going to wean off midnight feeds now, as they are more attached to these feeds. We will come back to it later.
Our next target is BM 6(Before Dinner). For this, I sought the help of my hubby. He takes her out for a walk followed by some outdoor activities. He keeps her occupied for one hour. By that time, I make the dinner ready. When they return home, I readily keep her food plated so that she is tempted by the food. After a quick clean up, she indulges in her dinner. Try to make baby’s favorite dinners in this weaning period. As still BM7 is on, baby won’t be cranky just for skipping BM6.
When you skip a feed, continue with the same schedule for 1 week and then start weaning off the other feed. So, our gradual weaning targets weaning off one feed a week. Don’t leave them idle as they will seek for breastfeeding when they are bored. Try to keep them occupied & be ready to spend more quality time with the baby than before. Rather than saying No & making them cranky, distraction is the best technique. Don’t give room for boredom & hunger as they both will trigger breastfeeding instincts.
Do not offer cow’s milk for every missed feed. Weaning off breastmilk doesn’t mean that you have to replace cow’s milk with every feed of breastmilk. Breastmilk will be so light & very easily digestible. But, babies can’t digest too much of cow’s milk in a day. Always have many light snacks(especially fruits) handy & those can be the healthy substitutes for the missed breastfeeds. It is a bad idea to give cow’s milk, post lunch just to make baby sleep. Just 2 glasses(150ml each) of milk, 1 in the morning and 1 in the night should be sufficient. Full fat milk or low fat milk might be dependent on your baby’s weight graph & so pls speak with your pediatrician about it as they don’t recommend full fat milk for obese babies.
Coming back to my weaning process, BM 4 (Before Nap) was the next easy target for me as she was still sleeping in her cradle for daytime naps. I just delayed the nap time for 20 to 30 mins by playing with her. As I took to the room lil late, she was already sleepy and so it was easier for me to skip BM4 by just rocking the cradle. Though she asked for the feed, she was too tired to be stubborn & just dozed off sooner.
Next was BM 3 (Before Lunch). I kept the lunch menu simple yet healthy and baby-friendly on these days. I avoided spending more time in the kitchen as baby was lil clingy. I offered her one more light snack like cookie(homemade) or peanut chikki or just nuts or dates or orange at the time of BM3.
Next was BM 5 (After Nap). Before baby wakes up from nap, I made some evening snack & be ready with it. From the cradle, I just take her sight off the bed(where I used to breastfeed post nap) & start talking to her about the yummy evening snack. She will be so happy to see the snack and indulge in it right way. Once the belly is full & the weaning time has passed away, they won’t long for the missed feed.
Next was BM2(After waking up in the morning). She loves her Multigrain porridge(link). I keep it ready before she wakes up. Once she wakes up and comes to me, I will handover a glass of her favorite Morning porridge & she drinks it happily. I postponed morning brushing after the porridge as she wasn’t patient enough to brush her teeth, due to skipped BM2. But don’t you worry as this could be corrected after a month or 2.
BM 7(Before night sleep) was so challenging as it helped her as a sleep inducer. For my first kid, I just gave cow’s milk in a tumbler and when she asked for night feed, I remind her about the glass of milk that she drank and she was convinced to sleep with a little whining. But my second kid was so stubborn & even after a glass of cow’s milk, she again asked for breastfeeding in the bed. So, I cooked up a story saying her that cat has drunk my milk & have left her some milk in the bottle. I didn’t use feeding bottle as again weaning it off might take time. So, I used a sipper bottle that is designed for drinking water. I skipped tumbler milk for 2 weeks & gave cow’s milk in sipper bottle in bed. I never gave bottles for her even for water. So, she was so much fascinated to drink from a bottle. Once you make a story, stick to it. When you say that there is no milk in stock now, how much ever they plead, don’t offer the breast. Else, they might not believe in you again. Though she was fascinated by the bottle, she asked again for breastfeeding, But, I repeatedly told her that the cat drunk it now and she would get the milk again in the midnight. First day, she cried. But, from the third day, she herself started telling to her sister that the cat drunk her milk and left some in the bottle.
After a week, I targeted BM 1(Early morning). I continued the same cat story and offered her cow’s milk in sipper bottle in bed. This time, the story acceptance was rather quick. She accepted bottle feed from second day. Remember not to false the story. Though she cried on the first day, I convinced her saying the story repeatedly. I didn’t offer the breast at all.
Next targets were BM 8(Midnight feed 1) & BM 9(Midnight feed 2). These both have to be weaned off at the same time. As we have almost reduced all the feeds, babies will automatically sleep longer and skip BM8. In addition, cow’s milk will keep them fuller for longer time. Even if they wake up, just pat them back to sleep. If they are stubborn, just offer one breast and try to finish it off sooner. Don’t allow them to suckle for longer than 5 mins. Similarly, for BM9, first try to pat the baby and encourage to sleep. If the baby is stubborn, offer the next breast(not the one offered during BM8) & take it off as soon as possible. Don’t offer the next breast, even if baby demands.
Gradually decrease the timings for BM8 and BM9. Don’t empty the complete breasts. Just give 2 mins each of both breasts(one in each feed) so that breasts become loose and also as they are not fed for long time, milk secretion will be reduced.. The idea is to just feed the foremilk and take it off before hindmilk secretion starts. As demand decreases, supply will also decrease naturally. Finally, stop BM8 and opt for BM9 only. When u feed just once, try offering both breasts, 2 mins each. Gradually bring it down to 1 min each and stop that 1 min as well. BM8 and BM9 weaning can be accomplished in just a week or 2. Once you stopped fully, be stubborn and say no milk. It took 6 weeks for me to wean off completely(I mean for the whole process). The turnaround time of this weaning process might differ depending upon many factors like – how many times you are currently breastfeeding and how much quality time you could afford for the baby and how stubborn your baby is ?!. Though your baby drinks like a newborn till 2 years(just like mine), believe me that you shall wean off within 2 months(max).
Once you stopped to breastfeed, follow the below five pointers..
- Hide all the feeding accessories like feeding pillow, feeding apron/towel/cover and whatever you associate with breastfeeding.
- Avoid wearing your nursing dresses for the next 3 months as they might remind the baby about breastfeeding. Avoid wearing any front open attires with buttons/zippers in the front.
- Avoid undressing in front of the baby & just hide the breasts from baby’s sight. Avoid holding baby in breastfeeding postures, as well.
- Start wearing Jasmine flowers in hair or use any strong perfume. Baby gets allured to mom’s natural scent or the smell of breastmilk might trigger them to breastfeed. So, using jasmine or any strong scents will mask the smell of attraction.
- Slightly massage your breasts daily during bath. Make sure there is no pain or lumps in the breasts. If you feel heavy breasts, gently massage and squeeze out some milk(not more as it will start producing more milk) to loosen up. Even if there is mild pain, don’t ignore as it might invite more problem. If the pain doesn’t subside even after massaging in hot(not too hot) shower & pumping out some milk, pls consult a lactation consultant or a gynecologist. Gradual weaning shouldn’t have such complications. But, still, check your breasts at least for 1 month to make sure there are no engorgements.
Baby might be lil upset/cranky in the weaning process. So, try to spend some quality play time with the baby. Baby might demand for more snacks than usual. Try to have some healthy & handy snacks/fruits in stock, as you don’t need to offer cow’s milk often. Believe me, gradual weaning will be more peaceful than abrupt weaning. But I do agree that weaning is a more emotional part in motherhood as we love the warmth and the bonding in breastfeeding. Bidding bye to this breastfeeding journey isn’t so easy from mom’s shoes. But, life has to move on.. Kids have to outgrow breastfeeding as well.. Cheer up Mommies !!
Thank you for the post. This was really helpful to know. Any tips if baby doesn’t drink the cow milk during this process ?
I guess you have to start this process, only when baby starts accepting cow’s milk. You can’t force a new drink to a weaning baby as it might upset them more. First try to include cow’s milk gradually and once the baby accepted it, then start the breastmilk weaning process.