Weaning Your Baby: Debunking Common Myths

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So, you feel it is time to wean your baby and you are wondering how to approach it. Ask yourself these questions before you make your final decision.

“Is it intuitively correct to stop nursing, or are others influencing me?”  Since breastfeed babies eat more often than formula feed babies, nursing women are falsely told that their babies are ‘hungry – lacking the nutrition of formula.’

“Has my baby stopped gaining the weight that she was gaining during the first few months?” Most breastfeeding babies stop gaining weight from 5-8 months – which is normal – and usually begin gaining weight again after 8 months.

“Am I taking a medication that my doctor has told me I cannot continue while breastfeeding?” Dr. Thomas Hale updates his book that lists which medications are safe during breastfeeding.  It is important to see his research, which may differ from your doctor’s advice.

Here are some common reasons women wean when they don’t have to:

Pregnancy

Most woman can breastfeed after they become pregnant.  Your body can safely produce milk for the baby and also leave enough nutrients for the growing fetus.  However, I do suggest that women stop breastfeeding by the seventh month of the pregnancy, so that the older infant can find other comforts, in order to avoid jealousy from competitive nursing with the new baby.

Baby has teeth

Most babies will learn very quickly how to nurse with their new teeth, without hurting their mothers.  If your baby is biting and using you as a teething ring, the best way to handle this problem is to look into your baby’s eyes, when she bites you, and say firmly, “No biting”.  It is important to be firm and direct – stopping the behavior quickly after the first bite; before it becomes a habit.  Avoid the “bite-scream-giggle-then kiss” with your baby.

You are going back to work

It is a big mistake to think that the breast-pump must replace the breast when a mom returns to work. Some women are just not great at pumping.  It is important to know that even if you do not pump during your working hours; your body will still produce enough milk during your available nursing time.  And if you choose, you can nurse exclusively on the weekends, because the breast produces milk immediately as it is compressed by the baby, and does not ‘store’ milk from feed to feed.  Because suckling produces fresh milk, you can still nurse on your days off from work.

Now, if after dispelling these common myths you feel that weaning is the appropriate next step, here are the basic rules:

  • Don’t take away breastfeeding suddenly.  Change is difficult for most people, including your baby.  Make sure to speak with your infant, no matter how old the baby is; explaining the process that you and she are going through.  All of us like clear explanations when changes are taking place in our lives.

 

  • Cut down slowly over a period of weeks, until two feeds a day.

 

  • While you are decreasing to two feeds a day, use ice and cabbage in between feeds to reduce the swelling in your breasts.

 

  • Ice your breasts at ten minutes intervals.

 

  • Wear green cabbage throughout the day by crunching and breaking the leaves in your hand, and placing them against your skin, inside of your bra.  Wear the leaves until the smell of cabbage offends you.

 

  • Once you have reduced the nursing to one feed a day, but your baby cannot stop at this point, you may need to employ the techniques used by women all over the world.  One universal method, employed in many cultures, is to put an herb or oil – like olive oil with a little black pepper or aloe vera – on the nipple area that changes the taste of the milk, preferably to one that the baby will not like. This is not cruel if a child is well loved and taken care of, because in this way, the child makes a decision on her own to stop that final daily nursing session, rather than have mom take it away from her.

 

Weaning is often difficult for both the mother and the baby.  Sometimes weaning is the best choice for the mother, sometimes it is the best choice for the baby.  Just make sure you are weaning for the right reason; instead of weaning from misinformation.

 

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