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Weaning your baby from the breast – the kind way

The time has come that you need or want Baby off the breast and onto a bottle. First, let me ask you from the bottom of my heart to keep breastfeeding as long as possible – every drop of breast milk is worth gold! It is possible to work and breastfeed, it might just mean doing some extra feeds at night, but it’s worth it – I promise. If you simply have to turn to bottle feeding, though, these tips should help.

Weaning cold turkey is possible, but it’s less traumatic for both of you, to do it gradually. Start two or three weeks before you need to have Baby weaned, not before, especially if Baby is under six months – the younger Baby is, the more important it is that he get breast milk’s nutrients and emotional value for as long as possible.

Be warned: things might get torrid!

Many babies go on a hunger strike when weaned before they are good and ready, but, unless they are ill, they will eventually take the bottle when they are really hungry. Baby will need some extra TLC during this time because breastfeeding is emotional as well as physical; whoever bottle feeds Baby – it’ll have to be someone else because Baby won’t accept a bottle from you at first – should hold Baby close and lavish on the love during feeds.

My weaning programme is effective and gentle – and, if you want to keep breastfeeding partially, stop after day 12 of the programme:

Day 1&2: Stop one breastfeed before Baby is ready, but after the worst hunger has passed. Wait 15 minutes and then let someone else offer 50ml, half-strength formula.

Day 3: Stop one breastfeed a bit sooner, after the worst hunger has passed. Wait 10 minutes and then let someone else offer 50ml, two-thirds strength formula.

Day 4&5: Repeat Day 3’s recipe once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

Day 6: Stop two feeds, one morning and one afternoon, soon after Baby has settled down to a regular feeding rhythm at the breast (not waiting for the worst hunger to pass). Let someone else offer 75ml, three-quarter strength formula.

Day 7: Repeat Day 6’s recipe for three feeds spaced over the course of the day.

Day 8: Keep up Day 7’s step, and replace one whole other feed with full-strength formula, made according to the instructions on the container. Mid-morning or mid-afternoon is a good time to try this.

Day 9: Keep up Day 7’s step (top up three breastfeeds with 75ml of formula) – you may be able to start giving these feeds yourself now! In addition, replace two feeds completely with full-strength formula.

Day 10: Top up four feeds and replace two feeds with full-strength formula.

Day 11: Replace three feeds with full-strength formula and top up every other feed according to the method you have now mastered.

Day 12: Replace four feeds with full-strength formula and top up every other feed.

Day 13: Replace five feeds with full-strength formula and top up all others.

Day 14: Replace all feeds with full-strength formula.

Gradual weaning means your milk should dry up without needing any medication. Be sure to limit stimulation to your breasts – hot baths and undue touch – and wear a firm but comfortable bra. If your breasts become painfully full, express a little milk, but not enough to stimulate renewed supply.

Please, never forget that babies are built to nurse from their mothers for 2-3 years, and, it becomes easier and easier if you don’t fight it. It distresses me to even talk about a weaning programme, but I understand that there are times you will want one, and that is why I have worked out this kinder approach.

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