The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding, combined with solid food until the age of 12-24 months.
At some point in every breastfed baby’s life, there will come a time when they will transition from drinking milk from their mother’s breast to drinking milk or water from a bottle or a cup, and eating solid or pureed food from a bowl or a plate. There are all sorts of differently designed bottles, cups, bowls, plates and utensils available so that you can pick what works best for you and your baby.
Reducing or completely stopping breastfeeding is a big decision and it is important that you feel confident about that decision.
Weather you are stopping breastfeeding because you have to go back to work, breastfeeding has become painful, you feel that your baby is getting enough nutrients from solid food or any other reason, it is essential that you make peace with the decision and that you believe in yourself and your child’s ability to move forward with the change. This will be helpful in making the process from breast to bottle or plate, as smooth as possible for both you and your baby.
There are a few different approaches to weaning your baby from the breast, but there are two main approaches, which each have a number of variations and interpretations around them.
A gradual weaning process where you decrease the amount you breastfeed and replace those feeds with formula or an alternative milk and/or solid or pureed food until eventually your child is receiving all the nutrients they need from the food and/or milk they eat and drink.
The other is going cold turkey, and stopping breastfeeding altogether and replace this 100% with alternatives such as formula, cereals and/or solid or pureed food.
Whatever you decide will work best for you and your baby, it is a big change in both of your lives and you both may experience a big range of different emotions.
You may feel relieved, unsure, guilty, sad, frustrated and it is likely that your baby may experience some of these feeling too.
For many babies, and toddlers, crying is a way of communicating and expressing. It is a way of telling you when they need or want something. It can be a way of expressing how they feel and a way of complaining too.
For many babies, breastfeeding is not only a source of nourishment, but also a source of comfort and closeness, especially during the night. Some babies fall asleep while breastfeeding, and wake up throughout the night, and breastfeed to help them go back to sleep.
When you decide that it is time for a change and are no longer planning to breastfeed your baby at bedtime or through the night, it is likely that your baby will need to express the way they feel about the situation and this might be done through crying.
It can be difficult to listen to listen to your baby cry. When we hear our babies cry, we often feel that there must be a problem and we must do something to fix it and stop them from crying as quickly as possible. This is not always the case.
Sometimes, a baby, or any person for that matter, simply needs an outlet for their emotions. Your baby enjoyed breastfeeding, and now she can no longer do it. Your baby is telling you how she feels.
It is a hard thing for anyone to accept, when something they enjoy doing comes to an end, so you must be there to support her.
If breastfeeding provided your baby with a source of comfort, then she will need an alternative source of comfort now.
How can you give a baby comfort without giving them your breast?
Think of how you would offer comfort to a friend, a relative, or your partner who was upset. It is not likely that you would offer them your breast in times of distress!
It is likely you would listen to your friend tell you about their problems. You might offer physical comfort, a hug, or a gentle hand on their shoulder. You might say something like “I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now.” You might acknowledge how they feel. “You’re really upset/frustrated/worried about this, aren’t you?” Mostly, you would just be there for them during their hard times.
You don’t need to say or do too much. Sit beside her or hold her and talk quietly. Stay calm. Understand that this is hard for her.
Being confident in your decision will reassure her. Believe that you both can get through this, and that your baby will eventually learn to fall asleep and resettle without needing your breast.