I was once asked if I have a suggested time or age to wean from breastfeeding. (I actually get this question quite frequently however this one particular time stood out because it was a family member.) Without thinking I immediately said "The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six (6) months and with foods up to two years and beyond”. I have no idea why this was the first thing that flew out of my mouth. Do you ever have those moments when you say something then think “Why on Earth did I just say that?” Me telling this amazing woman that information was not helpful to her. It certainly did not answer her question of what my recommendation was as a professional. Yes, that is the WHOs (World Health Organization) recommendation but that is not news to many moms and often not the information the mother is looking for in her question. When talking with clients in my mind I frequently circle back to that conversation. This an amazing mother and works her finger to the bone most days so provide for her family, all while continuing to pump and nurse. If that doesn’t make her a Rockstar mom, nothing does! (Let's be real, there are many ways to achieve Rockstar mom status! Many of which have nothing to do with making milk!)
The reality is the suggested time to wean, in my opinion, is when it is no longer best for one of the parties involved. For some moms that means weaning at four weeks while other moms that means weaning at four years, neither is right or wrong. Moms have so much pressure on them to be perfect that they do not need any additional help from judgmental friends, family, or professionals.
So back to weaning, when is the best time? I say whenever works for you. It is a personal decision that only the mother can really decide.
A few helpful hints to weaning:
I encourage weaning slowly such as dropping a feed per day, per week. For example if you normally nurse eight times per day, then drop to seven the next week, then six the next, and so on. This will allow your milk supply to decrease gradually and ideally not leave with you engorged painful breasts.
You can also do the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method. This means that you do not offer the breast but you also do not refuse it.
The distraction method is another option. This means when you would normally nurse, you choose a distraction instead. When your child asks to nurse you offer another option like reading a story or playing a game.
The substitution method is an option many women use as well. When you would normally nurse you substitute the session with another option such as a bottle of formula, a cup of milk or water depending on age, or a healthy snack. Did you know many times when a baby wants to nurse it is because of thirst not hunger. Offering a drink will often satisfy the immediate need.
There are other ways to help with weaning and we are happy to help you through this process. Many women choose to have a celebration once the weaning is complete. It is a time to look back and celebrate the accomplishment. No matter how long you make milk for your baby, you are a Rockstar mom! Be proud!