Ask the experts: Weaning

By Published On: August 20th, 2012

Joining us today to talk about weaning is Tanya Roberts. […]

Joining us today to talk about weaning is Tanya Roberts. Roberts graduated with a degree in Education from Baylor University in 1986. Her 20-year career has taken her from public education to private lactation consulting and nursingwear design. She has been helping nursing mothers since 1993 with breastfeeding products and information as well as professional bra fittings as the owner of Lactation Connection. She served as a board certified lactation consultant in private practice from 1998 to 2008. Her latest venture is in manufacturing. As the owner of Amamante Nursingwear, she has used her expertise to create more feminine nursing gowns and pajamas with an integrated sleep bra. (What she calls a mom’s best friend at 3 a.m.!) And more importantly, she is the mother of three and grandmother of one and one on the way!

In the almost 20 years I have been helping nursing mothers, I have noticed a trend that moms tend to shy away from asking the needed questions about weaning. Perhaps they are afraid of judgment, but the truth is a good Lactation Consultant is there to help you meet your goals, not hers. There are many considerations for mothers when deciding to wean your baby such as mom’s work schedule and baby’s health issues such as allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year. If you choose to wean before one year, first make sure your baby tolerates other foods well. Next absolutely, positively, do not wean cold turkey.
It is up to each mom when she chooses to wean, but we want moms to make informed decisions about weaning. Most moms don’t realize that partial weaning may be possible. When moms return to work, weaning may be a consideration. Alternatives such as pumping at work or partial weaning are possible in most instances. Partial weaning works well when a baby is older than 4 months. Moms can choose to use formula during the day while at work and still nurse in the morning and at night. Partial weaning only works after milk supply is well established which is why you should wait until your baby is at least four months of age before employing this method. If you try to employ this method prior to a well-developed milk supply which occurs sometime between the third and fourth month, your milk production will dwindle overall instead of drying up at the times you do not wish to nurse or pump. To keep milk supply at an optimum, start partial weaning at the fourth month or later.
If you choose partial weaning, always follow the same schedule seven days per week. You cannot put the baby to the breast in the middle of the day on the weekend, if you have weaned that feeding during the week. Whether you choose to partially wean of fully wean, drop one feeding every three to five days. For example, if you are nursing eight times per day, drop one feeding in the middle of the day, substitute formula, and continue that schedule for at least three days. At the end of the three days, if your breasts have no discomfort or plugged ducts (which feel like a pebble or pea under the skin), you can drop a second feeding. If you feel pain or discomfort at day three, wait until the 5th day to drop another feeding if the issue has been resolved by that time.
If you choose complete weaning, continue dropping feedings every 3 to 5 days until all feedings are dropped. After the last feeding is stopped, you may need to nurse or pump one or both breast a final time within the next week to make yourself comfortable. Contrary to popular belief, one pumping or nursing in a 24 hour period will not increase your milk supply and helps to alleviate any discomfort and prevents plugged ducts which can lead to a breast infection called mastitis. This weaning method is slow, but pain free. Sudden weaning can lead to clogged milk ducts, breast infections and even breast abscess. If at any time you get chills, fever or flu like symptoms during weaning, call your doctor for an antibiotic. Both you and baby will be happier and healthier with gradual weaning when you listen to your body.