Why Wean? Breastfeeding Qualms and Doubts
Moms have different reasons when asked the question: Should breastfeeding stop? It may be for personal reasons, possibly medical, or what have you. There are several usual reasons why moms consider weaning baby from breastfeeding. But that doesn’t matter as long as you have your baby’s good intentions at heart.
For moms are considering stopping breastfeeding, gradual weaning is recommended. Stopping breastfeeding abruptly can cause psychological trauma for both child and mother, and oftentimes physical difficulties for the latter.
The usual thing a mother thinks of before deciding on weaning is how baby will take to formula. This is another argument for weaning gradually, so you can gradually introduce baby to the taste of formula and give him time to get used to it.
If you could manage it, it would be best to introduce a bottle only once breastfeeding is well-established, that is not earlier than 4 weeks of age. This is to eliminate the possibility of baby getting “nipple confused” – the baby becomes confused with the hardness of silicone nipples and the softness of the mother’s.
The fear of baby being harmed psychologically as a result of an abrupt weaning is also a concern for many moms. If the baby is introduced to the bottle, he may do two things. He may take to it instantly, or he may fear the bottle and stick to you like a leech and wouldn’t want to let go. Take heart though, the latter one only happens when the baby is still too young to be taken off breastfeeding permanently. Let a week or so pass, and try re-introducing it to him again, but still give some breastfeeding sessions a couple of times a day. It may take some time for him to get used to it, but he will eventually understand.
If your baby is a bit in the advanced stage and you’re considering solid food for him already, there is also an age which should be followed, to be sure that the baby will be open to solids. Your baby must preferably be at 6 months, but no less than 4 months old when weaned to solid food. This is to ensure that your baby is able to sit properly, and to hold his head up high without much support to facilitate easier swallowing.
Some babies, if still too young, have a tendency to push away the spoon with his tongue or to gag when solid (although mashed) food is introduced so young. Also, while not strictly necessary, it would be better if your baby already has teeth before introducing solids. The child will instinctively know how to use his teeth when solids are given, and will possibly speed up the process of him growing more of it.
For mothers, the fear of having mastitis or breast infections is very real. Redness or spots on the breast, localized tenderness, heat emanating from the breast (it’s like the breasts have a fever) and sore spots that may sometimes be too severe that even the slightest movement - even breathing- becomes painful. You could also get clogged milk ducts or cracks in the nipple where bacteria may freely enter the mother’s body. But this only happens when you wean abruptly. The most common treatment for this is to continue nursing since this can help the milk flow again, and relieve the clogged ducts problem.
If you cannot continue to nurse for medical reasons, try pumping or expressing your milk for the milk ducts to become unclogged and prevent the spread of further infection. This will not decrease your milk supply, so you can wean yourself gradually. If you’re expressing 5 times a day, then try eliminating one pumping session at a time until you can be milk-free.
Lastly, there are some moms who have become so attached to breastfeeding that they are afraid to let go. Some feel that they haven’t given their babies enough nutrients from breast milk. But if you feel that baby is showing signs of his readiness to go to the next stage (head control becomes stronger, having teeth, eyes adult food curiously and sometimes takes a swipe at it, etc.), then you have to learn to deal with what you feel. Eliminate one feeding at a time, so as not to stress you too much in letting go.