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Breastfeeding and Weaning 2017

Breastfeeding and weaning can be confusing. The term weaning is used in two different contexts. In Australia, the term weaning is used when referring to stopping breastfeeding. Generally we say weaning off breastfeeding. It is used to refer to other situations where something is gradually withdrawn from use or dependency. In America, weaning is referred to when discussing introduction of solids. This can cause some confusion if not clarified.

In this article we will discuss weaning as reducing or stopping breastfeeding.

Usually we would discuss the best way to achieve this when you and your baby are ready.

Ideally breastfeeding is encouraged for the first 12 months of a baby's life. Breastfeeding and weaning is an individual choice and the right time and reasons to do it will be different for each person.

Sometimes the baby decides the time is right. In other situations, the mother will feel the time is right for weaning.

When it is obvious weaning is going to happen or you decide the time is right, generally we have a few guidelines that can help. You can either do cold turkey and stop breastfeeding altogether overnight or wean gradually. We recommend gradual weaning from breastfeeding as it is much more gentle on the mother and not as painful. Simply, this means just substituting one bottle or cup feed (depending on age of child-if over 6 months then cup feed) for a breastfeed at a time. For example if your baby is having 6 breastfeedings a day, you would substitute one bottle feed for a breastfeed in your day. We would choose the feed that the baby is least interested in to stop first. Typically this is one in the middle of the day. Continue weaning from breastfeeding with this pattern until your breasts are managing the change and not sore. This would mean that your baby is getting 5 breastfeedings and one cup or bottle feed a day (24 hours).
When this is going well, which may be after a day, 2 days or a week, then it is time to drop another breastfeed and substitute a cup or bottle feed. This would mean your baby is getting 4 breastfeedings a day and 2 cup or bottle feeds. Again aim to drop the next least interested breastfeed and substitute a bottle or cup feed. When breasts are comfortable again it is time to drop the next breastfeed. Continue on until you achieve your goal. This may be complete weaning or partial weaning depending on your needs.

Breastfeeding and weaning can be done as quickly or over as long a time as suits you. The main aim is to ensure the comfort of the mother and to avoid mastitis. Mastitis occurs when the breasts are not drained adequately. Milk is produced and there is either no draining or ineffective draining of the breasts. When weaning gradually, we are draining the breasts effectively but reducing the number of times they are drained thereby reducing the demand and subsequently the supply of breastmilk.

Sometimes using cold packs or cabbage leaves to help to alleviate discomfort of full breasts when weaning and breastfeeding, is helpful and soothing. It is the potassium and boron in cabbage that helps with relieving the swelling. However it is important to remember that you must remove the cold packs or leaves as soon as they are no longer feeling cold. This may be as short a time as 5 minutes. You must then remove them and you can replace them with fresh ones if needed. If they stay there and get warm, they can have the opposite effect and encourage more milk.

Taking Paracetamol can also alleviate discomfort when weaning from breastfeeding.

We discourage you from expressing for comfort when weaning and breastfeeding, but gentle massaging for comfort is okay. Remember we are aiming to reduce stimulation to reduce supply.

We hope the ideas offered her with breastfeeding and weaning have been of help and encourage you to visit the other pages of our site for more information on other topics.
Contact with a breastfeeding professional can assist this transition for you.

We have another article titled "Changing to solid foods- How to do it" that covers weaning and breastfeeding in the context of starting solids.

Bayside breastfeeding help was established to promote and support breastfeeding and related issues in the local area. The site is maintained by a group of lactation consultants, child health nurses and midwives to bring you up date information and contacts. Visit

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