Weaning can be a difficult time for both mother and baby, but doing it gradually with lots of love can ease the transition. Although this event may be very brief and dried in the animal world, for humans the process of weaning is much more complicated, but only because we make it that way. Weaning your baby is part of the natural breastfeeding experience. It doesn’t have to be a time of unhappiness for you or your baby. If done gradually, and with love it can be a positive experience for both you and your little one.
You actually begin weaning your baby the very first time you offer him any food other than your milk. Weaning should be a process, rather than an event. Depending on how you go about it, weaning can be abrupt or gradual, and may take days, weeks, or months. Abrupt weaning should always be avoided, if at all possible, for the sake of both you and your baby. If you suddenly stop nursing, your breasts will respond by becoming engorged, and you may develop a breast infection or breast abscess. Your hormone levels drop abruptly. Abruptly withdrawing the breast can cause emotional trauma in the baby too. Since nursing is not only a source of food for a baby, but a source of security and emotional comfort as well, taking it away abruptly can be very disturbing. There is absolutely no way to explain to a baby why he suddenly can’t nurse anymore.
Ways to wean your baby:
Proceed slowly. Your baby may find abrupt weaning traumatic, and it can lead to uncomfortable engorgement and mastitis in your breasts. Mastitis is an infection that can cause fever and flulike symptoms, as well as pain, hardness, redness, or heat in your breast - usually just one breast, not both.Eliminate one daily feeding session at a time over a period of weeks or even months, starting with the nursing session that seems the least important to your baby emotionally.
Offer your baby a substitute for the breast. If your baby is less than one year old, you may need other baby formula and there are a lot of them out there, Make sure your baby gets the nutrition he or she needs. If your baby is past his or her first birthday, eating a variety of food and drinking from a cup, you may be able to offer her food or distract her with a fun game or activity. Another important factor is to give extra affection. Weaning can make babies feel vulnerable for a while, and your baby may need added reassurance that you still love him or her.
Keep your baby occupied by doing fun things together, if your baby clearly wants to nurse, and if your attempts to distract him or her with other snacks or activities aren’t working, it is okay to nurse. This way, you can avoid a crying bout with your baby.
Try to do it as gradually as possible. Eliminate one feeding each day for several days to allow your milk supply to decrease slowly. After a couple of weeks, he should be down to nursing just a couple of times a day. Usually, the last feedings to go are the first one in the morning, and the last one at night. If you are not in a huge rush, you may want to continue the couple of feeding for another week or two.
Make sure that you offer regular meals, snacks, and drinks to minimise hunger and thirst. Remember also that babies nurse for reasons besides hunger, including comfort, boredom, and to fall asleep. Try to change your daily routine to minimise situations where he wants to nurse. Does he want to nurse when he is bored? Try distracting him with a snack or a walk outside. Do you usually lie down with him at naptime? Try reading him a book or rocking him instead.
If the father of the baby is around, encourage him to take an active role in weaning. Have him try to put the baby back to sleep if he or she wakes during the night. If he nurses first thing in the morning, try letting his or he father get him up instead of you and feed him. LEADERSHIP WEEKEND spoke with some mothers to share their experience.
Mrs.Bolanle Shittu, a nurse said, “It is a bit tough to wean babies off the breast, especially boys. It is the main source of nutrition they ever knew, So when you try to take it away from them they try to resist. It is not easy in the first few days. I had to deal with sore and swollen breasts; it was not easy at all but I had to do it. It is an experience that words cannot describe.”
Mrs. Agnes Chube is a mother of three and she said, “The experience is usually stressful for me but I always prepare for it by reducing the number of times I breastfeed and introducing solid food very early; as early as three months. After about a week of weaning, I send him on holidays to my mother. And by the time he gets back, he must have gotten over the breast experience. It is not easy to wean a baby, especially with the pains in the breast and the feverish feelings, but overall, it a good feeling.”
Hajiya Gogo Isa, a civil servant in the Federal Capital City said, “I breast feed until my baby is two years or more. Most of my children leave the breast on their own. I weaned my second son rather early, that was because I took in when he was nine months, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me at all, but it is something a mother has to do. But funny enough you forget all about the pain soon afterwards.
Breastfeeding provides benefits for both you and your baby no matter how long you nurse. Gradual weaning is always better than abrupt weaning, although there are times when this just isn’t possible. If you and your child both enjoy nursing, and your only reason for weaning is that you are under pressure from other people who think you should, then you need to look further for an outside support on your decision to continue nursing. If you no longer enjoy nursing, or if there are legitimate pressing reasons for you to wean, you should do it and feel good about the time you did nurse, without feeling guilty about what might have been.