There is no right or wrong age, it is completely up to you. Breast milk does not lose nutritional value (ever), so you get to decide how long you want to breastfeed. You also get to decide when you stop and all reasons for wanting to stop are valid. It is OK to wean for your emotional or mental well being and you do not have to justify your choices of how you feed your baby to anyone.
The age of your baby and how quickly you want to wean can play a role in how you wean.
Be prepared that some may experience mood changes and feelings of depression when weaning as your oxytocin and other hormones are dropping to stop milk production. If you need a specific plan to help you quickly wean, schedule a consultation with me to develop a plan that works for you.
Tips for gentle weaning:
✏️Start when your baby has already naturally started to wean, ex. only a quick snack before nap or waking up at 2am to pacify to sleep
✏️If transitioning from breast milk to formula, you can add formula to your breast milk bottles in slowly increasing amounts to make the transition easier on baby’s tummy (ex mix 2oz of breast milk with 1oz of prepared formula for several days, then mix 1.5oz each if breast milk and formula for a few days, then 2oz of formula with 1oz of breast milk)
✏️Don’t offer, don’t refuse
✏️Wear clothing that makes accessing the breast/chest more difficult.
✏️Distract child with favorite activities or offer alternatives like a favorite snack
✏️Change your routine
✏️Postpone: “After we play”
✏️Shortening the length of feeding or space feedings out
✏️Talk to your toddler about weaning. Older children (2 years and up) can be part of the process by talking to them about what is happening.
✏️Alternate between offering bottles and the breast
✏️Be consistent – this is a hard one but it can be even more confusing to your baby if you allow them to nurse one time and not the next.
✏️Lots of cuddles. Your breast/chest is more than just food but also a great source of comfort. Showing them you are still a source of that comfort despite not nursing is incredibly important
Ways to quickly wean:
⚓️Empty the breast only to comfort, trying not to stimulate the breast to make more milk
⚓️Breast gymnastics/“milk shakes” often to keep milk from sitting in the breast and clogging the ducts
⚓️Epsom salt soaks of the entire breast for soothing
⚓️Drinking 2-4 cups of sage or peppermint tea per day
⚓️Green cabbage leaves in the bra until they are soggy and then replacing the leaves
⚓️Cabocream (an alternative to the cabbage leaves
⚓️Cold packs on the breasts after feeding or pumping to reduce swelling
⚓️Starting on a hormone based birth control, especially The Pill (estrogen based) will drop supply
⚓️A last resort would be to take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Claritin-D as these are also notorious for dropping milk supply. This should be done with caution and under the direction of your primary care physician
True SELF-weaning by the baby before a year old is very uncommon. In fact, it is unusual for a baby to wean before 18-24 months unless something else going on (work, inefficient feeding, tongue tie, etc). A self weaning child is typically well over a year old (more commonly over 2 years) and getting most nutrition from solids, drinking well from a cup, and has been cutting back on nursing gradually.
Reasons a baby under a year may be perceived to self wean:
🔑Solids were introduced too soon
🔑Scheduled feedings/sleep training/pacifier use (all decrease time a baby would naturally want to be at the breast/chest)
🔑Lactating parent loses a lot of weight fast which can decrease milk supply
🔑Medications or hormonal birth control which will decrease supply
🔑Lactating parent is pregnant
🔑Baby taking lots of solids before one (human milk should be the primary nutrition source through one year of age)