Some common reasons parents choose to wean from breastfeeding
Wasn’t working out for them
Going back to work
Baby refusing the breast
Low milk supply
Manage Your Expectations and Plan
Weaning will likely take several weeks, so plan accordingly and take your time.
Moving too quickly through the process can lead to discomfort and possible mastitis.
Weaning Breastfeeding by Age:
Babies < 12 months
You will need to replace breastfeeding sessions with formula bottles to maintain their nutritional requirements.
Start by picking one breastfeeding session and swapping it with a bottle instead.
Your breasts may feel full/uncomfortable after giving up that session, so you will need to express/pump just enough milk to feel relief from pain, but not enough to drain the breast.
This will signal the brain to slow down milk production and down-regulate
Continue this process of swapping a breastfeeding session with a formula bottle every 3-5 days (longer if necessary).
You will gradually be increasing the number of bottle feedings, and decreasing the frequency of breastfeeding.
Once you’re down to 1 or 2 feedings (typically morning and before bedtime) you may want to continue those breastfeeding sessions, and not wean any further as your breasts will have acclimated.
If you still want to completely be done with breastfeeding then you will just cut out those last feedings in the same manner.
Babies > 1 year
No need to replace feedings with formula, so often easier to wean at this point.
“Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” → You don’t offer the breast voluntarily, but also don’t refuse if your baby asks for it.
Avoid common spots where you and your baby are used to nursing.
Offer distractions like other snacks or toys to play with instead of nursing.
Find other rituals or activities to replace that comfort time like snuggles, singing lullabies, rocking, back rubs, or reading books.
Certain feeding times may be harder than others to drop breastfeeding (ie: nap, bedtime), so it can help if another caregiver can be there to take over during those times.
If really struggling to settle without nursing, may try a shortened breastfeeding session. Perhaps the length of 1 song or just stopping as soon as they get drowsy.
Weaning from Pumping
Very similar process to eliminating breastfeeding sessions.
Start by choosing one pumping session to drop (typically sometime midday or early evening is the best as the volume tends to be lowest then).
Only pump your breasts if they are painfully full, and pump just until you feel relief so you can down-regulate your supply.
Wait about 4 or 5 days and then choose your next pump session to drop (preferably opposite time of day from the first dropped session), and continue with the same plan.
If your breasts are feeling full/uncomfortable frequently, then slow down the process and eliminate pump sessions more slowly.
Once you’re down to 1 or 2 sessions you can decrease the time you spend on each pump session by about two minutes every other day. Once you are only pumping for 5 minutes twice a day you should be able to eliminate those pumps altogether.