Different weaning methods for different mums and bubs
1) Child led-weaning
If you're in no rush to wean and you want to leave it until you know your child is completely ready to wean, then child-led weaning might be for you. This means the child will gradually reduce and stop breastfeeding without being prompted to do so. True child-led weaning occurs between the ages of 2.5 and 7 years, with an average of 4.4 years, so you'll have to be patient - both with baby and with some judgemental spectators.
Although people think that many children give up breastfeeding on their own accord, most are influenced to do so, intentionally or unintentionally, when their mothers employ gradual weaning strategies.
2) Mother-led weaning
This is when the mother makes the decision to stop breastfeeding, though unfortunately many women are forced into this sort of weaning before they are ready, due to difficult work circumstances. It's estimated that only around a third of women in Western societies achieve their breastfeeding goals, so if you are reluctant to wean your child please explore possible options with a qualified lactation consultant before giving up on your breastfeeding dreams.
3) Partial weaning
You might choose this option if you’re unable to express your milk at times of separation from your baby, for example while you’re at work, and you need to supplement breastfeeds with infant formula.
Combined feeding is not something that can be successfully maintained in every case, but many women find they can continue to successfully breastfeed long-term, while also providing formula for their baby. This will come down to your baby willingly changing between nipple and bottle teat, and you being able to maintain milk supply long term when breastfeeds are infrequent. Be cautious of going down this path if it’s your goal to breastfeed long-term.
4) Gradual weaning
Gradually weaning is a slow and deliberate process of stopping one breastfeed at a time and replacing this with a bottle or cup of expressed breast milk, or formula, or solids. When doing this kind of weaning, allow your baby and your breasts time to adjust before continuing the process until all breastfeeds are ceased.
Strategies to gradually wean a toddler or young child might include: ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’; shortening or postponing breastfeeds; substituting solids, water or milk in a cup for a breastfeed; distraction; or a change in routine.
Gradual weaning is good as it allows more time for your child to get used to the change. There is a reduced risk of breast complications when weaning occurs gradually compared to sudden weaning.
5) Sudden weaning
A sudden wean means an abrupt end to breastfeeding. While a sudden wean can be upsetting for the child and carries a risk of breast complications such as engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis there are situations where it may be the only option.