Sudden weaning
Weaning is best done slowly, as it can be unsettling for both you and your baby when you don't have enough time to adjust. Find out why, and how you can smooth the process
When baby weans

Many women are forced to wean suddenly - either because they are separated from their baby for a longer period of time, or due to some kind of illness/medication that doesn't allow for breastfeeding at the same time. Sometimes a baby may force the sudden wean by refusing the breast or bottle.

If it isn't led by the child then they can find it particularly stressful. Feeding time is important for baby's emotional needs, so you'll need to give her lots of extra cuddles to help ease her stress during this time. It's also important that you're not bringing even more stress into the equation by making other big changes at the same time - such as starting child care, moving house, or trying to wean when your child is unwell.

If your child is feeding to sleep then you will need to stop this before you try to wean completely. Learning to fall asleep in a completely different way will be hard enough on your baby, without her also not having the comfort of breastfeeds during the day.

Make sure your baby will accept a bottle before ceasing breastfeeds, as a sudden wean will be a lot easier if you can replace breastfeeds with bottle feeds

If you have been unsuccessful in encouraging your baby’s acceptance of bottle feeds while continuing to breastfeed and have no option other than to suddenly wean your baby, consult with your GP or child health nurse regarding strategies suitable for your baby. It will be beneficial to have a health professional monitor your baby’s nutritional state and hydration until she starts to consume sufficient quantities of milk.

What about you?

Breast complications are common when you wean suddenly. To help ease the pain, make sure you:

  • Wear a supportive bra.
  • Hand express or pump enough milk to make your breasts feel comfortable and relieve the symptoms of engorgement
  • Don’t completely empty your breasts. An exception would be if you experience symptoms of a blocked milk duct or mastitis, in which case it may be necessary to more thoroughly empty your breast. 
  • Apply cold compresses or cabbage leaves to your breasts between feeds. 
  • Check with your health care provider about taking a mild pain killer like paracetamol or ibuprofen.
This article was written by Rowena Bennett and adapted for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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