Regardless of whether you wean the baby for health reasons, due to work, school, lack of strength to breastfeed, or because the baby is too big for it, it is a very difficult decision both for you and for your baby.
During first weeks after birth your breasts produce colostrum, containing the highest levels of nutrients and antibodies, therefore it is better to decide on weaning after the 3rd month. You should remember, however, that the best option is to breastfeed the baby for minimum 6 months, until you start to introduce solids.
Before you start to wean your baby, you must be one hundred per cent sure that this is a good decision, and that you will not start to breastfeed again influenced by emotions. I mention it here, because I went through that twice, and each case was different. First time I gave up after a few days, and in consequence I breastfed the older child really long. Truly, I made several attempts at weaning but they always ended the same way: fit of hysteria, sleepless nights and nerves. With my younger child - a daughter, I had no such problems. I decided to wean her when she was one, and her diet was already quite diversified. In my opinion, the simplest method for weaning the baby is gradual reduction of breastfeeding in favour of new food. Such change is not difficult either for a baby or the mum.
There are numerous methods for weaning a baby, therefore, it is difficult to say which will be the best for your baby. If the baby is strongly attached to his mother, it may be difficult for him to stop drinking breast milk immediately.
The truth is, there is no universal method. Each baby is different and such change should be approached individually. It is worth, however, to draw from experience of other mothers, who also faced that problem. Therefore I asked a few close friends and wrote down their weaning-related experience. Maybe one of the methods described below will be an ideal solution for you.
Step by step
My maternity leave was about to end in less than a month, and I had to go back to work. I found it difficult to imagine breastfeeding from afar - drawing milk with a pump and feeding it to my daughter from a bottle or rushing home straight from work only to be in time for the afternoon feeding. I decided that after returning to work I would feed my daughter with an infant formula, and breastfeed only before sleep and in the morning. A little pleasure for me and my baby at the beginning and at the end of the day.
Of course, I was very worried whether my daughter would want to cease to suckle breast. It turned out, however, that the biggest and only problem was finding an appropriate bottle and a teat. When my daughter finally got the ideal set, she drunk the formula with pleasure, and, surprisingly, she liked it from the beginning. After a while it turned out that my baby preferred the formula to the natural milk, and therefore, after a few weeks, we stopped breastfeeding completely.
Already during pregnancy I was combating a severe anaemia. The doctor providing pregnancy care promised my condition would improve after childbirth. However, some time after birth I had to give up breastfeeding, because, despite a special diet and vitamin formulas the anaemia intensified. It was a very difficult decision, particularly for me, as since the beginning of pregnancy I had assumed I would breastfeed my baby for at least one year. It was very hard for me and my baby son, who certainly felt my nervousness and despair. I was sorry I could not breastfeed him any longer. For a few weeks I felt a useless and bad mother, but after a while I found joy in bottle feeding. By cuddling our baby, talking to him and spending time with him we also show him love and affection. And this matters most!
However, I am glad that despite my condition I was able to breastfeed for the first 3 months, which are the most important for the baby. It is at that time that the baby receives the largest amount of antibodies with mum's milk.
I tried to wean my son a few times. First time, when he was six months old. I was not going back to work, but I did not want to feel so bound, staying at home and observing a strict feeding schedule. Full of eagerness, I bought the best formula in the market and a set of bottles and then.... it began. My son did not even want to look at a bottle, not mentioning the formula, after which (even after one sip) he went hysterics and vomited. After a few attempts I concluded it would not work, and gave up, planning to try again after a few weeks. Now I think it might have been too early for him. That was my mistake. Afterwards, each time I tried to wean him, the outcome was the same: crying and nerves. So I gave up. When my son was a little older, I tried to explain to him he was too big for breastfeeding, but he rebelled and would not eat anything for a whole day. He would only respond to a breast. After 2 years one day he simply refused the breast. And it happen again on the next day, and then on the next. It seemed he finally grew out of it and decided on weaning himself. I was really proud of him.
Once and for good
I breastfed the older daughter for a year, and the younger son for a year and a half. However, in both cases I weaned the babies in a similar way. It was a proven method of my friend, mother of three. Each time I decided to wean my baby, I went away for a few days. My husband took a few days off for that time and he looked after our baby. He gave the first bottle with formula.
When I was weaning my daughter, I moved to my parents for a few days, so she did not feel me being around and did not try to force breastfeeding. When I was weaning my son, it was summertime. I took our daughter to a seaside for a few days, and my husband with our son went to our friends to a countryside. With the men's trip and numerous country attractions the baby was not cranky and did not seek Mum's breast.
My doctor prescribed me special pills to stop the milk production. I also drank sage infusion.
Good advice: If you do not have to, do not stop breastfeeding, unless it is for health reasons or you feel breastfeeding is a problem for you. You do not have to breastfeed only because somebody orders you to, but also do not wean the baby under pressure from people around you. From my own experience, I know it is a difficult decision and it not always goes as we would wish. Before weaning your baby, consider also whether it is big enough to part with mum's breast and do not think only about what is convenient for you. "Forced", immediate weaning or weaning helped with various tricks, may be difficult both for a mother and a baby. However, each child has its own pace of development and you yourself will know what is the best for him. In case of older children who cannot part with a breast, you can calmly explain why you stop breastfeeding. Probably, it will not end with one conversation, but consistency is the key. Good luck!