How to wean baby off breastmilk?

There are 2 questions that I shall answer today at one go as they're similar in nature.

Question from Mel: Care to share ur action plan (on weaning baby off bm)? Start from 'A' please... Am up to my eyeballs with it oredi and trying to wean b4 Shifa turns 3 in another 3 mths.

Question from Natni: I'm slowly weaning him off... so far mcm ok, but he refuses formula... and bottle... nak minum pakai straw or the tumbler with straw tu. Dunno why he doesn't like bottle and formula. Now i'm giving him the flavoured dutch lady (the grape one)... and we call it "cow" since ada gambar cow on the bottle... hahaha! What formula are you giving her? Maybe I can try and see if Danial suka ke tak. At the moment, Danial kinda like the grape flavoured drink (but tak suka the rest like the strawberry/orange/tutti frutti) only at the moment.

Toughcookie says...
First of all, I would like to say, kudos to moms who breastfeed. It can be difficult enough for moms at home let alone those who have to work in an office and find time to express milk.

I think many of us moms have always been informed on the benefits of breastfeeding. There are so many sites that promote breastfeeding but there are only a handful who would give you a proper guidance on weaning off babies from breastfeeding.

I dislike general statements like, "Oh, they'll wean off when you start having your menses" or "They'll wean off eventually" and stuff like that. I've tried many tricks from the numerous advise I got but none worked on little jj. And looking at the many emails I received over the last 12 months from breastfeeding moms (the majority of them who are working), they cite that weaning off is harder than they thought. I am grateful, though, that little jj is weaning off on her own but not without any efforts put in by the one and I.

I really believe that breastfeeding moms need a very supportive husband. This is so important because the baby would cling on only mommy and not daddy. Your husband must not give up on the baby and you as a mom, must also play your part in allowing trust (and space!) for your husband to deal with the baby. I find that many of us women would prefer the easy way out and deal with the baby alone without considering what our other half feels and what they can contribute in this relationship if only they are given a chance. Well, I can only say this on dads who prefer to participate actively in bringing up their kids, though...

So, what we did was to persuade little jj to drink formula almost every night after she turned one. The one would prepare it in all sorts of containers and mugs, using bottle and straw - we've tried it all. It is well known that breastfed babies prefer the straw rather than drink from the bottle (just as Natni cited her Danial's preference) and I think Natni should continue feeding him his favourite flavoured milk since Danial is ok with that. Hopefully, he'll graduate to those milk more suitable for his age group sooner or later, slowly but surely.

After little jj turned 1, the one consistently gave her the formula and let her drink it. Of course, she would reject every single bottle/mugs/etc. every night but we persevered. Yes, we would waste plenty of milk because she would probably only take one or two gulps and she'd push away the bottle/containers. But, through that pattern, we identified the types of formula that she'd drink more and the types that she'd totally reject.

Through this step, we discovered that she wouldn't immediately reject Pediasure Chocolate flavour. So, we bought the smallest size and as every other night, the one would make one small bottle using just one scoop and we'd let her hold the bottle.

One fine day probably almost 2 months ago, upon waking up from sleep, she played with the bottle from the night before (I fell asleep and forgot to wash the bottle) and somehow the motherly instincts in me told me that I should do up a fresh bottle for her. I made 2 scoops of milk, and let her hold it. She played with the bottle, swayed it around and before we knew it, she took out the cap and drank it all in while standing up, watching Playhouse Disney! Oh my, I was damn proud of her...

So, I guess in this case, the trick would be:
1. To not force your baby if she doesn't want formula. By forcing the bottle on her, she would totally reject it as she associates drinking formula a negative experience.
2. To be persistent in our efforts. One shouldn't give up too easily.
3. Hubby must assist wife in this because when the baby is near mommy, she would smell mommy's milk and immediately storm for delicious boobies.
4. It probably helps that the formula is delicious, with chocolate flavour. Who knows in time, your baby would develop preference to other types of milk. For now, we're sticking to this brand.

Now, little jj only drank 2 bottles a day, day and night with 2 scoops of Pediasure while the rest of the time, she was breastfed. After 2 weeks, she drank 3 scoops, 3 times a day and still breastfed before bedtime. After a month, we could already feed her formula when we're out shopping or even after her classes at Kizsports. So, no more breastfeeding in public. By now, she no longer clings on to me or hung on to me when she's bored or tired. I think this is such a healthy development as her self-confidence increased and she would explore everything else at her gym class without constantly looking over her shoulders and storms at me for comfort.

By one month of this development, I took another step by trying out an advise I got from an acquaintance who's daughter is little jj's classmate at Kizsports. Now this may sound too radical but I did it for little jj's benefit.

Apparently, this is a sure win as the mom is separated from her baby at every bedtime. Only bedtime. Now this is when your very supportive husband plays his role to the max as the baby would at first cry for mommy. The thing is with babies, they're smart fellas. They know when you'll melt and how they can win everyone's attention with their cuteness and blaring volume. But one just have to persevere. After all, she's well fed at dinner and she's drank a bottle of milk after dinner... after a month of only breastfeeding once a day I could see that she only needed comfort sucking in order to sleep, and not really a drink.

Therefore, the one would get ready a large bottle of plain water for her to drink when she needs that comfort sucking and I will not sleep with her in the same room so that she will not smell the scent of milk on me. Daddy would just let her cry, soothe her and give her the confidence that daddy is there with her even if mommy is not and she would eventually fall asleep. This needs to be done repeatedly.

So far, it has been working well for us all and the one is tremendously happy too because little jj now clings on him even more. For me, I am very happy because she sleeps through the night! :D

I am not sure if this will work on Mel's Shifa who's reaching 3 years soon because she is considered a big girl already and probably could tell the difference between formula and mommy's milk but I know this may benefit Danial. Still, it wouldn't hurt to try. Even if your husband cannot help you in this department, you could always rely on a trusted family member to sleep with Shifa just to separate her from you at bedtime.

As for Natni, little jj's paed also told us to try that - giving milk from milk cartons but we weren't successful. As long as Danial's ok with that, I think you could give him that comfort in knowing that he's doing alright. After awhile, you probably would want to try taking out the contents out of the milk carton into his favourite tumbler or even the milk bottle if you like. I guess once he's able to understand his environment, he may be more accepting to your ideas instead of you having to adhere to his. But I guess that's the beauty about having a baby... it's for us parents to realise how difficult it is for our parents to take care of us when we were younger, for us to be more humble in discovering that there are so many other things in life that brings us joy (other than material stuff) and the ability to be patient and deal with our situation accordingly.

I hope you find this very helpful especially to those of you who have exhausted everything else in the process of weaning their babies off breastmilk.

Come share your views.


Konot said...

useful advice, especially of separating during bedtime.. but.. i pulak yg takut i kenot tahan dgr my sofeya melalak kang.. huhuh

toughcookie said...

dear konot,
sebab itulah peranan suami sangat penting... trust me, dia akan melalak and kita memang akan kesian. kalau sanggup, tak apalah kan... breastfeed aje selagi terdaya.

Em's Family said...

good advise.. yes i truly agree not to force our little munchkin, cos I believe, the more weput a pressure on them, the more they hesitate..