The decision to wean

Should I wean my baby?

Deciding whether to wean a baby may be easy or difficult. Some mothers wean because of a workplace that doesn’t allow them to breastfeed or express. Others wean for medical reasons or because they simply feel it is time. They may dislike breastfeeding, have trouble with it, or have unsupportive partners or families. They should ask themselves whether breastfeeding is significantly affecting their well-being and their relationship with their family. They should balance these issues against the benefits of breastfeeding for themselves and their baby and consider the cost of infant formula. Mothers should be certain of their decision; if they wean, it may be difficult to re-establish the milk supply. They should ensure they are supported and often benefit from discussing weaning with qualified health-care providers. 

A) Reasons for weaning

There are a variety of situations that can result in weaning including mothers:

  • Having emotional or physical barriers to breastfeeding.
  • Needing to wean for medical reasons.
  • Being unable to continue breastfeeding when returning to work
  • Mistaking normal changes in breastfeeding for signs that the baby is ready to be weaned.
  • Feeling they are ready.

Sometimes it is the baby who decides to wean. This may be part of the normal process of self-weaning or be due to a breastfeeding strike.

Families come in all varieties with different challenges and resources. The decision to stop breastfeeding may be easy or difficult.

B Deciding to wean

If you are uncertain about breastfeeding, consider the following. 

1) Get help

Start by getting the support that you need.

Ensure that your health-care providers are able to discuss all of your options. A breastfeeding specialist can be very helpful in addressing any barriers. They can also assess if weaning is safe for you and your baby. 

2) Review your situation

Have an honest, calm look at how breastfeeding is going for you and for the baby. Ask yourself whether your efforts to breastfeed are significantly interfering with your:

  • Health and well-being.
  • Relationship with your partner and family.
  • Other children.
  • Ability to provide for yourself and your family.

Balance these issues against the benefits of breastfeeding for you, your baby, and your family. Remember to factor in the cost of infant formula.

3) Delay the decision if you can't decide

If you are still uncertain, take it day by day and see what happens. It is normal for mothers who have trouble breastfeeding to want to stop one day and then to feel the opposite way the next day or even the next hour. 

If you do wean the baby, be certain of your decision. If you have already weaned or are doing so but decide to resume breastfeeding, it can be very difficult to re-establish your milk supply and the baby may be unwilling to return to the breast.

4) Deciding to wean

If your heart consistently says that you and your family would be better off if you didn’t breastfeed, then don’t be afraid to proceed.

This decision should not be forced on you by others, such as unsupportive partners, family members, or health-care providers.