So you feel you may need to wean your baby? But you may have been given incorrect information, so let’s first review some misconceptions to see if you indeed need to wean your baby. Let’s go through the most common reasons women feel they need to wean.
- Pregnant – You do not have to wean if you become pregnant. Most woman can breastfeed after they become pregnant. If your body is still producing milk, you can nurse all the way through your pregnancy. Your body can safely produce milk for the baby and also leave enough nutrients for the fetus. Some women’s first sign that they are pregnant is either decreased milk supply or intense nipple pain that is not from a yeast infection. But, if you do not have either one of these challenges, then you can continue breastfeeding without complications. I do suggest that woman stop breastfeeding by the seventh month of the pregnancy, so your older baby has a chance to find other comforts, and will not be jealous of the new baby. I personally do not think that tandem nursing is the best choice. I feel that the dynamic and intimate relationship you have with a baby is a special time that helps the child develop properly and builds self-confidence. I have found in my practice that the older child tends to use the breastfeeding manipulatively and use the breast as a way of getting attention from the mother, which allows for increased jealousy toward the new baby!
- Baby has teeth – If your baby has teeth you do not have to wean. Most babies will learn very quickly how to nurse with their new teeth, without hurting their mothers. If your baby is biting you and using you as a teething ring, the best way to handle it is to look into your baby’s eyes, when she bites you, and firmly say no biting. Next, put your baby down safely—on a blanket on the floor, or in a baby seat—and walk out of the room for a moment. Then walk back into the room, pick up the baby and while looking into the baby’s eyes state that biting hurts you; then continue nursing the baby. Babies are very smart and will learn quickly that biting you while nursing is not part of your relationship. What usually happens is that a baby will bite her mom, who screams in pain—a reaction that draws a shocked look on a baby’s face—a look of confusion which mother attempts to sooth with a kiss. However, mom’s loving approach only reinforces the bad behavior, rather than shut it down. Consider too that a mom’s scream can be accompanied by a funny or oddly contorted face, which often makes a baby laugh—which now becomes an established pattern of yell, funny face, and kiss—which baby looks forward to repeating! The best way to stop the biting from becoming a habit is to stop the behavior quickly after the first bite. And know that kissing your baby after a bite is inappropriate, and gives the wrong message to your baby.
- You are going back to work – If you are going back to work you do not need to wean. A lot of women are not successful with pumping milk from their breasts, so they feel that if they are going back to work full-time, they have to quit nursing. It is important to note that one reason why women do not pump well, even though they often have a wonderful supply of breast milk, is because there are only a few flange sizes available, and often women cannot find the proper flange size that fits their particular shaped breasts. If a woman has established her breastfeeding properly, and the baby is thriving on the breast; she does not have to quit nursing if she cannot pump successfully at work. When it is time to go back to work, you can still continue breastfeeding in the mornings before work, when you come home from work, and during the night. Even if you do not pump during your working hours, your body will still produce enough milk during the time you have provided for nursing your baby. And if you want to, you can nurse exclusively on the weekends, because the breast does not ‘store’ milk from feed to feed, rather it is made immediately as the baby compresses the breast. Fresh milk is produced as the baby is suckling, so you can still produce milk on your days off.
After all that has been said, if you feel you need to wean your baby for other reasons, we will discuss proper weaning methods in our next discussion on this topic.