The reasons why a parent may stop nursing their child varies and can range from nursing aversion, incompatible medical treatments, a desire to wean led by themselves or their child or their milk supply has decreased during pregnancy perhaps and they do not want to continue to nurse.
Perhaps the parent does not want to tandem feed multiple children or there are cultural or religious expectations on the duration of nursing. The list of reasons is not exhaustive and this article will aim to shed light on common symptoms that may be experienced during weaning, particularly when led by the parent.
It is important that wherever possible, parents reduce the amount of feeds gradually to avoid common issues such as blocked ducts which can lead to mastitis, or in some cases a breast abscess. If nursing sessions are cut down too quickly, then the build- up of milk may cause swelling and inflammation which is often uncomfortable and requires prompt self- help measures and in some instances, medical support from a health professional.
Nursing a child may bring fond memories that are difficult to let go off
Whether a parent adopts a parent led or child led approach to weaning from the breast or chest, they may find themselves feeling a range of emotions from relief to guilt. This is normal and completely appropriate responses. Nursing a child may bring fond memories that are difficult to let go off or it may be that breast or chest feeding was a battle to begin with and it may have taken a lot of perseverance to get to where they are today. Allowing those emotions to be felt and acknowledging them is a part of the weaning process.
Some parents report feeling changes in their mood and this may be due to hormonal changes that occur during the weaning process. Parents should monitor this and if they feel that they are struggling, they should seek support from a health professional.
By adopting a gentle approach to weaning, taking it at a slow pace, it can give the child the opportunity to get used to other forms of gaining comfort
Changes in their child’s behaviour
Older toddlers and children can be attached to nursing, seeking comfort and warmth from the breast or chest and this is developmentally appropriate. Children may utilise nursing as a way of ‘checking in’ when exploring their environment or after being separated from their parent, in the same way that a child who is not nursing may opt for a cuddle. By adopting a gentle approach to weaning, taking it at a slow pace, it can give the child the opportunity to get used to other forms of gaining comfort which in turn is likely to support their emotional well- being too.
Stopping nursing can be challenging and if a parent is struggling or would like more information, they can contact a breastfeeding counsellor by calling the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.
More information about weaning from the breast or chest can be found here.