There are 3 main ways to wean from breastfeeding:
- Stop abruptly...cold turkey. But be aware that the mom may get sore or infected when doing this.
- Wean gradually. Typically, the middle of the day nursing sessions are dropped first, then the morning one is cut off, and finally the night time nursing session is stopped. Often, the session before bed is a comfort thing so it is harder to eliminate.
- Let the child wean when he is ready. This could be at 10 months or 4 years....this approach lets the child decide. Many people who are a part of Le Leche League may feel that this is a good approach to use. Once a child is eating a lot of table food, the breast milk supply will greatly reduce. Once the mom resumes her menstrual cycle and once the baby is one year old, the mom's hormones are altered and the taste of the milk may change subtly.
Babies and toddlers with special needs may need to take a longer amount of time in the weaning process. This could be due to a child with a medical problem takes comfort in nursing; he may also greatly benefit from the antibodies from the breastmilk. It could also be that sometimes a child with a developmental delay dislikes change or tends to be inflexible. There are many other reasons, but be aware that if you weaned a typically developing child easily in the past, you may not have a similar experience when trying to wean your toddler or child with special needs.
I am not a lactation consultant, but have attended conferences on the subject, and maybe one day if I clock in enough hours, I could sit for the exam. Til then, I will promote breastfeeding because it is wonderful, and I will use my knowledge to help my clients with feeding problems to improve in their feeding abilities!