Weaning, in some instances, can be a challenge. When is the right time to wean? What if one baby is ready and the other(s) isn’t? What if two or three are and one isn’t? How can I make this as painless as possible and not feel guilty? What if nursing them settles them down and it’s the only way they will fall asleep? What if they are ready and I am not? Or what if I am ready and they are not?
Decide when you think it is time to consider weaning. You know your own situation best. The children could be 2 months, 10 months, 1 year, 2 years or anywhere in between. Reaching the decision may be because you need to go back to work, or it has been a year and you are exhausted with nursing combined with everything else needed doing. There may be pressure from others and having a plan to handle that pressure may be necessary. Nevertheless, think about introducing weaning slowly so that not only do the kids have a chance to learn the new routine, but your body can also make the necessary physical adjustment. Just as demand and supply increases milk supply, a reduced demand will result in less milk production. Slow reduction also allows for the physical relationship of Mom to babies and vice versa to change.
How to recognize when your multiples may be ready to wean:
- the kids themselves may be ready to give it up, but not completely and you would like to speed up the completion date;
- maybe the kids are becoming disinterested in nursing and are self-weaning (it does happen from time to time);
- weaning can be challenging when one is ready and the other isn’t. To add to the mix, the one whom is ready may continue only because his sibling hasn’t stopped yet. Multiples can become quite competitive if they feel their sibling(s) is getting something they are not; or
- it could be that the opposite happens and one stops nursing and isn’t bothered that his/her sibling(s) continues to nurse.
Knowing one is ready to wean, may be the impetus needed to begin thinking along the lines of weaning all of them.
Suggestions for implementing weaning:
- changing the routine is a good place to begin. Drop the easiest daytime sessions first, or stretch out the time between daytime nursing with a distraction (story, trip to the park). You may still need to nurse at nap times;
- try a sippy cup or straw if someone is thirsty;
- a good rule of thumb, “don’t offer, don’t refuse;”
- have a nursing song, perhaps ABC’s or slowly count to 20, to indicate the length of a nursing session. Be consistent so they know what to expect;
- avoid areas of the house where they were nursed, e.g. sitting/lying on the sofa, their room, la-z-boy chair;
- some children respond well to verbal interactions/preparations, e.g. big girls and boys use a cup;
- you may only nurse them at nap/bedtime for a time;
- when working on giving up the nighttime nursing, some Moms leave the house so that Dad, partner or grandparent can be the one to put the kiddies to bed. If Mom is anywhere in the house, expect to be found and there be a request to nurse. Staying out of the house ensures that someone else is the soother and comforter for the time being;
- weaning, for whatever reason, may need to occur while the babies are still very young, e.g. 4 or 6 weeks. In such case, try not to switch to formula in one or two days. Dropping a few feeds each day will allow Mom’s body to respond to the decrease in demand and make weaning a more comfortable experience;
- babies/toddlers nurse also for comfort so as weaning occurs, they are also looking to increase their other sources of comfort. This can take a little time to become the norm. Lots of hugs and physical touch is helpful.
Things to think about:
- never compare the children to one another, e.g. Look at Harry, he’s a big boy and doesn’t need to nurse;
- be flexible, especially at the beginning. If one (two or three) is having difficulty letting go, be aware of each child’s individual needs and concerns. Being in tune to those needs will, in the long run, pay dividends;
- stick with what works for a period of time until each child is comfortable with the change in routine, e.g. stretching time between day time nursing, no nursing during the day;
- be prepared for setbacks. Tomorrow is another day and you can all try again;
- don’t rush the process. Let the children tell you as much as possible what they need and when;
- do not plan any huge changes in nursing patterns at emotionally stressful times: holidays, travel, having family guests, starting daycare, illness;
- if you need to wean your babies because you are on medication, don’t stop cold turkey. Pumping from time to time will comfortably help reduce your supply;
- for older toddlers/children, consider having a Weaning or Milestone Party to celebrate their growing up;
- consider rite of passage changes to their bedrooms, changing cribs to Big Kid beds, moving out the rocking chair, and so on;
- one inventive Mom put band aids on her nipples signifying that she had a “bobo”;
- if you are receiving pressure from others indicating “it’s time,” gently stand your ground as to what you and your multiples need; and
- speak to parents with older multiples and find out what worked for them.
Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More , Karen Kerkhoff Gromada, La Leche League International, 2007
La Leche Leaque of Canada
Searching “breastfeeding multiples weaning” offers many helpful blogs.
These 2 books are not multiple-birth focused but they do contain helpful information about weaning. They are available on line through La Leche League.
How Weaning Happens , Diane Bengson
Nursing Mother’s Guide to Weaning , Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich
Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator, with helpful in put from Erin Shaheen, mother of multiples + more, and Kathy Litalien, Mom of twins.