When the time came to stop breastfeeding I felt really emotional. I worked so hard for weeks and weeks to get it right and many obstacles came our way! Despite this nursing became a really special time for just the two of us to stop everything and just…be. We could be in our own little bubble gazing at each other, feeding, cuddling and resting. However it seems to make sense to stop for many reasons. Arlo has slowly improved since I cut dairy out of my diet so this could mean he has an allergy/ intolerance to cows milk. We are still unsure of this and are due to see a paediatrician soon to fully investigate what is causing the issues. Either way I can’t carry on with this diet as it’s stripping me of energy and there are other reasons to stop including; returning to work and the fact that my supply is naturally reducing as he takes more solids. Plus I am dropping night feeds in a bid to get more sleep! BUT.. it still feels like the end of an era and I am going to really miss it. We had a good run my boy, 7 months is not bad, not bad at all…
Now I must say that I am NOT any sort of breastfeeding expert but I thought I would run though what we did to wean Arlo off the breast. I know from speaking to other mums that babies who have been exclusively breastfed do not take to the bottle very well and many people really struggle to make the switch. It’s actually been less stressful than expected as we have done it really slooowly…
Here are the steps we took:
1. Slowly introduce the bottle with some expressed breastmilk in it. You may have already got your little one used to having a bottle which will really help when switching to formula. We tried to offer EBM from 6 weeks every few days which went well at first but when he hit 3 months he decided we would not take a bottle anymore. 3 months on and we have persevered which means he is starting to get the hang of bottles again. Yay!
2. Offer a little bit of formula in the bottle in the middle of the day when baby is not too hungry and not needing comfort. Timing is everything! If you dive in at the bedtime feed with this foreign milk then your baby is likely to be rather p***ed off! Trying offering the formula when they are relaxed and not starving. Arlo started off by just chewing the teet and getting a taste for it. Soon enough the chewing turned to sucking. Also I will emphasise just giving a little formula. It’s expensive stuff to be wasting if baby is refusing to drink it and you cannot reheat it!
3. Offer the breast first and then switch to the bottle half way through the feed. It’s a bit of a cheeky move but it seemed to work with Arlo. He would suck at the breast for a while and I would gently pull him off and place the teet in his mouth instead.
4. Get someone else to do the feed. Obviously as I am the one with the breasts and the warm milky smell that he has come accustomed to. So, if I try to stick a bottle in there he looks at me as if I am mad and pushes it away. Therefore, we have got Dad to offer the bottles more often than myself and to start with he appeared to take more of the milk this way.
5. Make sure it’s warm! Breastmilk comes out at body temperature so this is what your babe will be used to. We have found Arlo even prefers it a bit warmer than body temperature. If you heat it a little extra it is likely to stay warm for the whole feed.
6. Get them sleepy. Antony tried rocking him until he almost entered a state of sleep and then gently placed the bottle in his mouth. He happily suckled away in this dreamy state and this is when we finally got him to take a decent amount- about 4/5oz.
7.Mask your scent. When Dad was not around I tried number 3 but I also tried to wear a t-shirt that my husband had been wearing for a day. It smelt of his deodorant and his general manliness so it masked the scent of breastmilk (well a bit anyway).
8. Swap just one feed a day. Slowly but surely we having been swapping one breastfeed for a formula feed each day. I thought if we tried to do too many at once then both myself and baby would get very stressed. We started off by swapping feeds in the day and then more important feeds like the bedtime feed.
9. Go cold turkey. This weekend I went to a hen do. It will be two nights away from the boy and I was so nervous. Nervous about how he would get on with the milk feeds, nervous at how he would sleep and if my husband would cope on his own (we’ve both been in it together so far) but mostly nervous at how I would feel without him! It felt like I had lost a limb it was very strange but I just kept my mind off it by having fun with my girlies. I guess as I wasn’t there then he had to go cold turkey and perhaps that was the best way to wean him off completely.
Since I have returned he seems to be quite happy to take formula off either one of us and has dropped his night feeds which is positive! I am really proud of how well he has adjusted. I have been careful and made sure I have expressed a little milk off here and there to stop myself becoming too engorged as this can lead to Mastitis…. I have heard from others that this is really painful so best avoided!
I really hope this will help someone out there. I have appreciated all the advice I have received from other mums so its time to pay it forward.
Thanks for reading.