Early Weaning from Breastfeeding – Reasons, Dangers, and Prevention
Weaning your baby from breastfeeding means changing your baby’s diet from breast milk to formula or solid foods. Making the decision to wean is not easy for moms, and while some mothers are more than ready to begin, others are more reluctant to stop for fear of losing the special bond they have with their child.
If you are planning to wean your baby early, i.e., before he is ready for it, then you must know if it is the right decision or not. There are several drawbacks to weaning early, so unless you have no choice, it is best to do it at about six months of age at the earliest.
What Leads to Early Weaning?
While some mothers choose to wean early, others are more reluctant and do not have a choice in the matter. Here we discuss some of the reasons for early weaning from breastfeeding:
1. Low Milk Supply
Sometimes a mother may have a problem in producing more milk. The lack of milk supply can compromise with the nutritional requirements of a baby and affect his health. In such a case, it is suggested that one should talk to a doctor or lactation professional to find out if there is anything that can be done. Even after suggestions, if the mother fails to produce more milk, then weaning the baby from breastfeeding is recommended.
Breastfeeding should not hurt, but some women may face pain while breastfeeding and that may make them wean their babies early. The pain is generally due to sore nipples, plugged milk ducts, breast engorgement and mastitis. In such case, it is best to talk to the doctor and have the cause treated so that you can continue feeding your baby as usual.
Going into labour and giving birth to a baby is not easy. Post-childbirth, it takes a few months for a woman to heal completely. If the mother is not producing enough milk, breastfeeding the baby may make her feel extremely fatigued. In this situation, a woman may opt for weaning the baby early.
4. Lack of Support
Encouragement and support from the spouse can be a very important factor when it comes to breastfeeding. Studies show that the duration and the success of a woman’s breastfeeding depend on the support of the people closest to her. Her mother and friends are others whose support is invaluable. If there is no support, it becomes very difficult to breastfeed.
5. Medical Issues
If a baby is born with a medical condition such as a cleft lip or a tongue-tie, breastfeeding becomes much more challenging and frustrating.
Sometimes, a mother may have existing ailments that may require her to begin the medication soon after childbirth. While some medications are all right to continue and will not harm the baby, there are others such as radioactive iodine for an overactive thyroid or chemotherapy medication for cancer that is not safe for the baby. In this situation, a woman may have to wean the baby early.
7. To Have Another Baby
This is not a very common reason, but there are cases when mothers who are a bit older and have already had to struggle with infertility have decided to stop breastfeeding in order to try for another child as soon as possible. It is not easy for a woman to get pregnant during the breastfeeding period, especially in the first six months, so she may opt for weaning her baby early.
8. Returning to Work
Women who are returning to work after their maternity leave may find it hard to breastfeed the baby whenever necessary. To fulfil the nutritional requirements of the baby, they may decide weaning their baby early.
Some women are not shy to breastfeed in front of others, but there are many who find it awkward to breastfeed in front of others. If there are too many visitors coming and going, it may make it a bit difficult for these mothers to comfortably breastfeed their babies for long.
Why Is Early Weaning Not Recommended?
Breast milk is highly beneficial to your child as it contains all the essential nutrients that your child needs for the first few months of his life. There are some important antibodies that your baby will miss out on if weaned too early as well. Here are some dangers of weaning too early:
- Weaning early can make a baby prone to illnesses like ear infections, upper respiratory problems, and diarrhoea.
- High risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- Early weaning and allergies go hand in hand and babies also face a higher risk of developing diseases such as eczema.
- Early weaning risks a baby being more prone to childhood obesity, meaning your child will also be prone to developing the problems that go along with it such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
- Weaning too early also puts a baby at the risk of accidentally sucking the food into the airway.
- It can cause a baby to either get too much or too little of the right kind of nutrition.
Can Early Weaning from Breastfeeding Lead to Guilt in Mothers?
The best part about nursing your child is the closeness you feel between the two of you, not to mention all the benefits that your baby will get from a diet exclusively of breast milk. This is why a mother may feel guilty if she is unable to breastfeed her child if she is not producing enough milk or if her child refuses to drink from the breast. Mothers tend to do everything in their power to get their children to drink from the breast, but sometimes, nothing works. Parents fear that children will not get enough nutrition and that they will then become prone to all sorts of illnesses and allergies or perhaps their growth may even become an issue. If you are one of these mothers, stop worrying. Breastfeeding is just not the right fit for every mother and child, but this does not mean something will happen to your baby.
If your baby is refusing to drink from the breast, but you are still lactating perfectly, you can always use a pump and get your baby to drink breast milk from the bottle. If you cannot produce enough milk, speak to your doctor about what you can do about it and remember that your baby will be just fine.
Early Weaning Prevention Tips
There are many benefits to breastfeeding. If you find yourself wondering “have I started weaning too early?” then here are some tips for you to prevent it from going any further:
1. Maintain a Healthy Milk Supply
Do your best to avoid bottles or pacifiers and try to breastfeed as often as you can. While some mothers find this easy, some will find lactating difficult. Speak to your doctor for a solution.
2. Show Some Self Love
Lactating requires your body to be energetic, and so you should try and find some time to rest. Eat healthy food and drink plenty of fluids so that your body is at its best.
3. Learn About Breastfeeding Problems
If you know what the different problem is, it will be easier for you to work on them than to give up if you come across a hurdle. You will also know how to treat and most importantly, to prevent them from happening. Talk to the doctor about breastfeeding problems and he may give you a solution. Instead of weaning your baby, cure the problem and breastfeed your baby.
4. Get Support
If you do not get enough support from friends and family, join a breastfeeding group. Not only will you meet and make friends with other mothers in a similar place in life as you, but you will learn a lot.
5. Wait to Introduce Solids
Start introducing solid foods to your baby only when your doctor says so. When you are on the weaning path, first breastfeed and then feed your baby other food.
Right Age to Wean from Breastfeeding
Doctors recommend weaning a child from the age of six months, but if you can continue to breastfeed for your baby for the first year. Breastfeeding is the best feeding for your child in the first year of his life.
If you have no breastfeeding issues or any other problem, nurse your child as long as you can, but if you cannot, do not allow yourself to feel guilty. There are other ways you can get your baby the most beneficial diet and your bond with your baby will not suffer as much as you think.
Also Read: Right Time To Start Bottle Weaning