Breastfeeding: Alternatives to weaning four month old

Our four-month-old daughter has been breastfed since birth. My wife is having problems at present weaning her off the breast to the bottle. She appears to prefer what nature has provided. What can be done if anything do aid the transfer? My wife is very tired as she wakes every three hours to nurse. Is there anything more that you can suggest that can be done to help my permanently exhausted wife?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I can understand how you would love to provide your wife with some relief since she is feeling exhausted. You are very concerned about her welfare.

Weaning your baby from the breast to a bottle is not a cure for fatigue. Mothering isn't easy, whether you breastfeed or bottlefeed. A breastfeeding mom does however benefit from the release of the hormone prolactin, often referred to as the mothering hormone, as she nurses her baby. Your wife will no longer benefit from the presence of this (relaxing) hormone once your baby is weaned.

Offer to help your wife around the house. Help with meals or with preparing snacks ahead of time, so she will be able to eat something that is healthy during the day. She needs to take some time for herself every day. Help her so she can recharge her batteries. She may want to take a warm bath, get some exercise or just get away. It is really important that she knows you are there for her. Your support and encouragement are crucial to her.

Your wife needs to rest during the day, when the baby rests. Many moms use this time to get work done, but this can lead to exhaustion. Relax your standards around the house (at least for the time being.) Your wife and baby can nap together and both wake up refreshed. If your wife takes good care of herself, she will find mothering becomes much easier and less tiring.

Exhaustion can be a sign of depression. Postpartum depression is more common than most people realize and is not limited to the days or weeks following the birth. If you feel your wife is depressed, it would be wise for her to be evaluated by her Health Care Provider.

If you do decide it is the right time to wean your baby to a bottle, it is important to go slowly. Weaning is easiest on both mom and baby when it is done gradually. You can help your wife by offering a bottle when she isn't in the house. Don't sit in the same place your wife normally nurses. Take your time, offering the bottle to your baby, allowing her to draw the bottle nipple into her mouth. Warming the nipple prior to the feed may help. All babies love skin-to-skin contact. Take off your shirt and hold your baby close to your body as you feed her the bottle. Be patient. She may not accept the bottle the first time. Give her a chance to get used to a new method of feeding. See Gradual Weaning for more information. Best wishes!

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