Breastfeeding: Can we temporarily wean for a trip?

I have a 10-month-old daughter who is exclusively breastfed. I am planning a trip away for a week, just after she turns 13 months. How I can gently wean her from her two night feedings before I go, and do you have any suggestions for how to keep my milk supply abundant while away. I'm hoping to continue nursing after I return.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

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

Weaning from nighttime nursing can be quite challenging. Babies love those cozy feeds, and they are often the last to go.

Does you baby sleep with you? If she does share your bed, you could ask your partner to stay with her while you sleep in another room for a few nights. If at first your baby is having a great deal of difficulty going back to sleep without you, you'll be close by. Cutting out one feed at a time might be easiest for both you and baby.

When you are ready to totally wean from the nighttime feeds, explain that you won't be nursing until the sun comes up in the morning. If you do decide to sleep together, wear clothes that make nursing impossible. Calmly explain that you can't nurse until the morning. It is very likely that your little one is not going to be thrilled with this idea. Your partner can really help out at this time. He might want to rock your little one back to sleep, or get her a drink and lie down with her, reassuring her that all is fine.

If you are not able to easily wean your little one at this time from nighttime feeds, it doesn't necessarily mean that while you are away she will continue to wake and be inconsolable without nursing. Of course, it is impossible to say how she will react, but she may surprise her caregiver by sleeping through the night (or falling back to sleep when she is reminded that you are away.)

Each baby handles this type of separation differently. As much as we, as mothers, may think of our babies/toddlers missing our breasts while we're away, what your baby actually misses is your physical presence - your comfort and your love. Nursing is the embodiment of your love. Yes, she will probably miss nursing - but, most of all she'll miss being close to you.

When you return, your little one may happily and eagerly return to your breast as soon as you walk back in the door, or she may be totally uninterested in nursing again. It's best to prepare yourself in advance for either reaction. Separations can be hard on mothers as well as babies.

While you're away, express your milk as often as your baby nurses. This will keep your milk supply from beginning to diminish. It is also important, because as your supply diminishes during weaning, the sodium content of your milk increases, and most babies are not thrilled with the taste of salty breastmilk.

About a week or so before the trip I would recommend telling your daughter you will be away. Explain who will be taking very good care of her, and that you will be back very soon. She will not be able to nurse while you're away, but when you return she will be able to nurse again. Remind her each day, and tell her how much you love her and will miss her. We often forget to explain things to our babies because they are so young, but babies understand much more than we could imagine.

When you return home, make it a priority to spend the first few hours alone with your baby. Retreat to your bedroom and enjoy reconnecting with each other. You can offer to nurse at this time. Rest together, stroke her, and tell her about your trip and how glad you are to be back home. My very best wishes!

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