Breastfeeding: Should weaning be cold turkey or gradual?

My grandchild is seven months old and her mom is ready to return to work. She wants to wean. She called her doctor who told her the only thing to do is go "cold turkey." I thought there was a medication that could be used to help dry up her milk. Is "cold turkey" really the way to go when weaning?

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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

Weaning abruptly is not recommended. If your daughter is ready to wean, it is best to wean gradually.

She should eliminate no more than one feeding every three days to keep her breasts comfortable and also to help her little one adjust to the change. If her breasts are full between feeds, she can express just enough milk for comfort.

She should not bind her breasts. Though this is sometimes still recommended, this is an outdated practice and could lead to a plugged duct or breast infection. Instead, she should wear a bra that will give her good support but will not restrict circulation.

Ice can be used in between feeds, for about 20 minutes at a time, to help reduce swelling.

Cold cabbage compresses will help to further reduce her milk supply. She could tuck a cold leaf of cabbage inside her bra, covering the entire breast, and leave it in place about two hours or until it wilts. Cabbage leaves help to suppress lactation. Often there is relief in as little as two hours (Ruth Lawrence, MD, 1994). She can continue this treatment as needed while weaning. Using the cabbage compresses while she gradually decreases the stimulation to her breasts will help her to stay comfortable.

Many moms have success with breastfeeding only when their child asks -- don't offer and don't refuse. Suggest that she change her routine a little. Have an activity like reading or an outing planned for the time she usually nurses.

Since your daughter's baby is only seven months old she will need to substitute formula for breastmilk. Between 6 and 12 months of age breastmilk (or formula) should make up 75 percent of a baby's diet.

I hope these suggestions help keep your daughter comfortable while she's weaning her baby from the breast.

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