Breast-feeding is an ideal and natural way to fulfill an infant’s nutritional needs. Breast milk also provides the baby with immunological benefits, and breast-feeding is an intimate, together time for a mother and her baby.
People often independently reach the decision as to whether or not breast-feeding is appropriate for them and they seldom ask specialists many questions about whether or not to wean the baby or how to go about weaning the baby.
- When to stop breast-feeding?
It is far too impersonal and arbitrary to allow cultural influences to dictate how long you should nurse your baby. You must define your own special situation. Generally, if you are not sure about whether or not to stop breast-feeding, you are not ready to wean your baby.
The appropriate time for weaning your baby will define itself, provided the mother is well read and well informed about the subject. Speak to other nursing mothers and to mothers who have nursed in the past so that you may benefit from their experience. Joining a mother’s discussion group is very helpful.
- Breast engorgement and the working mother
Many women return to their jobs within one or two months after childbirth and the question of weaning often arises at that time.
The breastfeeding mother who is away from her child for more than one or two feedings will feel a progressive fullness of her breasts. This is called engorgement. As time passes without engorges breasts’ being emptied, the breasts will become painful. The mother who wishes to continue to nurse must empty her engorged breasts regularly, or else the milk glands will stop producing milk.
A working mother who continues to breast-feed will usually pump her breasts during the workday.
- Treating mastitis
A big number of women may feel a chill and shaking and may have fever. In addition, one of their breasts can be swollen and tender with part of it red. This is a classic description of a mastitis, a breast infection. Mastitis is usually due to bacteria that have gained entrance through an irritated or cracked nipple, although often bacteria may gain entrance through a normal-appearing nipple. Treatment with antibiotic usually relieves the irritation. Nursing should not be stopped because the resultant breast engorgement interferes with the blood supply of the breast and keeps the infection active. Infants who continue to nurse suffer no ill effects, and the nursing reduces the engorgement and helps the breast to heal itself.
Warm compresses applied to the swollen breast can help relieve it.
- Weaning your baby from the breast
There are two methods of weaning: the slow and the rapid. In the rapid method, you just stop nursing altogether. You should wear your bra tightly strapped, day and night. The breasts will undergo about 24 hours of painful engorgement, and then they will gradually subside to normal. I the slow method, you should omit one breast-feeding per day every three or four days and substitute another source of nourishment appropriate to your baby’s age. It takes about two weeks to go from five breast-feedings a day to none and you will hardly notice any engorgement in the process.