First, you need to confirm that you truly need to wean! Some doctors may be misinformed when it comes to a medicine or surgical procedure and its compatibility with breastfeeding.
There are very few medications that women must forcibly wean for if they are nursing. One example might be a chemotherapeutic medicine. Additionally, there are few surgeries that truly mean breastfeeding must cease. Given that there are certainly exceptions, you should confirm with your doctor or lactation consultant first so you can be sure that you must undertake weaning.
If you need to wean for a reason such as needing to take a medication or have a surgical procedure, a more gradual child-led weaning may not be appropriate for you. Additionally, the ease of weaning may depend on how old your baby or toddler is. If your baby is less than a year, you may want to look into donor breast milk as a substitute, or start to slowly introduce formula so by the time you need to wean you know your baby is tolerating it well.
Depending on how much time you have, you can employ a less drastic measure of weaning. This may include postponing or distracting your child when she asks (but nursing at some point if true distress occurs), changing up your routine to avoid a favorite nursing spot, not offering the breast but also not refusing when requested, wearing clothes that aren’t as easily accessible for nursing, or shortening each session.
This can be a stressful and emotional time for everyone – be sure to seek support of other women who’ve been in your shoes so you don’t feel alone.
Reviewed by Sara Connolly, March 2020