How to Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding

Check out these tips for successful weaning from breastfeeding.

Whether you’ve been breastfeeding for over a year or only a few months, weaning your baby can be an emotional, anxiety-filled time.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding solely for six months (and then combining breastfeeding or formula-feeding with baby food), a variety of factors may lead you to wean your child at a different time.

There is no perfect time to wean a child.

Some of my babies were weaned well before their first birthdays, while others continued nursing for months past that. Our decision of when to wean was as individual as each child and was drawn from multiple factors, including my work schedule, milk production, and baby’s interest in nursing.

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If at all possible, weaning will often be easier if you wait until your baby is ready. If this isn’t possible, it can still be accomplished with a bit of patience. Here are three tips for successfully weaning a baby from breastfeeding.

1. Weaning Takes Time

Weaning is a gradual process and, as such, takes time. For a baby who’s well established with nursing, you can plan for it to take up to a month to fully wean from breastfeeding.

You may find that you’ve weaned baby from a certain feeding only for him to get sick and put on the breaks regarding drinking from a bottle or cup. Plan for small setbacks along the road and, if you have time, wean slowly.

Weaning slowly also means you’ll have less chance of engorgement or mastitis. If you find yourself feeling engorged after dropping a breastfeeding session, pump for a few minutes to relieve the pressure. This milk can be stored and used in a bottle or mixed with infant cereal for older babies.

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2. Transition One Feeding at a Time

Stopping breastfeeding cold-turkey can result in a frustrated baby and an engorged Mama. Instead, plan to ease the transition by cutting out one feeding at a time. This is best accomplished by choosing a feeding baby is least interested in and transition from that first.

Transitioning baby from breastfeeding means that you’re replacing each nursing session with something else. For babies under one year, you’ll want to give your little one a bottle of formula in place of breastfeeding sessions. For babies over a year, you could offer a snack or cow’s milk from a cup.

Once baby is confident with the first transition, choose another feeding session to transition. Keep in mind that the first or last feedings of the day will likely be your last transitions, as those provide times of comfort for most breastfeeding babies.

3. Listen to Your Baby

Pay attention to your baby and his feedings. If he’s nearing the one year mark, you may find he begins to shorten or skip feedings altogether on his own. This weaning is the easiest; when your child demonstrates his readiness, it will be a quicker process.

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If you need to wean by a certain date, but have a baby who would happily nurse like clockwork, you can begin to gradually shorten feeding sessions over a period of time. Following a short nursing period with a bottle or cup will demonstrate for baby other ways to fill his belly.

You’ll want to pay close attention to your baby and slow down the weaning process if she’s sick, teething, or seems stressed by the changes in feeding. Breastfeeding is a comfort for many babies, so make sure you’re cuddling, interacting, and engaging with your baby during specific times throughout the day so she feels the bond you used to share during breastfeeding sessions.

Weaning is a big adjustment for baby, so planning extra time, transitioning one feeding at a time, and looking to your child for signs of readiness will help to smooth over bumps in the road.

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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