The When, Why, And How To Wean From Breastfeeding

how To Wean From Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is one of the most precious things you’ve done for your baby. You’re not only feeding them but building up their immune system and strength. Remember the time you were just learning to breastfeed, and now it comes to how to wean from breastfeeding. You and your little one have come a long way. But like all milestones, it eventually comes to an end.

Weaning, although a natural stage in your baby’s development, depends from one baby to another. Some children are ready to wean, as they may enjoy trying new foods from a spoon and learning to use a cup. Whereas, some may be too attached to the breast milk and refuse the bottle or any other form of feeding. So weaning can either be a smooth transition or a very stressful experience, not to mention the physical, emotional, and hormonal shift you’ll be going through.

But it doesn’t have to be that stressful if you follow a few steps as to how to wean a baby from breastfeeding.

What Is Weaning ?

The weaning process is the change from one type of food to another. It is also used to describe how a child moves on from breastfeeding to either a bottle, a cup, or solid foods.

When Should You Wean Your Baby From Breastfeeding ?

There’s no perfect time to wean your child from breastfeeding; it has more to do with your lifestyle. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months
  • Supplemental breastfeeding until the baby turns one.

Some children are attached to nursing well into toddlerhood, while others show less interest and start to self-wean before their first birthday (it’s common between 9 and 12 months).

How To Wean From Breastfeeding ?

There are various methods and types of weaning. You must choose the one that’s best for you and your baby:

Type Of Weaning What’s it like?
Baby-led weaning Some babies stop breastfeeding on their own. Young infants do not wean themselves. True baby-led weaning is gradual and happens approximately after a child is 1 year old.
Gradual weaning Gradual weaning takes place over weeks, months, or years.
Partial weaning Partial weaning is a great option for you if you can’t breastfeed exclusively but you don’t want to give up on breastfeeding altogether.
Sudden weaning Sudden weaning is the quick end of breastfeeding.
Temporary weaning If a mother has a health issue or needs surgery, she can opt for temporary weaning. In this case, breastfeeding is stopped for a short period then restarted.

Should I Partial Wean Or Full Wean My Baby ?

When and how you breastfeed and stop breastfeeding your little one is a choice you make. Maybe you’re ready to get back to work or are simply tired of nursing around the clock or are transitioning to partial weaning- you have your reason to do so.

Most moms partially wean by giving up breastfeeding throughout the daytime and continue to nurse in the morning and night.

Age-By-Age Guide To Weaning

Weaning a young baby is much different from weaning a toddler. Here are a few strategies for stopping or cutting back on nursing based on your little one’s age:

How To Wean At 0-3 Months?

Early weaning is easier at times as your baby isn’t quite attached to breastfeeding. You’ll gradually need to get him acquainted with the bottle. You can do this by offering them the bottle before each breastfeeding session and then weaning completely.

How To Wean At 4-6 Months?

Weaning might get a little difficult at this stage because your baby is probably attached to your milk. A little distraction might help you here. Especially around 5 months is a good time for weaning your baby because at this age they start to notice the world around them.

How To Wean At 6-12 Months?

Around 9 to 12 months, some babies will self-wean- this makes the weaning process simpler. But can you understand that your little one is not interested in your breast milk?

  • Nursing for less time
  • Being fussy
  • Easily distracted
  • Frequent pulling and biting nipple

At this time you can choose to either fully wean or, like most mothers, partially wean. It totally depends on you. The introduction of solid food between 4 to 6 months can help you if you’re partially weaning.

  • Finely mashed sweet potato
  • Pureed bananas

How To Wean A Toddler ?

Some toddlers may self-wean, but others? Not so easily. They might need a little nudge. How can you make weaning easier for your toddler?

  • Explain to him that now he’s a big boy or big girl now and it’s time to stop nursing.
  • Gradually reduce nursing sessions to only when he asks.
  • Changing routine to offering him a snack (solid food) at the time of his previous nursing hour can help to wean.

Complementary Food After Weaning For Your Baby

What food should you offer your little one at what age? How to introduce solid foods in their routine? Here’s a list that’ll help you with the introduction of complementary food.

Age What To Offer
6 to 12 months
  1. Breast milk
  2. Iron-fortified infant formula
  3. Begin introducing solid foods
12 to 18 months
  1. Breast milk
  2. Whole cow’s milk (3.25%)
18 to 24 months
  1. Breast milk
  2. Whole cow’s milk (3.25%).
  3. 2% milk is okay if your child is growing well and eating a variety of foods
2 to 5 years
  1. Breast milk
  2. 2% milk

Bottle Or Cup: What Should You Switch To After Weaning ?

When it comes to weaning, gradual is the best way to go. In other words, partial weaning will help you and your little one have a smoother transition.

  • A good way to start is by replacing one breastfeeding session per day with a bottle.
  • Over time, slowly introduce more bottles and breastfeed less.
  • Most mamas say that it’s easier to replace daytime feeding first and then change naptime and early morning.
  • For most infants, bedtime breastfeeding is usually the hardest to give up. So it’s usually the last one to be eliminated.

At about the age of 6 months, an infant can drink from a cup.

  • You can wean to a cup in the same way you would wean to a bottle.
  • You can decide to wean directly to a cup and skip bottles entirely if your baby is over 6 months.

How To Make Weaning Easier ?

If you are wondering how to wean from breastfeeding, here are some tips:

  1. Be patient and go slow with the weaning process.
  2. Involve your partner or other caregivers, ask them to give your baby the bottle. Your little one may be more likely to take the bottle from someone other than you.
  3. Babies are more distracted at around 6 to 9 months of age. This can be a good time to start weaning and introducing solid foods.
  4. Give them comforting objects like a soothing blanket or a stuffed toy, during this transition.
  5. Replace your special time with your baby by spending time rocking, cuddling, and playing with your baby.
  6. Remember that a toddler may be much reluctant to give up weaning.

How To Care For Yourself When You Stop Breastfeeding ?

The weaning process is not just a significant process for your baby, but for you as well. Apart from the physical changes, your breast milk is shutting down. To have confused or often feeling about the end of breastfeeding is completely normal. But you must make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well.

Here’s how:

  1. Similar to the days after you’ve given birth to your baby, weaning can cause a major hormonal shift that can trigger sadness, anxiety, happiness, anger, and relief- all at the same time.
  2. In case you’re feeling more than a little depressed, check in with your doctor. Postpartum depression can often develop after you stop breastfeeding.
  3. Give yourself some space. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed and take some time to adjust to the new changes.
  4. You can tuck cold cabbage leaves inside your bra to ease soreness caused by engorgement. When the leaves warm up, replace them with new ones.

Final Word: How To Wean From Breastfeeding

From learning about how to breastfeed to learning how to wean from breastfeeding, you and your little baby have come a long way. It may take some time for your baby or toddler to get used to not having nursing sessions anymore, and it may also take some time for you to adjust physically and emotionally.

Towards the end of breastfeeding, having mixed feelings is absolutely normal. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help. You can also call your doctor’s office or visit your local mothers’ group.

How To Wean From Breastfeeding FAQs

1. How long does it take to wean off breastfeeding ?

Some children are attached to nursing well into toddlerhood, while others show less interest and start to self-wean before their first birthday (it's common between 9 and 12 months). Gradual and partial weaning helps you and your baby adjust better. For some, it may take a few days, weeks, or sometimes, even months.

2. How do I wean myself off breastfeeding ?

With gradual weaning, you will take away one nursing session at a time. You can wait until you and the baby have adjusted to the change and are comfortable with the new routine before eliminating the next feeding. This may take up to a few days, weeks, or sometimes even longer.

3. How do I wean my one-year-old from breastfeeding ?

From learning about how to breastfeed to learning how to wean from breastfeeding, you and your one-year old have come a long way. At this age, you can choose to either fully wean or, like most mothers, partially wean. It totally depends on you. The introduction of solid food between 4 to 6 months can help you if you're partially weaning.

4. How do I wean my baby from breastfeeding for comfort ?

It's easier to replace daytime feeding first and then change naptime and early morning. For most infants, bedtime breastfeeding is usually the hardest to give up. So it's usually the last one to be eliminated. Give them a soothing blanket or a stuffed toy to keep them engaged.

5. Do you lose weight after stopping breastfeeding ?

It depends. Many women will not lose all the baby weight until they stop breastfeeding. Most mothers breastfeed their baby exclusively for six months. Thus they now have another six months to get their bodies back in shape before the little one's first birthday.

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