Weaning Baby off Your Breast
Weaning Baby off breast milk begins with you deciding how long you should breastfeed your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (here) and the The American Academy of Family Physicians (here) recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies (exclusively) for the first 6 months and then continue breastfeeding for the next 6 months and beyond.
The World Health Organization (here) goes further and recommends continual breastfeeding until age 2. That being said, you should try to strike a balance between what is best for your baby and what is best for you.
Reasons to Wean Your Baby
There are many reasons why a woman might choose to wean her baby, but here are a few common reasons:
- Women who need to go back to work may choose to wean their baby off the breast. Although some women can work and breastfeed, the majority will choose to wean their baby because their workplace is not amendable to breastfeeding.
One way to continue to give your baby breast milk while you work is to pump the milk out of the breast and give it to the care provider to feed to the baby. You need to find a schedule that works for you. For example, pump the milk before going to work, over the lunch break, after work, and then once again before going to bed.
- Some women “want their body back” and do not want to be a slave to the breastfeeding process. Certainly, if you feel stifled, it may be best to wean instead of continuing to breastfeed and feeling resentful of your sacrifice. Weaning Baby will give you more physical and emotional freedom. And that is very important because an unhappy mother will find it difficult to truly love and nurture her baby.
- Some women wean their baby because they are pressured to do so by family members, neighbors, and/or friends. This scenario is most sad since the mother does not want to, nor does she need to wean, but does so only because of misguided advice.
One way to bypass this problem is to not tell anyone that you are still breastfeeding. Simply answer that your baby is eating solid food and that he is growing well. You need not tell anyone or show anyone that you are still breastfeeding.
When to Wean Your Baby
In principle, you can wean your baby at any time. Here are some landmarks to consider:
- 1st month after birth:
Women who go back to work soon after baby is born need not feel guilty or bad that they cannot breastfeed. Just be grateful that you had the opportunity to breastfeed your baby even for the first few weeks of life. You have given him a healthy start in life because you have given him priceless colostrum.
- Weaning at 6 months of age:
Weaning when your baby is about 6 months old is convenient because this is when most babies start to eat solid food. Some mothers choose to mix the baby cereal with formula so why not just switch over to formula-feeding all together? At 6 months, a normal, full-term baby may be sitting up and appear more like a “baby” and less of an “infant”.
- Weaning at 9 months of age: Weaning between 9 to 12 months of age is also common because some babies wean themselves at this age. Baby is old enough to understand the events that occur around him. He may lose interest in breastfeeding and prefer to look around or play instead. He may turn his head away from the breast at the slightest sound such as the family dog, an older sibling, or someone in the room talking. Why not take the opportunity to wean him when he is clearly not interested in the breast?
- Weaning at 12 months of age: Another breastfeeding milestone is at 12 months of age. At this age, Baby can start drinking cow’s milk. A mother who does not want to deal with mixing and warming formula can bypass formula-feeding completely by providing breast milk until Baby is one year old. After one year of age, Baby can go straight to homogenized milk. Babies need fats for brain development, so give Baby homogenized milk and NOT reduced-fat or skim milk.
- Weaning after 1 year old: Most mothers who continue to breastfeed their babies beyond one year do so because they enjoy the special closeness that occurs between mother and child during breastfeeding. By one year of age, “babies” turn into “toddlers”: they begin to crawl or walk around and can eat table foods just like other member of the family. Continued breastfeeding at this point is called extended breastfeeding.
For the year 2010, the Surgeon General of USA hopes to have:
- 75% of women breastfeeding when they leave the hospital,
- 50% women breastfeeding at 6 months, and
- 25% of women still breastfeeding at 12 months.
How does your state comply? Click here to see the results of the 2014 survey conducted by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
- read about extended breastfeeding
- read about how to wean your baby
- read about when your baby is ready for solid baby food
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