How to wean your Baby
As a mum, you’ll know that breastfeeding is all about the bond. And if you’re considering weaning, that’s OK! In fact, it can be a really positive thing for both you and your baby. But how do you go about it? How to wean your baby from breastfeeding?
- 1 How to wean your Baby
- 1.1 What is the best age to stop breastfeeding a baby?
- 1.2 How to wean your baby in 4 stages
- 1.3 Tips on how to Wean your Baby off breastfeeding
- 1.4 How to wean your baby: slowly vs. quickly
- 1.5 If not breast milk, then what?
- 1.6 When to introduce different food to your baby
What is the best age to stop breastfeeding a baby?
There are many ways to wean your baby, and you can do it at any age. The best age to stop breastfeeding a baby depends on the child’s development, your goals, and what works for you as a mother. Some moms decide to stop when their babies are 6 months old, while others wait until their babies are 12 months old. Whatever your choice is, it’s important that you know how to wean your baby safely so that neither of you will have any problems adjusting.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse their babies until they are at least 12 months old. However, every child is unique and some may be ready for solid foods as early as six months old while others may need more time before being ready for solids. If you’re concerned about how long it will take for your child to be ready for solids then talk with your pediatrician about what is best for your individual situation!
How to wean your baby in 4 stages
When your baby reaches 6 months old, you can start introducing other foods. Some babies may take to it right away, but others may need to be weaned off breast milk gradually. Here are the four stages of weaning:
1. The first stage is called “transitional.” This involves switching from breast milk to formula or cow’s milk.
2. The second stage is called “progressive.” This involves adding more solid foods and reducing the amount of formula or cow’s milk you give your baby by half each week until he or she is ready for solid foods alone.
3. The third stage is called “complete.” This means giving your baby only solid food that has been mashed into a puree consistency until all breastfeeding has stopped completely (usually between 12 and 18 months old).
4. The fourth stage is called “extended,” which means continuing to give your child pureed foods until they are at least 2 years old—or even older if they want it!
Tips on how to Wean your Baby off breastfeeding
Once you have decided when to wean your baby off the breast, the next question is how to wean. How you wean your baby depends on how old your baby is and his disposition. Infants are the easiest to wean. They are so small that they have not acquired an attachment to the breasts yet. As well, milk flows out of a bottle-nipple faster than the flow of milk out of a breast. So, as long as you provide them with food, an infant may happily take the bottle instead of the breast.
Babies who have developed an affinity for the breast. These babies may be more difficult to wean. They like the taste & smell of breast milk, and they like the warmth & comfort of mother’s breasts. To wean such a baby, you may need to leave the room and have someone else (husband, baby sitter, grandma) offer the bottle. With you absent, he will not be reminded of your breasts, and being hungry, he may be enticed to drink from a bottle. If he will not drink from a bottle, try feeding him from a cup, a spoon, an eye dropper, or a syringe (with the needle removed).
How to wean toddlers who are down to 3 or 4 feedings per day, will depend on the art of distraction. For example:
- eliminate the noon-time feeding by giving him more table foods and a sippy-cup of formula (or breast milk).
- eliminate a pre-nap nursing session by taking him for a walk and letting him fall asleep while in the stroller instead of falling asleep on the breast.
- eliminate the morning feeding by distracting him with a lively breakfast table with lots of nutritious finger foods.
The before-bed feeding is the hardest to give up because your baby is so dependent on that quiet and quality time to settle down for the night. If possible, let your husband or another adult take him to bed so that he is not confronted with you and your breasts which has, until now, always been for him.
To read more about how to wean an older child, go to extended breastfeeding
How to wean your baby: slowly vs. quickly
After you have decided to wean your baby, you can choose how to wean: slowly & gradually, or to wean quickly and definitively (cold turkey). If you actively work towards weaning, then it is called “mother-led weaning”. If you allow your baby to wean himself then it is called “infant-led” weaning. Infant-led weaning is the least stressful for your baby, but it may take a long time before you are done.
Weaning slowly is probably easier for you and for Baby. Here, try to eliminate one breastfeeding session at a time. Allow a few days to pass before eliminating another breastfeeding session. By weaning slowly, you will allow your breast to adjust to the lower demand. Less demand will lead to less supply. You may experience some fullness and leaky breasts, but these inconveniences are minor and quite tolerable. Your baby will adjust to bottle feeding better if you wean slowly. Instead of denying him of your breast, cold turkey, you allow him a few weeks to transition from the breast to the bottle.
If you have no time and need to wean quickly, this is doable as well. Your breasts will become engorged and you may feel pain and have milk leak out of your breasts. However, these discomforts will lessen within 4 or 5 days. You may still have milk in your breast for a month after weaning, but it won’t leak out and your breast won’t feel engorged.
How to Wean your Baby quickly
Weaning quickly may be difficult for your baby (unless he is a young infant and hasn’t developed an attachment to your breasts yet). Your baby may be used to having his meals at your breast and may refuse to eat something different out of a bottle. Here’s a few things to try:
- Leave the room and let someone else feed him. If you are no where in sight, he may be more willing to take “second best” rather than be hungry.
- Feed him from a cup instead of a baby bottle. A cup may be different enough that he will accept it as a “new and fun” way to drink and not realize that it is a replacement to breastfeeding.
- Give your baby a bottle before he is overly sleepy. Tired babies are fussy and will be even more upset when they are denied the breasts. Feed early enough so you don’t have to deal with a hungry, sleepy, cranky baby.
Regardless to when or how to wean your baby, whether you wean quickly or gradually, it is important to remember that they will be weaned. No baby has ever starved to death because he is too stubborn to drink/eat from another source.
If not breast milk, then what?
For babies under one year of age, you will need to provide them with expressed breast milk or baby formula. Typically, this is in a baby bottle, but if he refuses to drink from a baby bottle (because the nipple on the bottle is not the same as the nipple on your breasts), then you can try feeding him with a small plastic cup, a no-spill sippy cup, or a spoon. Depending on his disposition, you may need to be creative as to how the formula (or breast milk) is delivered.
For a baby one year of age or older, you can give him cow’s milk or “second step” formulas that are designed for older babies. Healthy brain development requires fats, so be sure to give your baby homogenized milk and not fat-reduced or fat-free milk. On occasion, if a baby is obese, the pediatrician may suggest fat-reduced milk. Otherwise, a healthy normal baby can start drinking fat-reduced milk after 2 years of age.
When to introduce different food to your baby
-First Stage: starts at birth and lasts for one week. During this time, you should feed your baby only breast milk.
-Second Stage: begins at six months old and lasts until the child can eat solid food. You should give them breast milk six times a day and solid food three times a day.
-Third Stage: begins when the child reaches one year old and ends when they reach two years old. At this point, you should stop breastfeeding your child but continue giving them solid food with breast milk every two hours or so until they’re three years old.
-Fourth Stage: after the child turns three years old, you should no longer give them any breast milk as it could cause allergies as well as other problems later on in life