What’s the Best Way to Wean a Baby From Breastfeeding?
Is it time to start thinking about weaning your baby from breastfeeding?
Is your baby showing signs that he or she is ready to stop breastfeeding, or are you having some kind of physical limitation that’s keeping you from comfortably breastfeeding for any longer?
Would it be more convenient if your baby could be weaned from the breast?
If any of these are true of you and your situation, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to start weaning baby from breastfeeding. You’ll find out the easiest ways to go about this process as well the ways that tend to work best for nursing mothers who want to go slowly through the weaning steps instead of doing it quickly.
We’ll also give you information to help you determine the best way to wean a baby from breastfeeding and to figure out if that best option is the same for you as it is for others. Stick around at the end of the article, too, to get 9 of our best tips for safe, efficient, and very effective breastfeeding that’s perfect for you and your little one.
Now, let’s get started learning about weaning your infant from breastfeeding!
Is There a Best Way to Wean from Breastfeeding?
“How do I wean my baby from breastfeeding?” This is a question that many nursing moms have at some point during the process of raising their children. Some moms-to-be even wonder and worry about it before their babies ever arrive! It’s true that the weaning process can be challenging and a little bit overwhelming for both mom and baby, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you find yourself asking “how do I start weaning my baby from breastfeeding?” more and more often, this may mean it’s about time to get started on the process. If so, you need to understand that there are a few different types of weaning from the breast that you may consider for you and your baby. Check out this list to help you get an idea of what the different options are.
- Weaning to the bottle: This is one of the most common weaning methods. Nursing moms stop breastfeeding their babies and give them formula or breast milk in a bottle instead. This usually works well for younger infants who will gladly adapt to drinking from a bottle in a short amount of time.
- Weaning to solids: Older infants and even toddlers who may still be breastfeeding are probably ready to go straight to solids if they haven’t started on this already. Offering solid foods and cutting back on breastfeeding meals is a great way to encourage your older baby to wean quickly.
- Mother-led weaning: Most nursing moms choose a time to get started with the weaning process that works for their schedules. There’s no harm in trying to wean your child from breastfeeding before you have to go back to work after maternity leave, for example. Just remember that you may be met with more fussiness if you go this route—but you might not!
- Baby-led weaning: Baby-led weaning is a method in which nursing moms watch their children for signs that they aren’t interested in breastfeeding anymore. Mom then replaces breast milk feeds with solid foods that baby can self-feed (under supervision at all times, of course).
As you can see, you have a few decisions to make when it comes to choosing the best way to wean your little one. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong way to wean your baby from breastfeeding.
That’s right! There’s not a correct method, and if you do something differently than a member of your family or best friend is doing, that doesn’t mean you’re making bad decisions or letting anything go wrong for your child.
Some nursing moms prefer to pick a time that feels like it’s best for their babies while others wait for their children to signal them that it’s time to start breastfeeding. Some moms nurse for a few months while others nurse even after one year of age.
In the end, the right decision is entirely up to you and your baby. If you start trying to wean and your baby fights back quite a lot, you may need to take a break and try again later. Just remember that your baby will eventually be completely weaned, and that going at a pace that works for your family is the best option.
So, if you’re still asking, “How can I wean my baby from breastfeeding?” simply read on to find out more!
How to Start Weaning Baby from Breastfeeding
Now you know a little bit more about the different types of weaning you might choose from, but how do you wean your baby from breastfeeding successfully? There are several good ways you can go about beginning the weaning process, and depending on the type of weaning you choose to try with your baby, some options may work much better for you than others.
Below are some great tips to help you get started with learning how to wean your baby from breastfeeding. Although you might not want to use all of these suggestions, you can still learn a lot about the important first steps you need to take before you move into the main phase of the process.
- Look for signs your baby is ready. There are many different ways you might be able to tell your baby no longer needs to be breastfed. For example, if your younger baby is uninterested in breastfeeding for more than a few sessions in a row, he or she may be telling you it’s time to stop. If your older baby is more interested in what others are eating than breastfeeding meal times, this is also a good sign.
How do you wean a baby from breastfeeding when he or she isn’t showing you signs yet? Sometimes, babies will continue happily breastfeeding even well past the point when they need to. If your baby hasn’t weaned yet by one year of age, chances are good you can start trying with no trouble. Any younger than that and you’ll need to simply go the “trial and error” route to see if it’s time to start weaning.
- Come up with a good schedule. This means not only coming up with a good time to get started breastfeeding but also coming up with a feeding schedule you and your baby will stick to no matter what. Encourage your baby to stay on this new schedule, and pretty soon, it will become the norm. Your baby will no longer remember needing to breastfeed at all.
- Take your time getting started. It’s okay if you don’t feel quite ready to start weaning by a specific date. Don’t keep putting it off forever, but don’t be afraid to take your time getting started and then take it slow once you begin. This may be best for both you and your baby.
- Be prepared for physical changes in your body. You will likely experience engorgement as your breasts adjust to no longer being needed for breastfeeding sessions. This may be painful, but be prepared and ready to put cool compresses on your breasts if this happens. You may experience other physical changes, so talk to your doctor or your baby’s pediatrician if you have any questions.
- Be prepared for your emotions. Many nursing moms feel like weaning from breastfeeding is the end of cuddle time with the baby. This isn’t true, but sometimes it can be overwhelming cutting out this important bonding experience. Find other ways to bond with your baby to help fight the negative emotions you may feel during the process.
- Start by offering small amounts of food and bottle milk after a breastfeed. This is a great way to introduce your baby to bottles as well as to solids (or purees) without expecting him or her to immediately take to them. Your baby will be full but will be able to play with and enjoy these new foods and textures before weaning begins.
Okay, so now you know a little bit more about getting started on the weaning process. The next step is to actually start weaning, so if you still find yourself asking, “How can I wean my baby off breastfeeding?” then read on to learn even more!
How to Slowly Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding
Now that you know how to begin the weaning process and how to prepare for a successful weaning experience, it’s time to move on to the next step. So how do you wean a baby off breastfeeding? In this section, we’ll explain the steps most nursing moms take when working through a slow and steady weaning process. You don’t have to work in this exact order, but it’s a good place to get started when you’re trying to learn more about successful weaning.
Many nursing moms wonder, “How do I wean my baby off breastfeeding?” The answer may differ for everyone, but in most situations, the slower you can go the better off you and your baby are likely to be. Quitting cold-turkey is usually much too difficult for an infant who isn’t yet old enough to understand what’s going on. It’s far better to take your time and let your baby do the same.
If you’re looking for suggestions for how to slowly wean my baby from breastfeeding, check out our tips in this section for more information.
Skip one breastfeeding session.
This is a great way to see how your baby is going to respond to the weaning process from the very beginning. As soon as you feel comfortable and have figured out a schedule that will work for your weaning needs, skip nursing your baby one time and see what his or her response is.
- Many times, your baby won’t notice, and this will be a good way to get started offering something else in place of that nursing session. If your baby fusses and cries for a long while and doesn’t seem to forget about wanting to nurse, however, you may need to wait a week or two and try again.
Nurse at later and later intervals.
This works better with older babies and toddlers, but it can work with younger babies too. Push back your nursing sessions by an hour at a time (although you may want to leave the first bottle of the day or the last bottle before bedtime at the usual time for a while longer).
- This way, you can eventually push everything back so far that you’re down to one or two breastfeeds per day. This option takes a while, however, as you’ll need to give your baby a few weeks each time you change his or her feeding times to get used to the new schedule.
Distract your baby.
Once again, this may be a better option for older infants and toddlers. If you try to take away one breastfeed and your baby is unhappy about it, try distracting him or her with something else to help break up the routine. A fun play session, a favorite cartoon, or some other reward is a great way to help weaning move along smoothly.
- If your child is a toddler and is old enough to understand, you may also explain that he or she can breastfeed, but will have to wait until bedtime (or some other time throughout the day).
Nurse for less and less time.
Beginning with one nursing session per day, cut the amount of time you spend breastfeeding your baby down by a couple of minutes each time. Eventually, you’ll be able to take out these shorter feeds completely and your baby will probably never know the difference.
- This option may also take a while to complete since you’ll want to give your baby a chance to adjust to the shorter feeds every time you change the length of time. This is a great way to wean, however, if you have plenty of time to work slowly.
Be sure your baby is getting enough to eat.
While cutting back nursing time or removing breastfeeds altogether may work well in encouraging your child to wean, you also need to be sure he or she is getting enough nutrition and is full enough to be content throughout the day and at bedtime.
- Talk to your pediatrician to determine how much you need to feed your baby while weaning. You may offer a cup or bottle with breast milk or formula to help supplement your baby’s diet, or if your child is old enough, you may go right into pureed or solid foods.
Remove breastfeeding sessions one at a time every week or so.
This is the slowest method, but it does also give your baby plenty of time to adjust. Take away a midday feed first, for example, and wait a week or so before you take away another breastfeeding session.
- You may need to combine this strategy with some of the other ideas in this section for the best possible outcome.
Offer snacks your baby really likes.
You can give these snacks in place of breastfeeds or along with them, depending on where you are in the weaning process. If your baby sees that eating something new instead of only drinking breast milk means that he or she will get something really tasty and enjoyable, this is all the more encouragement to keep weaning well!
By now you should know a little more about how to wean a baby off breastfeeding, but you still may be lacking some crucial information that can help you make the most out of this experience. Check out the following section for even more help on easily weaning your baby with as little fuss as possible!
The Easiest Way to Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding
There are quite a few different techniques you may be considering when figuring out how to wean your baby off breastfeeding. You’ve probably heard a friend or family talk about options that worked well for her and her baby, and you may want to give those a try. While there’s no harm in trying what someone else recommends, remember that one technique may be much easier for you than another.
In this section, we’ll explain the easiest methods for how to wean my baby off breastfeeding. See which ones sound like good ideas to try with your baby, and don’t be afraid to attempt more than one of these suggestions to figure out which ones your baby takes to the easiest.
“Don’t offer, don’t refuse.”
This method basically refers to a passive, gentle approach to the weaning process. Nursing moms don’t offer to nurse their babies and don’t make them nurse at specific times of the day, but also don’t turn them down if they specifically want to be nursed, either.
- As your baby ages, this method gets more and more beneficial. Older infants and toddlers respond especially well to this method, as they start to realize they don’t need to be nursed at the same time every day and may get so caught up in doing something else that they forget about nursing altogether for a while.
Weaning at nighttime.
Many nursing moms have had a lot of success with daytime weaning by first starting to wean at night. This means getting your baby to sleep through the night without waking up hungry and in need of a feed. There are several different methods of making this happen, but remember that if your baby isn’t yet old enough to reach the milestone of sleeping through the night, this option may not work for you.
- Be sure to eliminate any possible discomforts that may wake up your baby during the night first. This includes teething, reflux, room temperature issues, allergies, and potential illness. If you want to start with night weaning, it’s important to wait on daytime weaning until your baby is sleeping soundly at night with no issues.
Cut down on nursing sessions.
We touched on this in the section above, but it makes for a great strategy regardless of the age of your baby or the amount of time you want to spend on weaning. It works best over a longer period of time, but if your baby adjusts well, you may be able to cut out one session per three days.
- Going any faster than this may be very bad for your baby. Cold-turkey weaning only works for very few babies, and it may lead to a lot of fussiness, trouble adjusting to his or her new diet, and even biting problems.
Change your schedule—not just your baby’s.
If your baby gets used to being breastfed when you’re at home but knows there will be no feeding if you’re out, for example, try adjusting your schedule so that you aren’t at home during normal breastfeeding times.
- On the other hand, if your baby wants to nurse more frequently for comfort when he or she is not at home, then facilitate better weaning experiences by staying home as much as possible until the process is complete.
Throw a party.
Older infants and toddlers may enjoy having a party when the weaning process is complete. Promise that you will throw a party complete with tasty treats and maybe even a few surprises, too, as long as your child cooperates in the weaning process.
- Every time your child starts to get fussy and wants to be nursed, remind him or her of the party. Do this gently and in a non-threatening way—do not say things like, “If you don’t do this, you won’t get your party!” Instead, try something like, “Remember, you’ll get a party when you’re able to stop nursing!”
Offer a toy or a play date.
Again, this works better for older infants and toddlers. In place of a party, you may offer a toy your child wants or a favorite play date for every weaning milestone. This can be a great way to reward your child for cooperating with the weaning process and make it a pleasant and positive experience for everyone involved.
Your baby is sure to have success with at least one of these steps to wean a baby from breastfeeding. Go through the list and try out a few things. You may be surprised which ones work best for your little one!
9 Tips for Weaning from Breastfeeding
With all this information to help you get started and understand the different types of weaning you might choose from, you may feel like there’s nothing more you can learn. But don’t worry! We still have a few more tips on how to wean a baby from breastfeeding to help send you on your way.
Check out these suggestions and put your favorites into practice in your own weaning experience. Weaning a baby off breastfeeding can be a relatively smooth and satisfying process when you keep these tips—and the information from the rest of this article—in mind.
1. Set aside plenty of time to get through the weaning process.
Don’t expect your baby to get finished weaning in one or two weeks. Make sure you haven’t got an upcoming trip, move, or anything else disruptive going on for at least a month, and if possible even longer, to give your baby plenty of time to adjust.
2. Ask your partner to help with feeding time while weaning.
If you can get your partner in on the experience, your baby will associate meal time with someone else other than you. This can be vital in helping break that mental connection when it comes to breastfeeding.
3. Look for your baby’s preferences and work with them.
If your baby loves bedtime feeds the most, save that breastfeeding session for the last one you give up. And if your baby loves bananas, for example, try offering this favorite snack in place of a nursing session during the day. Your baby has likes and dislikes that can work to your advantage when weaning!
4. Remember there’s no need to force weaning—or breastfeeding.
Some babies don’t wean well until they’re over a year old, while others are ready to go to bottles or sippy cups much earlier. Your baby needs breast milk until at least 6 months of age, but this can come from a bottle or cup if necessary. Let your baby wean at his or her own pace whenever possible.
5. Consider skipping the bottle and going straight to the sippy cup.
If your baby is older or if you’re weaning a toddler, try skipping the bottle stage entirely. This will cut back on the amount of weaning you have to worry about later on, too.
6. Don’t offer cow’s milk unless your baby is over a year old.
It’s unsafe to give your baby cow’s milk under a year of age, especially since it is a very common allergen and cause of stomach upset. Cow’s milk may be a great way to encourage older babies and toddlers to wean well, however, so you can always try it out if your baby is old enough.
7. Encourage your baby to try the bottle or sippy cup with some breast milk on the spout or bottle nipple.
If your baby is willing to give up breastfeeding sessions but isn’t interested in drinking from a bottle or cup, put some of your breastmilk on the spout or bottle nipple to give your baby a taste of what he or she is used to at the beginning of each feed.
8. Try putting some garlic-infused oil on your nipples.
Chop up a clove of garlic and let it sit in a tablespoon of olive oil for several hours to infuse. Strain out the garlic and put the oil on your nipples before a regular breastfeed. Your baby will be put off by the smell and will be less inclined to nurse. Note that this may not work well for all babies.
9. Consider choosing the last breastfeeding session after it’s already happened.
Some moms have a lot of emotional trouble giving up breastfeeding, and it may be upsetting to think that the last time you ever breastfeed your baby is coming up. If you find yourself putting it off and hanging on to those last few sessions, try thinking of yesterday’s session as the last one. This way, you’ll have no ill feelings about it and you’ll be able to enjoy it to the fullest.
Now, are you ready to start weaning your baby off breastfeeding? We hope we have demystified some of the issues surrounding this milestone and made the process a little more streamlined for you and your little one. Weaning is a happy time, and you can even have some fun with it when you figure out what works best for your baby!
As you can see, there are a lot of different options when it’s time to start weaning your little one from breastfeeding. Every baby is different, and every nursing mom is different too. Because of this, it’s important to remember that there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to go about the weaning process.
If you’re looking for the best way to wean, remember that the best option for you and your family may be very different from the best option for another family, and that’s okay. Try out the different tips and suggestions in this article and see which ones work best for you. Although it may take a little effort, you’re sure to quickly discover the perfect way to wean your baby so that everyone will be happy and successful throughout the process.
Remember, too, to always talk to your pediatrician before you make any changes to your baby’s diet or lifestyle. You want to be sure you’re making the best choices for your individual baby’s health and wellbeing, so be sure to ask for any tips your pediatrician may have to offer as well. You know your baby best, but his or her doctor is a valuable resource for weaning, too!