21 No-Fail Tips For Weaning Baby From Breast
Is it time to start weaning your baby from breastfeeding onto a bottle or a sippy cup?
Are you finding it difficult to make this transition, either because of your own concerns or because your child doesn’t seem to be quite ready for it yet?
Are you looking for the best way to wean baby from breast with as little fussiness as possible?
No matter what information you’re looking for, if you need to learn more about weaning your baby from breastfeeding, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll address 21 of the best tips for nursing moms just like you who are wondering, “How do I wean my baby off the breast?” We understand that this can be a trying time for everyone involved and that you have needs and concerns that need to be attended to just like your baby does.
That’s why we’ve separated our helpful hints into four different sections to help you better find the information you’re looking for. With our help, you’ll learn some of the best tips for weaning baby from breast no matter what your individual situation might be. Whether you’re looking for information about weaning your baby onto a sippy cup or you just want to learn how to get your child to drink from a bottle before you have to go back to work, we hope that we’ve got all your concerns covered, and then some!
Be sure to check out our tips at the end of the article on keeping up with the bond between you and your child even after breastfeeding has ended, too. We understand that this is a big concern for nursing moms just like you!
Now, let’s get started learning some helpful weaning tips!
Options When Breastfeeding Ends
When breastfeeding is coming to an end, you have a few different options and paths you and your child can take from this point onward. There are several different types of weaning to choose from, and there are also quite a few different weaning methods that may work for you and your child, too. Knowing when to wean baby off breast is only part of the process of choosing your weaning method. Check out each one and see what you think is the best solution for you and your baby.
If you’ve been researching how to wean your baby from nursing, you’ve probably come across this term. This is a practice that’s becoming more and more common with parents around the world. Baby-led weaning has its own strengths and weaknesses, and if you’d like to try it with your child, you need to take your time and research it in order to learn about whether or not it’s best for your needs.
- This article focuses mostly on other options besides baby-led weaning, but plenty of the tips listed below can also help you if you choose to go the baby-led route.
This is the more traditional type of weaning a baby from nursing that many parents are used to. With mother-led weaning, you’ll be choosing when your baby begins the weaning process and how long it should take to complete it. You’ll choose when to make changes to your child’s diet as well as when to move on to the next phase of the weaning process.
- Some children take well to having this much structure in their weaning routines while others simply don’t.
With this method for how to wean your baby off the breast, you’ll wean your baby onto formula from a bottle while still also supplementing his or her nutrition with breastmilk. This solution is popular with nursing moms who aren’t with their babies all day long and rely on the help of a babysitter or another family member to feed their little ones.
- Although this is called partial weaning, your baby should still be fully comfortable with drinking from a bottle or a sippy cup for this method to work.
The cold turkey method absolutely doesn’t work for every baby, and most babies are not too keen on breastfeeding suddenly disappearing from their lives. However, if you’ve tried everything else and can’t seem to make any progress with your child or if you have some physical limitation that causes you to need to stop breastfeeding immediately, this may be the way to go.
- With this method, you can expect a cranky baby and a lot of fussiness and sleepless nights for a while. However, don’t worry. Your child will still end up weaned in the end, even if this is not necessarily the best way to wean baby off breast.
Slow and steady:
Slow and steady weaning is the way to go for almost every situation. This gradual process means you’ll take one breastfeeding session away from your baby at a time until only one is left—usually the bedtime feeding for most children. Then it’s just a matter of choosing the right time to stop breastfeeding altogether. This is the easiest way to wean baby from breast.
- This is a great solution if you have plenty of time to spend working on the weaning process with your baby, but if you don’t, it may not be the best option for you.
Tips for Moms Returning to Work
Getting back to work after breastfeeding can be a difficult time, but it doesn’t have to be. Many moms decide to learn how to start weaning baby from breast when they know their maternity leave is coming to a close. This is a very personal decision and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it’s also one that you shouldn’t let anybody else make for you. If you know people who are trying to make you feel guilty or shameful for wanting to wean your baby before you go back to work, make sure you let them know firmly that you are set in your decision. You and your baby’s pediatrician are the only ones who should have any say in this important choice.
1. Give yourself at least a month to complete the weaning process before you go back to work.
While some babies will be able to wean completely within a week or two and others may take even longer than a month, four weeks is generally a good amount of time to devote to mother-led weaning. You’ll want to make sure you have a solid schedule that fits into these four weeks and accounts for transitions to following stages of the weaning process perfectly.
- You can find a lot of great baby weaning schedules for mother-led weaning as well as baby-led weaning by researching online. You may also be able to find some handy meal planners and recipes you can start preparing for your child, even if he or she will be eating exclusively purees for a little while. Just because you’re stopping breastfeeding doesn’t mean you have to get completely hands-off with feeding your baby, so take this time to do some research and find fun new ways to get involved.
2. Work gradually for best results with this process.
It works best to take away one breastfeeding session a day and replace it with a bottle feed instead. However, if you find that this gradual method isn’t working for you, you might need to rethink how you’re going about the weaning process. For most babies, though, one feeding at a time is the way to go, with a few days in between each change to allow for adjustments.
- If your baby is taking a while to adjust to new stages of the weaning process, you may have to rework your schedule. This may mean taking a longer maternity leave than expected or finding some other way to work around your child’s needs. For example, try beginning the process by taking away midday nursing sessions you won’t be able to perform while you’re at work.
3. Think about whether or not you can bring your baby to work or have a sitter or family member bring your child by during the day for a feeding.
Some places of employment will allow you to bring your child along and may even let someone bring your baby by during the day so you can nurse him or her. If this is the case, you may need to worry about completely weaning your baby from breastfeeding, and you may be able to try partial breastfeeding for a while longer instead.
- If your baby doesn’t like to travel in the car or feels uncomfortable with a sitter or with other members of your family, this method might not work. While your workplace may be alright with a sleepy and content baby being fed on the premises, they may not feel as happy about a screaming and fussy baby showing up in the middle of the workday.
4. Don’t necessarily try to get your baby onto a formula yet, unless you want to.
Just because you’re stopping breastfeeding your baby doesn’t mean you have to stop pumping altogether. If your child is happy with breastmilk and is still under one year of age, there’s no reason you have to put him or her on formula. Only once your baby reaches 12 months do most health care professionals recommend shifting to formula instead of breastmilk to supplement your child’s dietary needs.
- It may be much harder to convince your baby to drink out of a bottle if you’re offering something he or she has never had before. Because of this, many nursing moms have the most luck giving their babies breast milk in bottles for the first few months of the weaning process.
- If you do want to move to formula, however, there’s no reason why you can’t. You just need to give yourself and your baby some extra time to adjust to this change, and you may need to try some specific methods for shifting your baby to formula from breastmilk. This can be a little bit trickier, but it can also work well.
5. Try getting someone else to start feeding your baby bottles before you go back to work.
Although you probably want to be involved in the process of feeding your child, it’s okay if you need to take a step back and let your partner or another capable adult in the family handle feeding sessions. Sometimes, if your baby can smell you nearby, he or she will expect to be nursed and will be much less likely to take a bottle. Your baby still associates you with nursing sessions and will for a little while longer, so don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you’re having trouble getting him or her to drink from a bottle for you.
- You may need to step entirely out of the house and go onto the porch or into the backyard in order to facilitate the best possible bottle-feeding experience between your partner and your baby. This can be difficult, but don’t forget to ask your partner to record everything so you can watch it over and over again afterward!
- You may also want to ask the person who will be watching your baby when you go back to work to try practicing some bottle-feeding sessions, too. If this will be your partner, that’s easy, but if it will be another family member or a trusted babysitter, call them over and ask for a feeding practice round.
Tips for Moms with Decreased Milk Volume
You do have options if you notice your milk supply is decreasing. Many moms wonder how to wean a baby from nursing when they themselves are having some physical problems with the process. If you notice your milk supply is getting lower and lower before your baby shows any signs of being ready to start weaning, you do have options. Although it’s always important to speak to your baby’s pediatrician and your own gynecologist about this problem, there’s a lot you can do to help your child wean more easily even if there’s a pretty pressing time constraint on your own abilities. Remember, too, that even if this happens to you, this doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom! This is just something that occurs sometimes.
1. Try partial weaning.
If you’re having a decrease in your milk supply but still making some breastmilk, it may work for you to give partial weaning a shot. With this method, you’ll encourage your child to nurse for one or two sessions per day but will offer formula from a bottle for the remaining feeds throughout the day and night.
- This will not help to increase the flow of milk from your breasts since your body will see this as a sign it’s time to stop nursing. However, it can be beneficial to you if you’re ready to stop nursing or if you have tried everything and can’t seem to get your milk production back up to par.
2. Keep trying to pump even if you aren’t using all that breastmilk.
One of the best ways to increase the supply of your milk is to increase the demand for it. Even if you don’t plan to use all the milk you can produce in a day, keep pumping it anyway. You can always freeze it for a short period of time, but it’s okay if you just need to throw it away, too. This is for your benefit and for the benefit of your weaning baby, and it doesn’t really matter what you do with the milk after it’s been pumped.
- This can also be beneficial if you’re hoping to wean your baby onto a bottle with breastmilk instead of formula, as it can give you a little more to continue with this process before you’ll need to start introducing formula into your child’s diet.
3. Be sure to offer both breasts at each feeding time while you’re still breastfeeding.
If you’re only offering one breast at a time, even if you’re switching them up each time, your body may see this as a sign that your child is finished with nursing even if he or she is not yet to the point of complete weaning. It’s best to let your child have access to both breasts every time to better facilitate milk production.
- If you notice that one breast is still producing more milk than the other, this may be something you need to speak to your doctor about. However, it can still mean that you just need to balance your feeding sessions a little bit better, too.
4. Get checked out for any health concerns you may have.
Every now and then, a decrease in your milk supply can be a symptom of a health concern. While these are not all necessarily very bad problems, you still want to make sure you don’t have anything going on that you should be treated for. In most situations, there’s no underlying health cause, but your body may simply be finished producing milk a little earlier than you’d like it to be.
- If this is the case, speak to your doctor about the options you have for getting the most out of your remaining milk production.
5. Try not to offer a pacifier if you’re having trouble with your milk supply.
If your baby gets used to sucking on a pacifier, he or she may have trouble adapting to the feeling of nursing from your breast again. These are two different types of sucking motions, and your baby may have a tough time transitioning from one to the other.
- If you must use a pacifier, be prepared for your baby to have a harder time nursing from you from then on. This is also true of bottle feeding in some situations, especially as your baby gets more and more used to drinking from a bottle nipple.
6. Get enough rest yourself.
Many times, when your body decides it’s finished producing milk, this is because you aren’t feeling your best. Your body needs to be in top condition in order to take care of your baby, and your milk supply will dwindle more quickly if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Be sure you’re tending to your own needs and getting enough rest every night to have the best possible results when the nursing time rolls around.
- If you’re having trouble sleeping at night because of the new baby, consider having someone else take over childcare duties for an hour each day while you catch a quick nap.
Tips for Weaning Baby at 6 Months
Many babies successfully wean at 6 months, but how do you wean baby off breast if you’re choosing to end the breastfeeding process at this time? The answer is a little different for every baby, but generally speaking, if your child has hit the six-month mark, that means he or she should be good to go in terms of weaning onto some solid foods along with a bottle or sippy cup. As with any changes in your baby’s lifestyle or diet, you should always talk to your child’s pediatrician before making a decision like this about your little one. However, as long as your baby is showing all the signs of weaning readiness, you should be able to begin the process at 6 months with no trouble.
1. Baby rice cereal is a tried and true favorite first food to offer your child at 6 months.
There’s a pretty good chance this is what your own parents gave you for your first food! However, just because this is an old favorite doesn’t mean you necessarily have to begin with this type of food. If you want to, you can offer a variety of other types of first foods to your child.
- Try bananas mashed into a very thin and runny mush for your baby’s first food. Even if you aren’t doing baby-led weaning, this popular choice with baby-led families can be a fun way to introduce your child to new food textures.
- Pureed fruit and vegetables are both good choices as long as you stick to milder flavors and foods that aren’t common allergens. You might even be able to start with a yogurt made especially for babies.
- If you’re having a hard time getting your baby to eat the new foods you try to offer to him or her, you may need to add some breastmilk to them to give your child a taste that he or she recognizes. This can encourage your baby to take that first bite, and from there it will be much smoother sailing while you wean your baby onto solid foods completely!
2. As long as the food you’re offering is safe, don’t be afraid to let your baby feed himself or herself from day one.
Once again, you don’t have to be trying baby-led weaning to see how your child handles being presented with new foods to try. A strip of a cooked egg white omelette is a good option if you’re trying to see how your baby will react to food. You can also simply give your child a bowl of runny mashed or pureed bananas, but prepare for some serious clean-up afterward if you do!
- If you want to see how your baby reacts to a messier type of food, you can always just put a little pile of it directly on his or her high chair tray. This will eliminate the presence of a bowl that your baby can throw around and make even more of a mess with—but this can be fun, too!
- As a note, if you want to try the egg white omelette, make sure you don’t include any yolks. Children shouldn’t be given egg yolks for a few more months because they are difficult to digest and can sometimes be an allergen.
3. At this stage, there a lot of foods you should never give your baby under any circumstances.
Six-month-old babies are still very sensitive in terms of what their digestive systems can handle, and many foods still pose a significant choking hazard for your child at this time. Don’t worry, though. Although it may feel like you’ll never get to the point of your baby being ready to eat different and more exciting types of food, it’ll be no time at all before your child has moved all the way up to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or other “kid favorites.”
- Never give your baby honey under one year of age. Honey can cause infant botulism, which is very dangerous and often deadly.
- Do not give your baby seeds, nuts, or grapes, as these can be a major choking hazard for little babies.
- Never give your child chocolate, caffeine, or excess sugars. The only sugar your child should be exposed to at this point in his or her life is the natural sugar present in some types of fruit, such as apples.
- Do not give your baby fish or shellfish at this time. You will be able to serve your child fish later on, but shellfish is a known allergen and should be avoided for quite a while.
4. Introduce every new food one at a time and wait at least four days—and if possible up to six—between offering new foods when weaning your baby.
This will help you be able to tell if your child is going to have an allergic reaction to an individual type of food or not. Even if your baby isn’t allergic to some foods, you may notice certain types causing more stomach upset than others.
- If you notice some foods causing your baby’s stomach to be upset, bring this up with your child’s pediatrician next time you visit. In the meantime, stop feeding this food in the event that your child is allergic to it. Most of the time, babies are simply more sensitive to some types of foods than others, and this is normal.
5. Your baby probably won’t eat more than a tablespoon of solid foods at 6 months, and that’s normal.
At this point in your child’s life, his or her stomach is about the size of his or her fist. That’s a very small stomach! Keep this in mind if you’re worried about your baby not getting enough solid foods to eat once you begin the weaning process.
- Until your baby is 12 months old, his or her nutrition will come almost exclusively from breastmilk or formula. Any solid foods your baby eats before this point are just supplementary. While it’s important to get your child used to eating solid foods before 12 months, don’t worry if your baby isn’t consuming regular quantities of food.
- As always, talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any further concerns.
Tips for Weaning to a Sippy Cup
Going straight from breastfeeding to a sippy cup isn’t for everyone, but it may be right for you and your baby. When you’re weaning baby from breast to sippy cup, you may skip over the bottle stage entirely. This works great for some babies, and if you believe your child is a good candidate for skipping the bottle completely, the tips in this section may be just what you need to get a head start on the process. If you find that your baby is struggling with a sippy cup from a young age, however, don’t hesitate to take a step back and try bottle feeding. Sometimes it takes some trial and error to find what works best.
1. Many moms have had luck starting with water in a sippy cup instead of breastmilk or formula.
Drinking water may be a new experience for your baby depending on the point at which you’re introducing the sippy cup, but even if it’s not, putting water in the cup instead of breastmilk can help your child to understand that this is a different situation and will need to be handled differently.
- If you’re having trouble getting your baby to try drinking water out of a sippy cup, never underestimate the power of showing him or her how it’s done! Using a separate, clean sippy cup of your own, take a drink of water. You might also want to let your child play with a filled or partially filled sippy cup with water in it to get a feel for the new device.
2. If you’re offering breastmilk or formula in a sippy cup, try putting a little breastmilk on the spout to encourage your baby to start drinking.
This is a method that tends to work well with bottles as well as with sippy cups, but since many babies are a little bit more hesitant going straight to a sippy cup, it might be even more beneficial here. Sippy cups aren’t made like bottles, and they don’t have a nipple that replicates the nursing process like a bottle does, either. Because of this, you should remember that there’s a steep learning curve for babies going straight to sippy cups.
- Many babies, however, do great going to a sippy cup as long as they have a little encouragement first. Although it’s fine to put breastmilk on the spout, refrain from adding any sweetener or artificial flavors to the liquid in the sippy cup. This will make your baby believe he or she should have sugar in milk at all times, and it may lead to a sweet tooth that will continue to be a problem throughout childhood.
3. Start by replacing one breastfeeding session per day with a sippy cup, preferably combined with solid foods.
This is very similar to the gradual method that works well for babies transitioning from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. However, if your baby is already on a sippy cup, chances are good that he or she is ready for solid foods or at least for purees, too. It can be more helpful to offer your child one solid food meal with formula or breastmilk in a sippy cup in place of a breastfeeding session than it is to try these two new types of nutrition at separate times.
- If your baby has been taking part at the family dinner table for a while already, he or she is probably already aware of how a cup is used. He or she has probably already noticed that everyone else in the family is drinking from a cup while eating their food from plates. Don’t forget to give your child some credit when it comes to his or her perception. Children who have been eating some solid foods at the family dinner table may be more likely to wean onto a sippy cup with fewer problems.
- The cold turkey method usually doesn’t work for sippy cup weaning since it’s quite different from bottle weaning. However, some babies still may be able to suddenly wean onto a sippy cup.
4. Be sure to choose a sippy cup that can be easily maneuvered by your child at his or her stage of development.
If you’re giving a sippy cup to a child who is under six months of age, chances are good he or she isn’t going to be able to hold it well, and probably won’t be able to put it up to his or her mouth and drink from it either. However, from about six months onward, you can expect your baby to have some skill with drinking from a cup.
- When you give your baby a sippy cup, make sure you pick one that’s designed for your child’s age range and motor skills. If your baby hasn’t mastered holding smaller objects steady with two hands, you’ll need to choose a sippy cup that has handles on the sides to make it easier for him or her to grip.
- You may also want to shop around for different types of spouts. Sippy cups are available with high-flow and low-flow spouts, and these spouts come in a variety of different sizes and textures to help your baby succeed in weaning easily.
5. When your baby is 12 months of age, you can offer cow’s milk in a sippy cup.
You should never, under any circumstances, give your baby cow’s milk before 12 months of age, as it’s too hard for younger babies to digest. At a year, you can start weaning your baby from breastmilk or formula entirely and onto cow’s milk. If you’re just starting to offer a sippy cup at this point, you may have a lot of luck by only offering cow’s milk in the sippy cup and never using it for breastmilk or formula. This can help your baby associate the new cup with the new kind of milk, and it may cut down on confusion for your child significantly while going through this weaning process.
- If you’re not yet on cow’s milk, you may find yourself struggling to get your child to drink it. If this is the case, you can try adding a little bit of breastmilk to the cow’s milk to encourage your child to drink something that tastes a little bit more familiar.
- You might also try watering down the breastmilk you offer your baby so that he or she doesn’t like the taste anymore. This can also help your baby think he or she is getting the same amount of breastmilk in a day when, in fact, the volume is dwindling more and more every day.
How to Keep a Close Bond After Weaning
There are different methods of keeping the bond with your baby close after breastfeeding has ended. If you’re one of the many moms who are worried about this change in your relationship dynamic with your baby, don’t be scared. You’re not alone in this concern, but nursing moms have been giving up breastfeeding for centuries without losing their closeness with their little ones. All it takes is a little extra ingenuity and willingness to take on some different roles in the life of your baby. Whether you’re weaning baby from breast at 12 months or early on in infancy, you can benefit from these tips.
- Snuggle with your baby and make lots of one-on-one time. Start reading books to your child and spending more time being in close contact with him or her throughout this transitional period. Just because you aren’t breastfeeding anymore doesn’t mean you have to stop being near your baby, after all, and your child is going to miss that connection as much as you do if you don’t supplement it somehow.
- Remember that your baby is growing up and becoming his or her own person, and you’re going to have a lot of fun being along for the ride! Your baby’s individual personality is going to start shining through pretty soon after he or she completes the weaning process, and this is a fun time for everyone involved. You’ll start to learn more about who your child is as a person and what his or her likes and dislikes are, too.
- Enjoy your baby taking his or her place as a part of the family. As your baby gets older, he or she will stop being the crying bundle of joy and start to become another child in the family. If you have older kids, you may want to start allowing some supervised playtime with your baby around this time to encourage everyone in the family to get to know each other a little better. If you don’t have other children, this is a good time for you and your partner to plan some whole-family play dates or trips to the park together.
- Get hands-on with making your baby’s new foods. This is one of the most common ways moms get over the hurdle of giving up breastfeeding. When you make your own baby food, you’ll still be largely involved in the process of feeding your child. And you’re sure to feel more like your baby needs you around for mealtimes still when you aren’t just opening a jar and spooning the food into his or her mouth. By getting involved with the ingredients that go into your baby’s food, you’ll be more up close and personal with the whole feeding experience, and that’s sure to keep you and your little one both happy.
- Give yourself time to “mourn.” Although of course, you understand that weaning a baby off the breast doesn’t mean the end of your relationship with your child altogether, it’s okay to take some time to get over this drastic shift in your life. Your hormones will thank you for giving them some time, too, since they’re probably still trying to get back to normal after having a baby.
- You may want to schedule yourself some “mommy me time” to help you get through this process. Give yourself an hour at the spa or go treat yourself to a pedicure one afternoon while your partner watches the baby. However, if the thought of being away from your baby at all makes these feelings worse, you can always try treating yourself at home to a relaxing bubble bath and let your partner keep an eye on the little one for a half an hour!
As you can see, there’s a lot to be learned about how to wean a baby from the breast! Whether you’re trying to wean your child before you go back to work or you’ve reached the six-month mark and you’re ready to get your baby started on the path to successful weaning, we hope we’ve answered all of your questions and given you plenty of great tips to think about, too. And if you’re trying to get your baby onto a sippy cup instantly or you’re just hoping to deal with a problem with low milk supply, we hope we’ve helped you in these areas, too.
Weaning baby off breast at 6 months or at any point throughout his or her infancy can be challenging, but with the right information to back you up, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Some babies are naturally better at weaning than others, but eventually, all babies will be successfully weaned and onto solid foods and sippy cups. Your child will soon be enjoying yummy meals with the whole family when you learn how to wean a baby off the breast successfully!
Of course, there are some other concerns we might not have addressed fully in this article, too. For example, many nursing moms wonder when to wean baby from breast and whether or not the 6-month point is really the best time to get started. Just remember that, when it comes to timing and milestones, every baby is an individual and will reach weaning readiness at different stages.
Six months is generally considered a good time to start thinking about weaning, but some babies are ready as early as four months and some don’t want to get started until they are at least a year old. You know your baby best, and you’re more aware of his or her needs than just about anyone else in your lives. Understand that your baby will eventually wean but may not do so on a specified schedule, depending on his or her readiness.
With that said, it’s also important to always speak to your child’s pediatrician before preparing for any changes in lifestyle or diet. Your baby’s pediatrician can help give you suggestions for how to deal with some of the most common problems that may arise and will have valuable information for you about your child’s nutritional needs every step of the way. If you’re concerned about making sure your baby has enough to eat while weaning, your pediatrician can help.
There’s a lot to be done when it’s time to wean, but you and your baby are sure to be successful!