When Should A Baby Be Weaned? (9 Ways To Know)
Are you wondering if it’s time to get started weaning your little one?
Would you like to know if a problem you’re encountering with the weaning process is a common one or something you should be worried about?
Do you want to prepare for the right way to wean your child no matter what may come your way?
If so, you’re in luck! In this article, we’ve got tons of information on when and how to wean a baby no matter what situations may arise in your life and the life of your child.
You’ll be able to learn about nine potential scenarios that may lead to the beginning of the weaning process. You’ll also find out more about these possible problems and learn to tell when weaning is the cause of them or when something else is going on for your baby.
By the time you finish reading, you should be much better able to tell when your child is ready for weaning in each of these potential situations. This way, if you find yourself faced with one or more of them, you’ll have a better idea of how to proceed.
So let’s get started!
9 Weaning Readiness Scenarios (Whether You’re Ready or Not!)
In this section, you’ll learn all about when to wean a baby depending on the situations and scenarios you may be facing. Not everyone is going to deal with each one of these problems, but they are common issues that you may end up encountering, so it’s best to be prepared for the possibilities.
1. Baby can’t sleep through the night.
When should you wean your baby? The first of many reasons that it may be time for your baby to start weaning is if he or she can no longer sleep through the night without waking up and fussing. Unfortunately, it can be tough to tell if the reason your baby is waking up so often is that of hunger or something else, but if you eliminate all of the other possibilities then it’s pretty safe to assume that your child is fussing because he or she is still hungry throughout the night.
- If your baby is too hot or too cold, you may not be dealing with a weaning situation as much as you’re dealing with a temperature problem. Try raising or lowering the temperature of the room a little bit to see if that improves your baby’s sleeping habits. If not, then you may want to move on to another possible problem.
- Teething is one of the most common reasons why babies may wake up during the night around this point in their lives. Babies often feel as though nursing will relieve the pain from teething which may lead to more demands for nighttime nursing sessions. Your baby may also be suffering from pain that leads to his or her crying spells, too.
- Is your baby sick with something? Even allergies, ear infections, or head colds may cause your child to wake up more frequently during the night than you are used to. If your baby is suffering from even the slightest of ailments, this could be what’s causing those nighttime wakeful states rather than the need to start weaning.
- If you eliminate all of these possibilities and still can’t seem to figure out what’s causing your baby to wake up throughout the night, it may be time to think about when to wean your baby. If your child is still feeling hungry during the night after regular nursing sessions and you feel as though you are nursing the correct amount, your little one may not be getting all the calories and nutrients he or she needs from breast milk or formula anymore. And this may mean that it’s time to introduce solid foods soon!
2. Baby is irritable and unsettled.
When should you wean a baby if fussiness is becoming a problem? If your baby is cranky, fussy, unsettled and irritable during the day, this could be a sign that he or she needs to start weaning—but it isn’t always. Just as nighttime wakefulness can be a sign that your child is dealing with something else going on besides weaning readiness, so too is irritability sometimes a sign of other problems. Make sure you eliminate the possibility of other issues before you determine that your child is getting fussy because he or she wants to wean.
- If fussiness occurs at mealtimes, this may be a great sign that your child is ready to get started on the weaning process. It may mean that your baby is dissatisfied with the nursing or bottle-feeding process and is looking for some other type of nourishment. It may also mean that your child is getting bored with the traditional method of feeding you’ve been offering!
- If your baby is fussy throughout the day but still sleeps as well as ever during the night, this could be a sign of weaning readiness as well. However, it might also be a sign of something else that’s troubling your child during the day. Just because your baby hasn’t gotten to the point of nighttime weaning yet, however, doesn’t mean that it’s not the time to begin daytime weaning and try to stave off some of that cranky mood before it hits.
- Your baby may be cranky because he or she is hungry. You probably also get irritable if you get too hungry throughout the day, so this is a problem you can likely relate to! If your baby is waking up a lot during the night due to hunger, he or she may be more irritable during the day as well due to lack of sleep.
3. Baby is losing weight.
Your baby may be losing weight while still nursing at his or her normal rate. If this is the case, this could be a sign that your child is ready to eat something more substantial than breastmilk or formula. But when should a baby be weaned if weight loss is an issue? You may think that this means you need to get started weaning immediately, but it really depends on your baby’s individual situation. This is why it’s always crucial to speak to your child’s pediatrician before making any final decisions about whether or not to begin the weaning process.
- Your baby may be growing faster than formula or breast milk can help nourish him or her. If this is the case, then it means it’s probably time to begin weaning, but again, your child’s pediatrician will be able to let you know for sure. If your baby’s growth rate is not allowing his or her weight to keep up, you’ll need to start supplementing your child’s diet with solid foods as soon as possible in order to be sure he or she is growing in a healthy way.
- Your baby could be teething and may feel too uncomfortable to eat normally. Many times, when children start to teethe, they don’t feel well enough to eat as they normally would. Although babies are more likely to avoid solid foods when this happens, there’s still a chance your child may not want to nurse or drink from a bottle because of the pain it puts on his or her gums to do so. Make sure your child isn’t cutting any teeth before you rule out this possibility, especially if he or she has reached common teething age.
- Your baby may be too hot. If your child is overheated, he or she isn’t going to feel comfortable enough to eat anything or even to drink from a bottle or breast. Your baby will put up a fuss about eating and will, most likely, lose weight over time if this condition persists. This is a common problem during the warmer months out of the year, so take care to feed your baby in a cool or air-conditioned location to see if overheating may be the problem.
- Your baby may be sick or have a sore throat. If your child has suddenly stopped nursing or bottle-feeding his or her usual amount, this may be a sign your little one has gotten sick or is suffering from a sore throat. You may not always be able to tell if your child is sick, especially if a sore throat is one of the only symptoms he or she has. This is another great reason why it’s important to check with your baby’s pediatrician to determine any other potential causes of weight loss due to a loss of appetite before you decide weaning is the culprit.
4. Baby is unsatisfied after a feeding.
After nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, he or she may still be very hungry. This can be a great way to tell your child is ready for more solid foods. When can you wean a baby if your child is showing signs of hunger after a nursing session? Remember that, if your baby is younger than six months of age, an increased appetite may not be a sign of weaning readiness. You should look for other potential signs before you decide it’s time to start weaning your child, and you should always be certain your baby is physically and developmentally capable of eating solid foods before you begin the weaning process.
- Try to figure out if your baby is really showing signs of hunger or if something else is going on. Over time, you’ll be able to tell your baby’s cries from each other and you’ll know which ones indicate hunger versus some other potential problem. However, there may be other reasons your baby is asking to nurse, so think about these possibilities before you consider weaning as the only solution.
- Your baby has probably begun to associate nursing with comfort and soothing. This is okay and perfectly normal, but sometimes, it can lead to an over-demand for nursing if your child is having problems in some other way. If there’s something stressful going on in the household, such as a move to a new home or even job stress you or your partner are bringing home from work, your baby may be picking up on that and my demand nursing for comfort to deal with it.
- Your baby might also want attention if he or she is asking for a nursing session. There’s always a chance your child just wants to be held and cuddled, so give that a try before you think he or she is showing an increased appetite. Of course, if this doesn’t work, then hunger may indeed be the problem.
- If you determine that your child is still hungry after a nursing session, even if he or she is still sleeping normally at night, this may indicate a good chance to start introducing solid foods. As long as your baby is otherwise developmentally ready for solids, there’s no harm in offering a first bite of a safe first food and seeing how your child reacts to it. If he or she is interested enough in it, this increased hunger means weaning has truly begun!
5. Baby is uninterested in nursing.
When do you wean a baby if he or she stops wanting to nurse altogether? Sometimes, your baby will suddenly stop showing any interest in nursing, which may mean he or she is ready for weaning right away. There are always other contributing factors that may lead your child to be uninterested in nursing suddenly, but weaning is a common one. As with any other situation that may not have a definite answer, always talk to your child’s pediatrician before you decide whether or not weaning is the cause of this lack of interest in nursing. Sometimes, babies will simply go on a “nursing strike” and it may not be related to their readiness to begin eating solid foods at all.
- Acid reflux: Many times, babies develop acid reflux after nursing sessions. If your baby starts to associate this painful stomach problem with eating, he or she is not going to want to eat anymore and may go on a nursing strike (or a bottle-feeding strike, as the case may be). If this is something you suspect is going on with your child, your pediatrician can give you helpful hints and offer treatments for your child so he or she doesn’t have to suffer from mealtimes anymore.
- Ear infections and head colds: Having an ear infection or a cold makes eating and drinking uncomfortable for everyone, and it also affects the taste buds. This can potentially lead to a lack of interest in nursing from your child even if his or her appetite seems to be about the same as it always is.
- Fast flow: If you are producing a lot of milk that leads to a fast flow when your baby nurses, he or she may no longer be interested in trying to nurse. The same is true of bottle or sippy cup feeding from a container that has too fast of a flow. If your child feels overwhelmed by the flow, he or she won’t want to drink.
- Pain from being held: Sometimes, your baby may be in pain from something when you hold him or her. Chances are you’ll know it if your baby has been injured or has recently had a shot at the doctor’s office that could be contributing to this pain. Just remember that a painful nursing position will cause your child to be uninterested in nursing.
- Teething: As with many of these potential issues with weaning, teething can cause a lack of nursing interest, too. If your child is having tooth and gum pain, he or she is going to be a lot less interested in eating anything for a while, which is normal. Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about ways to soothe this pain.
- Allergies: If you’ve eaten something or taken a supplement or medication that your child has an allergic reaction to, you may be inadvertently causing him or her to be uninterested in nursing. If your child develops an allergy or otherwise has a bad physical reaction to nursing, he or she will learn that association quickly and will no longer want to nurse.
- Stress: A stressed baby is a lot less likely to want to nurse or drink from a bottle, so make sure to eliminate the possibility of stress in your child’s life before you move on to the weaning process. If your baby shows no signs of being interested in nursing, ensure that he or she is stress-free and relaxed when mealtime rolls around.
- Routine changes: If you’ve been nursing or bottle-feeding on a strict routine and that suddenly changes, you should expect your child to suddenly go on a nursing strike. This change in routine is not going to be met well for the first few days, but if this the cause of your child’s disinterest with nursing, the problem should go away in just a few days. If the situation persists after that, then you may be dealing with weaning readiness instead.
- Negative responses to nursing: If your child bites when nursing and you have a strong reaction against it, such as yelling or crying, your baby is going to pick up on that. If you feel stressed by nursing your baby or behave as though you’re in a hurry to get finished, your baby will notice that, too. Keeping calm and maintaining a positive outlook on the experience no matter what happens is often the key to long-term nursing.
6. It’s time to go back to work.
You may be wondering, “When do I wean my baby if I need to do it on my own schedule?” If you need to get back to work and breastfeeding isn’t going to be practical, you’re not alone in this common weaning scenario. When you need to wean your baby on your own time rather than his or hers, this is called spoon-fed or parent-led weaning. Choosing the time when you begin weaning your baby is not a bad thing if it’s the right decision for you and your family. Remember that, even though baby-led weaning is very popular these days, the only right way to wean is the way that works for you, your child, and your family.
- If you’re worried about being able to nurse your baby when you go back to work, you can always wean your child onto breast milk from a bottle and get your baby used to taking a bottle from another member of the family before you ever leave the house. Many moms do this and then continue to work toward weaning onto solid foods at a later date.
- However, if your baby has all the physical and developmental signs of weaning readiness, there’s no reason why you can’t get started with purees at this point, either. You’ll want to continue spoon-feeding your baby most likely at this point since you cannot be sure you’ll always be around to monitor your child’s baby-led eating at mealtimes.
- However, if a trusted family member can take care of feeding your baby at mealtimes, there’s no reason why you can’t offer baby-led weaning foods to your child while still following a parent-led weaning schedule. In fact, many families find that a combination of these two methods is the best way to ensure weaning success for everyone involved. No matter if you start by offering purees or decide to offer baby-led weaning first foods instead, just make sure you’re present for the very first solid food mealtime. You don’t want to miss it, and your baby will be glad you’re around, too!
7. Your milk supply is dwindling.
If you’re asking yourself, “When can I wean my baby if my milk supply is drying up?” don’t worry! Sometimes, you may find that your milk supply is dwindling even though you’d rather not be finished with weaning just yet. In this situation, there may be something you can do about this problem. However, you may not be able to get back the level of milk you’re used to, and if not, that’s okay too. This could be a sign that your body is ready for you to start the weaning process, and if so, you may need to go with a more parent-led version of weaning rather than trying a baby-led timeline.
- If you notice less engorgement or leaking between nursing sessions, this doesn’t mean you’re losing your milk supply necessarily. It may just mean that your body is getting used to the volume of milk your baby drinks in a day and is leveling out a little bit more than it has been up until this point.
- If your baby is getting distracted more and more frequently during nursing sessions, this may just mean your child is getting more interested in the world around him or her. It may not mean that your supply has gone down at all, especially if your baby returns to nursing after a distraction has passed.
- An older baby may be able to fill up on breastmilk a lot more quickly than a younger baby. Just because your child isn’t nursing for as long of a time as he or she once did doesn’t always mean your supply is dwindling, either.
- If your baby is losing weight even with regular nursing sessions, this may be an indicator that you are losing your milk supply. Check for other potential signs of weight loss as well as loss of appetite if this is something that’s going on with your little one.
- If your baby shows signs of dehydration, this may also mean your milk supply is dropping. Speak to your child’s pediatrician if this is the case, because there may be other causes contributing to dehydration in your child, too.
- If your milk supply is dropping and your baby is nowhere near being ready to wean, speak to your child’s pediatrician for information and advice about what to do. This may mean that you need to wean your baby onto formula in a bottle before you start thinking about introducing solid foods. However, in many situations, milk production can increase from the use of supplements and other treatments, but you should always consult with your child’s pediatrician before trying these solutions.
8. You have unbearable pain when nursing.
It’s rare, but sometimes nursing moms have too much pain while nursing to continue the process anymore. If you find yourself wondering, “When should I wean my baby to help improve my own physical condition?” this may be a problem you’re dealing with. A small amount of discomfort during nursing is common, especially when you’re a new mother, but if this is becoming an unbearable issue, then you may need to think about other alternatives.
- Any discomfort you feel while your baby is nursing should go away within about the first minute of the nursing session. This is usually just caused by your body adjusting to the feeling your child nursing and it shouldn’t continue to be a problem throughout your child’s nursing days. However, if your baby is latched on correctly and the pain persists for longer than a minute, you may be dealing with a bigger problem that you need to take care of.
- Sometimes, your baby may not be able to latch on correctly no matter how many times you try to readjust him or her. If this is the case, you may need to speak to a lactation professional or another medical expert who can help you learn how to better encourage your child to nurse correctly. This person will also be able to tell you if there are other problems causing your child to nurse the wrong way.
- If you have a yeast infection in your breasts, you may have deep pain, burning pain, or pain that continues throughout every nursing session. This can also lead to a rash on your nipples, cracked skin on your nipples, or flakiness. If this is a problem you’re dealing with, your child may also develop the same infection in his or her mouth, so make sure to speak to your baby’s pediatrician as well as your own doctor as soon as possible if you think this is a problem you’re dealing with.
- If you have a clogged milk duct in your breast, you may also have a lot of pain from nursing. You can relieve this pain with warm showers, massages, and warm compresses, but if it continues to happen over and over again, you’ll need to reconsider your weaning options.
- If you find that nothing seems to help improve the causes of your nursing pain, then it’s okay to consider weaning your baby onto a bottle or sippy cup with breast milk or formula.
9. You have become ill or will need to take medication for a long period of time.
If you become sick with anything that could be passed on to your child or if you’ll be treated with medication that can be passed to your baby through nursing, it will be time to start the weaning process. You may think, “Learning when to wean my baby during a time of illness is too stressful,” but it’s unfortunately going to be necessary if this is the problem you’re facing. You don’t want to think about getting sick with anything serious while your child is a baby, but even a small illness such as the flu could constitute the need to transition your baby to solid foods or bottle-feeding depending on the severity of the problem.
- Any illness you catch that can be transmitted to a nursing baby should be reported to your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician right away. While allergies and colds shouldn’t constitute a big problem, viruses and bacterial infections might, so it’s always important to double check to determine whether or not it’s safe for you to continue weaning.
- If you receive a diagnosis of something more severe, such as an infection that can be transmitted through the blood or something potentially life-threatening, you’ll need to stop weaning immediately. This is very rare, of course, but it’s still a potential cause of sudden emergency weaning that some mothers unfortunately do face.
- You may become ill with something that is treatable but will require strong or long-term medication. If this happens, you’ll probably need to stop weaning to prevent spreading the medication to your child through breastfeeding. This may also happen if you are injured and must take strong pain medication for a long period of time. Your doctor will be able to tell you for sure whether or not it’s okay to continue nursing on any particular medication.
- Last but not least, it’s uncommon to become pregnant again while you’re still nursing your first baby, but it’s a possibility. If this happens, talk to your doctor immediately to determine whether or not you need to stop the weaning process.
Do you have a better grasp of situations that might lead to the beginning of the weaning process? By now, you should understand that there are many different scenarios that may cause you to want to start weaning. Some of these are more likely to happen when you’re trying baby-led weaning while others are more common with parent-led weaning. No matter which type of weaning you choose to try with your child, however, remember that eventually, you’re going to encounter something that causes you to get started—and that’s okay!
When did you wean your baby if you’ve had one before? Just because you’ve had a child previously who weaned at 5 months doesn’t mean the same will be true of your second baby, so keep this in mind. This is also true if you’re trying to judge your weaning experience based on a friend’s, a family member’s, or something you read on an online forum. Every baby is an individual and every weaning situation is different. You and your child’s pediatrician will need to work together to figure out the best time to start weaning.
Make sure you don’t wait too late to begin weaning, however. Waiting too long to introduce solid foods may contribute to tooth and gum decay in your child, especially if he or she stays on a bottle for too long. While it’s usually okay to continue partial nursing well into your child’s toddler years if you choose, there are some compelling health reasons why you may want to encourage your little one to eat solid foods for all but one or two meals per day.
As your baby gets older, he or she is going to need a lot more in terms of nutrition, caloric intake, and vitamins in his or her daily diet. Make sure you’re giving your child everything he or she needs to grow up strong and healthy by encouraging the weaning process at the correct time.
And don’t forget to speak to your baby’s pediatrician before you make any decisions! Changes in your child’s diet or lifestyle should always be approved by a medical professional before you put them into practice.
Good luck, and enjoy the weaning experience with your little one!