Weaning: when and how to stop breastfeeding

The natural weaning process begins once your baby starts to have anything other than breast milk and it usually takes some time until breastfeeding is completely replaced by other foods and drinks. But weaning does not mean the end of the intimate bond you and your baby created through nursing. It just means you are nourishing and nurturing your baby in different ways. You are the best judge of when it is time to wean and you do not have to set a deadline until you and your baby are ready. Despite what friends, relatives, or even strangers may say, there is no right or wrong time or way to wean.
Baby-led weaning

Baby-led weaning

Weaning is easiest when your baby starts to lose interest in nursing, often after starting solids at around 6 to 12 months. If the baby is fussy and impatient while nursing or easily distracted, they may be giving you signs that they are ready.

Mother-led weaning

Mother-led weaning

Weaning is easiest when your baby starts to lose interest in nursing, often after starting solids at around 6 to 12 months. If the baby is fussy and impatient while nursing or easily distracted, they may be giving you signs that they are ready.

Weaning process

Planning the weaning process

Proceed slowly, regardless of your baby's age. Experts say that abruptly withholding your breast can be traumatic for your baby and could cause plugged ducts or a breast infection for you. A weekend away from your baby, for example, is not a good way to end the breastfeeding relationship.

Try these methods instead:

  • See what happens if you offer a bottle or a cup of milk instead of nursing. As a substitute you can give expressed breast milk or whole cow's milk (if your child is at least one year old).
  • Reducing feeds one at a time over a period of weeks gives your baby time to adjust. Your milk supply also diminishes gradually this way, without leaving your breasts engorged or causing mastitis.
  • Start reducing nursing time by limiting the time your baby is on the breast. If your baby usually nurses for 10 minutes, try 5.
  • Depending on your baby’s age, follow the feed with a healthy snack, such as unsweetened apple puree or a cup of milk (babies younger than six months may not be ready for solids). Solid food is complementary to breast milk until your baby is one year old.
  • Try postponing feeds if you are only nursing a couple of times a day. If your baby asks to nurse, reassure your baby that you will start soon and distract them with a different activity. Instead of nursing in the early evening, you could tell your baby to wait until bedtime.

Depending on your approach, weaning can take days, weeks or months. Breastfeeding was an intimate activity for you and your baby, and you both might have mixed emotions about letting go. By taking a gradual approach to weaning — and offering plenty of love and affection — you can help your baby make a smooth transition to a bottle or cup.

 

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