Every aspect of the breastfeeding journey is unique — including how it ends. Weaning is a significant change for both you and your baby, and there’s no one right way to approach it.
Learning more about the weaning process can help you experience as comfortable a transition as possible. Below, our lactation experts offer weaning advice and answer commonly asked questions about weaning your baby.
Deciding when to start weaning your baby is a personal decision. If you’ve chosen to breastfeed, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends offering a combination of breast milk and solids until a child’s first birthday.
For a child’s health and safety, breast milk, formula, or a combination of both must be given until they turn one, alongside complementary solids.
However, each breastfeeding journey is unique, and it’s more than okay to continue beyond 12 months if you want to and your milk supply allows.
You may also decide to wean earlier. The most important thing is that your baby consumes enough calories and nutrients. You are the expert on your own needs.
If you are feeling discouraged by breastfeeding challenges, a lactation consultant can offer individualized solutions. However, do not feel ashamed if you choose to end your breastfeeding journey earlier than you originally intended.
The best source of nutrition for your child during and after weaning depends on their age. Solids are typically introduced around six months, though each child is different. Cow’s milk is typically not introduced until 12 months.
Younger babies need pumped breast milk or formula while weaning. A healthcare professional can guide you in choosing age-appropriate nutrition.
Weaning can be baby-led or parent-led. While both approaches are valid, the process is often a little smoother when following your baby’s cues.
Pay attention to your baby’s needs once you start weaning.
You may need to make adjustments as you learn what your baby needs, not unlike the beginning of breastfeeding.
There are several instances in which it’s ideal to hold off on weaning if possible. It is typically recommended to delay the process if your baby is sick or teething — a happy, healthy baby makes for an easier weaning journey.
Since weaning is a big shift, account for other factors at home. If the family is navigating another significant change, such as a return to work, a move, or a transition in caregiving, consider weaning at another time.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Partial weaning is an option for those who have decided to stop breastfeeding full-time but don’t feel ready to fully wean. It can be helpful when navigating a return to work.
Some individuals who take this approach skip afternoon feedings and continue to breastfeed in the morning and at night. Others have success with night weaning first.
If possible, plan for a gradual weaning process. Not only can this make the experience more comfortable for your baby, but it also helps prevent engorgement, mastitis, and other related breastfeeding challenges.
There are many ways to wean gradually. You might drop a breastfeeding session every few days, shorten the length of each session, or increase the time between sessions. You’ll learn from experience what works best for you.
You may find it helpful to start by dropping sessions in the afternoon, when many babies and toddlers are active.
As you introduce solids, take advantage of your child’s curiosity about new foods.
It’s understandable if you’re worried about losing that special one-on-one connection with your child. Weaning can be an opportunity to find new ways to bond. You may also find that the process opens up new emotional terrain to navigate together.
Weaning is a big adjustment for both parent and baby. The process can trigger hormonal changes, similar to your first days after birth. This can bring many emotions to the surface, sometimes conflicting ones, like both anxiety and relief.
Be mindful of the signs of postpartum depression and anxiety and contact a trusted health professional right away if you have any concerns about your mental health.
Lactation consultants aren’t only here to help you get started with breastfeeding. The weaning process may have challenges of its own, and a lactation consultant can offer individualized solutions at every step.
Since there are many different approaches to weaning, it’s important to find what works for you and your baby. A lactation consultant will observe you and your baby and offer strategies to improve the experience.
Ruth Health offers nearly 24/7 virtual lactation support from Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs) to provide individualized care throughout your breastfeeding journey.
Learn how we can support you through the weaning process, and sign up below to join our community.
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