How to Wean your Baby off Breast Milk

Advice on How to Wean your Baby off Breast Milk

You made the choice to breastfeed your baby and you are wondering when and how is a good time to wean your precious little bundle.  Most babies will wean themselves when they are ready. If you are a working mom and you decide to take some FMLA time, then you can easily breastfeed for a few months. It is easy to pump when you are at home and you can also leave breastmilk for dad or your infant’s siblings to feed your baby. It’s usually a good idea to breastfeed the first six weeks of your newborn’s life. After 6 weeks, it’s a good idea to start to introduce some formula at bedtime. Most breastfed babies are up every two hours and hungry and therefore you are not sleeping too much or getting much done. The good thing about formula is it does keep your baby full longer than breastmilk.  It’s your choice as a mother because some moms want to breastfeed and not use formula and if this works for you, it’s great. Most babies will sleep longer once they reach about 9 pounds because they have more meat on their tiny bodies to sustain them thru the night. Occasionally every mom and dad winds up with a gassy baby and that can be a long and difficult night. This is why it is important to watch what you eat so your child won’t become gassy. The formula can cause the same effects. Many babies are allergic to certain formulas and have to be put on the soy or a special formula that only a doctor can provide with a prescription. You are master of your own universe so it’s up to you to make that decision when you want to wean your child.  

As long as you have enough milk and you are comfortable breastfeeding your baby, you can probably start introducing a sippy cup around 8 or 9 months old and cut back on their feedings. Some babies do enjoy breastfeeding and will continue to feed way beyond one year old.  This is your choice and how you choose to handle this situation. If you find you are expecting another child, you should begin the weaning process right away. The reason is that you are using quite a bit of calcium to breastfeed and the child in your womb needs quite a bit of your calcium to build strong teeth and bones. Some mothers feel more comfortable introducing a bottle to their baby and some don’t. This again depends on how you feel about graduating your baby from the breast to a cup or a bottle. Some babies become quite attached to a bottle and there is nothing wrong with this. The bottle can be filled with breastmilk or formula and your baby might be a bit stubborn about giving that bottle up.  There is no right or wrong age to wean your child off the bottle or the breast.

One thing you do not want to do is shock your baby so you can start gradually eliminating one breastfeeding session at a time and replace this with either breast milk in a bottle or whole milk at the age of one. Reducing feedings one at a time over a period of a few weeks gives your child time to adjust. Remember you are the best judge for when it is that time to wean your child. There are no set deadlines to follow. Most agencies that specialize in breastfeeding want to nurse for at least a year and longer if your child wants to. You don’t have to listen to family or friends make comments about your breastfeeding. You choose the time that feels right for you and your baby.

Weaning is easiest when your child starts to show less of an interest in breastfeeding and this usually happens once solid food is introduced around 4 to 6 months of age. Usually, by 12 months, your child should be introduced to a cup of some sort after they have tried a variety of foods. There is no right or wrong time to introduce a cup either, but usually, it is easier on both you and baby after 8 months.  

As babies grow older and become more active, their attention span isn’t as long so they are not too happy about sitting still for long periods and nursing. Some toddlers still enjoy that time with mom when it’s time for a nap and will continue to nurse. Just remember whether you are returning to work or decide it’s time to wean your baby, don’t make them go cold turkey on weaning.  This can be very traumatic if you suddenly stop breastfeeding for your baby. This also could be very dangerous for mom because your ducts could get plugged up and you could develop mastitis which is a very painful breast infection.

Here are a few tips: Go slowly, Skip a feeding, shorten your nursing time by 5 minutes each day.  Postpone and distract. Try and postpone a feeding or two only if you are nursing a few times a day.

When Weaning becomes a struggle:  If you have tried everything to wean your baby and nothing is working, maybe this isn’t the right time. Maybe your child is still adjusting to your new routine if you recently have gone back to work. Sometimes babies are sick and they want to nurse more frequently when they are not feeling well. Breastfeeding is not only comforting but a good source of nutrition. If your household is going through a major change in life, try again to wean in a month or so when things have calmed down and sooner or later your baby will be weaned.

Postpone and distract:  You can try and postpone the feeding if your child is down to a few feedings a day.  This is a great method for older children because you can reason with them. When your child asks to feed, distract him or her with an object and reassure the child that he or she will be able to nurse shortly. Your child might want to feed in the evening and then tell your child that they may feed before bedtime.

Breast to bottle:  You can help ease your baby’s transition from the breast to the bottle by putting a few drops of breastmilk on the bottle or your child’s tongue and lips. You can also try giving your child a small amount of breastmilk in a bottle before bedtime. Just don’t wait too long or you might have a frustrated baby.

Nutrients:  Every baby needs vitamin D and does not get enough of this vitamin with breastmilk alone.  At some point you will have to introduce some iron-fortified formula to make sure your infant is getting the correct amount of vitamin D.  Once your child is one, you can offer them a wide variety of food that will give your child the important and necessary nutrients he or she needs to grow.