6 Tips for Weaning Your Breastfed Baby

Father feeding baby with bottle
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Every day starts the same for me right now:

Me basically declaring that today is the day to wean my daughter. 

There's just one problem – I don't really know how to wean my daughter. 

I've breastfeed all four of my children, and my experience has been that every child will wean differently, and to be perfectly honest, they're not the only factor in how long we breastfed. My abilities, tolerances, and what else is going on in our lives is also a very real factor, because I really do believe that good parenting and happy mothering starts with taking care of ourselves first as mothers.

So, taking myself into the equation when it comes to weaning is important too. 

With my first child, I was happy to breastfeed her for 15 months, until I became pregnant with her younger sister. After that, I just found nursing her was much too painful and uncomfortable for me with all the hormones of pregnancy. My other two children happily weaned at age 1 and didn't look back once. 

This time around, however, I seem to have a child who is keen on breastfeeding forever. OK, so not really, but that's how it feels. She loves her time spent in our special rocking chair where I always nurse her, and she's even got to the point where she points and "asks" me to nurse her. It's a little strange for me sometimes, I have to admit, because my other children didn't do this, but I'm happy to continue breastfeeding as long it's working for both of us. 

But my milk supply isn't keeping up with her demands, life is getting a little bit busier, and with a lot of travel responsibilities coming up for my job, I am definitely preparing to start the process of weaning.

I brushed up on some tips for weaning a breastfed baby and here's what I found:

  • Don't start until after 6 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, so if you can, don't start the weaning process until your baby is at least 6 months old and preferably, over 1 year old. 
  • There is no cut-off date. The AAP states that a mother and a child can breastfeed for "as long as mutually desired by mother and infant," so if you and your baby aren't ready, don't worry! There are no known drawbacks to extended breastfeeding, so do what's best for you and your baby. 
  • Eliminate one feeding at a time. If you're ready to start weaning, it may be helpful to cut out one feeding at a time instead of going cold-turkey all at once. I've found that it's easiest to eliminate the nap time feed first versus the middle-of-the-night feeding when you're both tired and cranky. Establishing a routine at nap time of a book and cuddles instead can help train your baby how to be soothed without breastfeeding, which will make stopping other feedings a little easier, too. 
  • You don't necessarily have to wean to cow's milk. If your baby is over 1 year old, many parents assume that they have to be started on cow's milk instead of breast milk, but that's not necessarily the case. Our son refused to drink cow's milk after I weaned him, and I was terrified that he needed milk in his diet. But our pediatrician assured us that if he was getting plenty of calcium and vitamins in other forms of dairy, like cheese and vegetables, he would be fine. To this day, he's still not a huge milk drinker, so sometimes it's just a preference. 
  • Consider a sippy cup. If you don't want to have to wean your infant and then break him or her of a bottle later on too, consider weaning directly to a sippy cup. It could save you a step!
  • Enlist the help of your partner. The hardest part of weaning, for me, is how easy it is for me to just breastfeed the baby. If she's crying and I'm tired and I just want an easy way to soothe her, it's way too tempting to just nurse her. But if I'm committed to weaning, I need to ask my husband to help me, especially at night if she wakes up and wants me, to help soothe her in other ways besides breastfeeding. 

Weaning isn't always easy or the same for every child, but if you feel like it's time to wean your baby, take your time, be patient with the process, and use your own judgement for what is best for both of you. Because breastfeeding is a two-way street. 


American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. (2012). Pediatrics. Accessed September 1, 2015 online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html. 

U.S. Department Of Human Health & Resources. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development. (2013). "What is weaning and how do I do it?" Accessed September 1, 2015: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/Pages/weaning.aspx

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