First off, let me say congrats on breastfeeding your little one! No matter how long you have been breastfeeding, it’s hard work, and you should be proud of yourself. But, what’s that saying? “All good things must come to an end,” right? Which means it must be time to start weaning from breastfeeding.
When you think about weaning from breastfeeding, know that this might be a very emotional time for everyone involved. Your breastfed baby is likely very fond of these special feedings with you, and you probably are too!
You will find everything you need to know about weaning your little one in this post, whether they are a baby or toddler!
This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. To find out more, you can read my disclaimer here. Also, I am not a medical professional. Just a mama who’s sharing her experiences and what’s worked for her and her baby. As always, don’t be afraid to consult with your doctor about anything!
Firstly, when should you start weaning your breastfed baby?
The right time to start weaning your breastfed child is entirely up to you. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months, then continue until your baby’s first birthday or longer.
Now, of course, if breastfeeding isn’t working for you and your baby, you can wean at any time and use formula instead. What matters most is that your baby is fed, and both you and your baby are happy!
When thinking about weaning, you should know that there are two main types of weaning. Those are child-led weaning and mother-led weaning.
Child-led weaning is when your child stops breastfeeding on their own. You might notice that your baby starts to nurse less after you introduce solids. On the other hand, your baby might be happy as a clam to continue nursing frequently!
Mother-led weaning is when you choose when to stop nursing your baby. Unlike child-led weaning, where you don’t know when your baby will start, you find the time that’s right for you and your baby.
How to start weaning from breastfeeding:
Weaning Your Baby Under One Year Old:
When you want to wean your breastfed baby under one year old, you will have to substitute your nursing sessions with bottles. When switching to formula, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician first to determine what kind is best for your baby.
If your baby doesn’t take a bottle from you, try having someone else your baby trusts, like your partner or a grandparent, give it a go. If your baby doesn’t drink from a bottle at all, check out these tips for bottle refusal!
Also, when weaning your baby under one, you should take it one feeding at a time. You will want to make sure that you are giving them enough time between each new bottle feeding to make sure they are adjusting smoothly.
Weaning Your Child Over 12-Months Old:
If you have been breastfeeding your baby for a year or even longer, it can be tricky to wean them from breastfeeding. My son was always wildly attached to his nursing sessions, and I know that’s common amongst many toddlers.
The following tips are what helped me wean my almost-two-year-old, but these tips can help you wean a baby under one as well. Let’s get to it!
Don’t Stop Abruptly
There are a few reasons why you will want to avoid weaning from breastfeeding too suddenly. First, cutting out nursing sessions too fast will cause more tension for your child.
Especially if your kiddo has had recurring nursing sessions, the change in that routine will throw them for a loop.
Secondly, when you stop breastfeeding too quickly, you are more at risk of getting clogged milk ducts or even mastitis. When you wean gradually, it gives your body time to realize that it doesn’t need to produce as much milk.
Start With Night Feedings
The first step to gradually weaning from breastfeeding is to start with cutting out night feedings. Especially once your child is over that one-year mark, they don’t need to wake in the night for a nursing session. (Unless for some medical requirement told by your doctor.)
If your kiddo has been reliant on night feedings to get back to sleep, it will be difficult to stop them. For more tips, check out this post on stopping nighttime nursing sessions!
Stop One Feeding At A Time
The second step in gradual weaning is only to cut out one nursing session at a time. Not only does this help your body adjust to fewer feedings, but it makes it much easier on your kiddo.
When I started weaning my toddler, our pediatrician suggested cutting out the first-morning feeding, the after nap feeding, and before bed feedings last. Since my son was still doing about six feedings at that time, I didn’t know where to start!
That’s when I made the chart above. Creating this sort of timeline helped me visualize all of his feedings. Then, I made a plan for which feedings I needed to cut out in which order.
First, I wrote down the time he wakes up, his nap time, and his bedtime. Next, I filled in the approximate times of each nursing session. Then, I wrote down the times of his meals and snacks. Lastly, I figured out and wrote down the order of which feedings to cut out.
Keep in mind that your weaning schedule will probably look different than mine, and that’s ok! Just as long as your chart acts as a guide to help you sort out this process, that’s all that matters.
Also, when looking at how many feedings you have to drop, consider how much time you will have between dropping the next feeding. I waited at least a week between each feeding, but often, it was even more.
If you’re not sure how long to wait, take some cues from your child. If they are really struggling with not having a particular nursing session, wait a little longer before dropping the next.
Shorten Each Nursing Session
If you have a child who loves to take their time while nursing, shortening the amount of time they nurse can be very beneficial.
For example, if your kiddo nurses for 10 minutes pretty consistently, start ending the feeding after about 8 minutes. Then, complete the feeding after 5 minutes, and so on. This method will take a little longer, but it’s not as abrupt as cutting the whole feeding out at once.
If you notice that your kiddo’s usual nursing time is approaching, and they haven’t wanted to nurse yet, don’t suggest it! This is a perfect sign that your little one is doing some child-led weaning.
Have Distractions Ready
If you anticipate nursing sessions and have a distraction ready, it can very well save you from a meltdown.
One thing that helped me tremendously was to make sure that snack times were around the time of the feeding we were cutting out. It helped my son to have a snack or two since he wasn’t nursing, and the distraction of snacks made it easier to drop two out of six feedings.
Also, when it came time to stop the first-morning feeding and then before bedtime feeding, I gave my son a sippy cup with cow’s milk instead. It worked surprisingly well, seeing as those were the two toughest feedings to stop!
Another idea you can try is to distract your kiddo with toys or maybe even a cartoon they enjoy. Around the time your child typically wants to nurse, try doing something fun with your child that you don’t normally do. Maybe talk a walk outside, or do a simple craft together. Anything that your child enjoys will help the transition go smoothly.
Time It Right
When you are ready to start weaning your breastfed child, you need to make sure the timing is right. What this means is to avoid any special events that are coming up.
For example, if you have family visiting from out of town, you are going on vacation, or your partner is leaving for a work trip, you will want to wait until those times have passed. Also, if your child is sick or teething, you will want to wait until your child is feeling better.
Weaning from breastfeeding is a significant change for your kiddo, so having the comfort of their everyday routine will help them feel a little more secure.
Talk About It!
If you want to wean your toddler, it can be helpful to talk about what’s going on. I started the weaning process when my son was about 18-months-old, and it helped to talk about weaning with him.
For example, when we stopped nursing at night, I would tell my son, “Remember, babas are only for the daytime. Babas are going to go to sleep tonight.”. In your case, ‘baba’ can be changed to whatever word you use for nursing.
Have Extra Cuddle Time
Breastfeeding has been a significant source of cuddle time for you and your little one. They feel close to you, physically and emotionally, while nursing and cutting that out can be hard on them.
Make sure you still take the time to cuddle your child while adding in other ways of bonding.
How long does it take to wean from breastfeeding?
When you are thinking about weaning from breastfeeding, you might not know what that entails. Many times, you won’t know how long it will take until you start the process.
If your child is adjusting really well to fewer nursing sessions, weaning might be a speedy process for you. Remember, even if your child doesn’t seem to mind nursing less, you still want to leave a few days between cutting the next session. This will give your body the time it needs.
On the other hand, if your child is struggling, or if you don’t mind how long it takes to wean, it could take a while! We started weaning when my son was around 18-months-old, and we didn’t finish until he was 21-months-old. We simply weren’t in a rush to stop.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there can be bumps in the road. If your child gets sick or starts teething, they might want to go back to nursing more. In this case, do what you think is best for your kiddo.
What if I’m having pain because of weaning from breastfeeding?
If you are experiencing pain and discomfort because of weaning, it’s always a good idea to call your doctor. You want to be careful of things like mastitis, and your doctor will give you more information.
If engorgement is causing your breast pain, you can hand-express a little, but be sure not to express too much. Another great thing to help with engorgement pain is to use cold compresses. I used these while I was breastfeeding, and they are fantastic!
Remember to go easy on yourself through the process of weaning. It can be very emotional for you and your child. I focused on thinking about the new chapter we were starting with our baby getting older, which helped a lot with the transition phase.
Before you go, check out these related articles:
- The Best Hobbies For Busy Moms
- Simple Chores Your Toddler Will Love
- Excellent Board Books For Toddlers
I would love to know how your weaning journey is going! Or, if you have already weaned your child, what was most challenging for you? Comment below and let me know!