How to Begin Weaning Your Child Off Breastfeeding

How to Begin Weaning Your Child Off Breastfeeding

baby lead weaning

Breastfeeding your baby for the first six months of their life and then continuing to breastfeed in conjunction with the introduction of solid foods is highly recommended by most pediatricians.  However, when to start weaning your baby is an entirely personal decision and is truly up to Mom. Some women prefer to wean right away so they are able to return to their employment, while others choose to wait until their precious little ones are toddlers.

More times than not it is the mother who will decide when to begin weaning and often that decision is made with the help of the baby.  Babies are all different with some accepting weaning quite naturally and others being quite reluctant to stop. Babies who find it easy to wean typically will want to try out new foods using their own spoon and even are eager to learn to drink from a cup and the overall transition tends to be easy.  Those babies who are reluctant to stop will more than likely refuse to take a bottle and further refuse any other type of feeding and experience a rather stressful and even fearful attempt at transitioning.  

Here at Riverside Medical Group we want to remind our young mothers that although you may decide it is time to start weaning, you may actually realize that you and your baby are not quite ready for that big step yet. The weaning process does not need to be an all or nothing process, but can be done in partial stages if need be.

Knowing When It’s Time to Wean

There are a number of different types of weaning, including:

Gradual weaning – This is a very slow process that can take place over a few weeks or a few months.  Sometimes this process can even take years. 

Partial weaning – This process is an ideal alternative for those moms who do not want to stop breastfeeding altogether, but are unable to breastfeed all the time. 

Baby-led weaning – There are times when a baby will simply stop breastfeeding on their own, but usually this occurs after the child reaches the one-year marker.  When your baby loses interest in nursing, the entire weaning process is at its easiest. In some cases, babies will find more interest in solid foods than mom’s breast milk, especially after they have been introduced to other foods and drinking options.  

Sudden weaning – This is a quick transition putting a sudden ‘cold turkey’ end to breastfeeding.

Temporary weaning – This type of weaning involves breastfeeding for a period of time, stopping,  and then restarting it again. However, this process is typically engaged by mothers who are having health issues of sorts and do not want to compromise the health of their babies. 

How to Wean

Ideally, when you decide to start weaning your baby it would be most beneficial to both Mom and baby to choose the gradual weaning process.  You can start this process by substituting one breastfeeding session with that of a bottle. As the days progress, you can then start to slowly use more bottles and less breastfeeding.  Substituting daytime feedings is the easiest place to start, followed by nap time feedings, early morning feedings and finally bedtime feedings (which are the hardest of all). 

Depending on your baby’s age, you may want to wean from breastfeeding directly to a cup rather than a bottle if the child is over 6 months of age utilizing the same weaning process you would have used for a bottle.  Also, it is important to know that should you choose to wean your baby from breastfeeding before they turn a year old, then it will be necessary to feed the child either an infant formula or pumped breast milk. If you are unsure about which formula to use, or other sources of nutrition, be sure to reach out to your baby’s doctor.

No Right or Wrong Way

Regardless of what family and friends and even professionals may tell you, rest assured there is no right or wrong way to wean your baby off of breastfeeding.  Typically, the right time is when Mom either feels her baby is ready or the baby naturally begins to wean themselves.

To learn more about breastfeeding and how to wean your baby, be sure to take advantage of our free breastfeeding classes we offer here at Riverside Medical Group.  We look forward to serving you and to offering you the insight and guidance you need for ensuring proper breastfeeding techniques.