How to Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding

There comes a time when the baby needs to be weaned from breastfeeding and moved to other sources for getting the important nutrients. Mothers usually decide when to wean the baby, yet there are a lot of mothers who let their baby decide when he is ready for weaning. It is not easy to wean a baby from breastfeeding though, and may require a lot of time depending on how your baby adjusts to the change. You can make the weaning process easier for yourself and your baby by knowing about it in detail.

When to Start Weaning from Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is recommended as the sole source of nutrients for babies till they are six months old; breast milk coupled with solids is recommended afterwards till the baby celebrates the first birthday. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), mothers usually wean their babies once they are four to seven months old. The decision about when to wean off your child from breastfeeding is very personal, and you should take into account your own commitments. For instance, if you work, you might want your child to be able of drinking milk from the bottle after six months.

The baby will show the following signs when he is ready to eat other foods.

  • Finds it easy to sit without support and to move his neck muscles.
  • Keeps the food in the mouth and does not spill it out right away.
  • Watches with interest when other people eat something.
  • Does not respond as happily as earlier during breastfeeding sessions or even acts a bit cranky.

How to Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding

1. Substitute the Least Favorite Feed First

It is best to start weaning off the breastfeeding session that isn’t liked as much as the others. Children love the first breastfeeding session as well as the last one because they want more support and comfort at those times of the day, so it’s best not to substitute any of those two feeds. Once your child adjusts to the substitution of his least favored breastfeeding session, move on to dropping another session to which the child isn’t attached that much. And then, continue dropping sessions one-by-one to wean the baby from breastfeeding completely.

2. Take It Slow

If you will go slow and taper off your child slowly, then you are unlikely to face the discomfort of engorgement. The body gets used to producing milk when the mother breastfeeds the child, and the slow tapering off can help the body diminish the milk production with time. However, in case you face engorgement problems when you start to wean your child, you should express a small amount of milk from your own breasts to get some comfort. You can also apply cold compresses so as to ease the pain.

3. Comfort Your Baby in Other Ways

Babies cling on to the breasts not only for milk but also for comfort and support. When weaning your baby, you can make the transition easy by comforting him through different activities, ranging from massaging his back and front, to romping with him when playing in the ground, to cuddling him when reading a story or singing lullabies.

4. Let Your Baby Lead

A lot of babies adapt to weaning easily when they are given the chance to call the shots. The idea is simple: you should neither offer them the feeding when they do not ask for it, nor refuse them the feeding if they show interest. You might have to follow the strategy for quite some time before the baby is weaned off, yet it’s often preferred by moms as it ensures that the baby’s requirements are fulfilled.

5. Change Your Routine

You can change your routine by feeding the child in a different position or feeding the child in a different room. You can also get the help of the child’s dad, grandfather, or even older brother in weaning the child. While the baby may not accept a bottle from you, it is likely that the baby will take the bottle from a known face when you are not around.

6. Wean Older Babies

Weaning older babies has its own advantages as you can easily skip getting the child off the bottle entirely. You can easily wean the child to a cup rather than a bottle if he is nine months old or above. If the child has not wean till he is one, the best way to wean him is to put on slightly complicated clothes, like a dress that has a zipper at the back or a shirt with buttons. Giving the child your complete attention after restricting the feeding should help the child adapt.

To learn more about weaning a baby from breastfeeding, watch the video below:

What Substitute Foods Should I Offer?

1. Formula and Milk

Depending on the age when your baby is weaned off breast milk, the substitute food should be:

  • infant iron-fortified formula for six to twelve month old babies
  • complete milk or a follow-up formula for twelve to eighteen month old babies
  • whole and complete milk for one-and-a-half to two year old babies
  • 2% or whole milk for babies aged two and above

You shouldn’t give the baby over 24 ounces of milk products each day after the baby celebrates his first birthday, as the baby would have no space in the tiny stomach for solid food items. It may also cause the baby to get an iron deficiency.

2. Solid Foods

The best way to introduce solid foods to babies is to mix four teaspoons of breast milk with one teaspoon of iron-fortified cereal. The best age for introducing solid foods is four to six months. After the baby starts to like the cereal, you can try offering him vegetables, meat, and fruits in puree form. 

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