Newborns Breastfeeding Weaning Baby

Weaning is the period of time during which your baby transitions from breast milk to other foods. Weaning is a normal and completely natural stage in your baby’s life. However, not every baby will be ready to be weaned at the same time. Deciding when to wean will depend both on you and your baby.

When to Wean

If you are breastfeeding, most doctors will recommend you give your baby breast milk for the first six months of his life. Many mothers, however, continue to nurse their babies for much longer than six months. This is perfectly normal and is good for the baby.

However, it is important to note that breast milk will not provide a baby who is older than 1 year with all the nutrients necessary for growth and development. One-year-olds and older infants who have not been weaned must be given solid foods in addition to breast milk.

Many doctors suggest the weaning process should begin around the baby’s first birthday. During this age, a baby is more open to change. If you wait too long to begin weaning, the child could be reluctant to give up the breast.

Starting weaning around the first birthday is also beneficial to the mother. Since the baby will be eating more solid foods at this time, his demand for breast milk will decrease and will cause the mother’s milk supply to naturally decrease. This can help prevent the mom’s breasts from becoming engorged.

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Wean

While some infants are reluctant to wean, others will give their mothers signs that they are ready to wean. If your baby is doing any of the following, she may be ready to wean:

  • If your baby is losing interest in breastfeeding, it might be a good time to start weaning. A baby who is tired of the breast might appear bored during feedings or might take a long time to finish a feeding.
  • If your baby is losing the tongue-thrust reflex, it might be time to start weaning. The tongue-thrust reflex causes babies to instinctively use their tongues to push objects out of their mouths.
  • If your baby shows interest in solid foods, she is likely ready to wean. Look to see if your baby looks at or tries to grab food from your plate.
  • When a baby can sit up and hold her head up, she might be ready to wean.

How to Wean Your Baby

When you decide it’s time to start weaning, there are a few things to keep in mind that will make the process easier for the both of you:

  • Avoid breastfeeding triggers. For instance, if you always sit in the same chair to breastfeed, consider sitting in a different spot during the weaning process.
  • Avoid weaning if your child is going through a stressful time. For instance, it likely isn’t a good idea to wean while the child is teething.
  • If you find weaning too physically or emotionally difficult, you might want to delay the weaning process until your child is eating three meals of solid food each day. Once this occurs, breastfeed only when your child asks for it. To keep your milk supply from drying up during this time, you might need to pump.
  • To make the weaning process less stressful, consider dropping one feeding session a week until your baby is eating only solid foods or formula. During this time, you might need to pump your breasts to prevent engorgement.
  • Many babies find weaning easier if they have been given milk from a source besides the breast (i.e., a bottle or a cup).
  • Weaning requires patience and is easier if it is done gradually. Many experts recommend weaning over a period of weeks or months.

Breast Care while Weaning

Since you will still be breastfeeding during the weaning process, you will need to provide your breasts with the same care you did while you were breastfeeding. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  • If your breasts become engorged, apply cold packs to the breasts, along with clean, washed cabbage leaves, which can help reduce swelling. Leave these items on your breasts for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Avoid taking warm showers if your breasts are engorged, as heat can increase swelling.
  • If your nipples are dry or cracked, use a breast cream, such as Pure Lan® or Lansinoh®, after nursing. If you choose to use one of these creams, you shouldn’t wash it off after application.
  • In order to provide your breasts with the support they need while breastfeeding, invest in a well-fitting nursing bra that offers ample support.
  • Wash your breasts with only warm water and a soft, clean washcloth. Never apply soap to your breasts while you are breastfeeding. Soap will remove the natural oils that are present on your breasts and nipples and will contribute to drying and cracking.
  • After rinsing your breasts, you might want to apply a few drops of breast milk or colostrum to your areolas. These substances will soothe and protect your nipple. In addition, some women find it beneficial to rub a few drops of corn oil or olive oil on their nipples.

Resources

CPS Community Paediatrics Committee (updated March 2005). Weaning your child from breastfeeding. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the Caring for Kids Web site: http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/babies/Weaning.htm.

Grayson, Charlotte (reviewed July 13, 2005). Common Breastfeeding Problems. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the WebMD Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52268.

Ho, Wayne; Homeier, Barbara P. (reviewed June 2005). Weaning Your Child. Retrieved November 5, 2007, from the KidsHealth Web site: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/growth/feeding/weaning.html.

MacDonald Women’s Hospital (n.d.). breast care. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from the MacDonald Women’s Hospital Web site: http://www.macdonaldwomenshospital.org/DisplayContent.aspx?PageId=83.