Weaning is described as how a child moves on from breastfeeding to either a bottle, a cup, or solid food and is an important milestone in your baby's development.
When to Start Weaning
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and the continuation of breastfeeding along with the introduction of solid foods until your child’s first birthday and beyond. However, the decision about when to wean your baby is a personal one, and it's really up to you. While some women begin to wean right away to prepare to go back to work, others may wait until their children are toddlers before fully weaning. Sometimes it's the mom who chooses when to start weaning, and sometimes the baby leads the process.
Children are all different, and each one tolerates weaning in their own way. Some infants accept weaning easily. They may enjoy trying new foods from a spoon and learning to use a cup. Others are very reluctant to stop breastfeeding and refuse the bottle or any other form of feeding. It can be an easy transition or a very stressful experience.
You may even decide to start weaning only to find that you or your baby aren't truly ready. That's OK. You can always change your mind and try again at another time or try partial weaning. Weaning, just like breastfeeding, doesn't have to be all or nothing.
If you decide to wean your baby from the breast before his first birthday, you will need to give your baby pumped breast milk or infant formula. Your child's doctor will help you decide which formula is the best choice for your baby, and help when you're choosing an age-appropriate source of alternative nutrition.
Switching to a Bottle or Cup
When you're ready to wean your baby, it's best if you can do it in a gradual way. You can start by giving your baby one bottle a day in place of one breastfeeding session. As the days go on, you can slowly introduce more bottles and breastfeed less often. It's easier to replace daytime feedings first, then change naptime and early morning. Bedtime breastfeeding is usually the hardest for an infant to give up, so it's usually the last one to be eliminated. If your baby is over 6 months old, you can decide to wean directly to a cup and skip bottles completely. An infant can drink from a cup at about 6 months of age. You can wean to a cup in the same way you would wean to a bottle.
How to Make Weaning Easier
If you are wondering how to wean your child from the breast, here are some tips:
1. Be patient and take a gradual approach if possible.
2. Allow your partner or another caregiver to give your baby a bottle. The child may be more likely to take a bottle from someone other than you.
3. Introduce solid foods at 6 to 9 months of age, during which some children will become more distracted
4. Introduce a comfort object (a soothing blanket or stuffed toy) to your baby during this time of transition.
5. Spend time rocking, cuddling, and playing with your baby to replace the special time you share together.
6. Keep in mind that as a child gets older weaning may become more difficult. A toddler may be much more reluctant to give up breastfeeding.