Woman spoon feeding her baby.


What to Do When It’s Time to Start Weaning Your Baby

From the moment of birth, your newborn is going to be consumed with three primary activities: sleeping, eating, and emptying their bowels. Newborns need vital nutrients to grow into healthy, strong individuals with the proper brain development. This is why breastfeeding is so important during those first few months of life. Breast milk provides your baby with all of the essential vitamins and minerals they need to flourish and all the hydration they need to function. However, your baby isn’t going to breastfeed forever. Eventually, you’ll need to wean your baby from breast milk and introduce solid foods. To help you better understand how to handle this change, here’s what to do when it’s time to start weaning your baby.

What Does Weaning a Baby Mean?

The process of weaning occurs when you decide—for whatever reason—that you’re going to stop nursing and feed your baby from other sources. It’s the moment in time where you no longer feed your baby directly from the breast. Weaning can be used to describe the process of transitioning from nursing to bottle feeding as well as the transition from bottle feeding to solid foods.

Important Information About Weaning Your Baby

There are many different techniques to successfully wean your baby, many of which depend on their age and overall development. It should also be understood that weaning doesn’t occur overnight. It can take several months to fully wean your baby off of breast milk, and that’s okay. Utilizing a gradual process allows you to avoid problems and make sure your baby continues to get everything they need. Weaning can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, so just be patient and ask your doctor any questions you may have. Before you begin weaning, we recommend talking to your pediatrician to ensure that your baby is physically ready to be weaned from the breast. They will discuss whether or not your baby is showing signs that they’re ready to be weaned, which is the best way to ensure development continues along a healthy path.

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Common Signs It’s Time to Wean Your Baby

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when you’re going to wean your baby. Some parents decide to do this before their baby turns one, others wait until they’re two or three. The choice is up to you, but keep in mind that The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend that mothers breastfeed for at least a year. If you think you may be ready to wean your baby, try to determine whether your baby is also ready. Some common signs that it may be time to start weaning your baby include:


  • Your baby increases the frequency in which they want to breastfeed or drink formula.
  • Your baby has doubled in birth weight.
  • Your baby shows a growing interest in solid foods you’re eating.
  • Your baby opens their mouth when they see others eating.
  • Your baby puts their hands and toys in their mouth.
  • Your baby can sit up straight without support.
  • Your baby can hold their neck upright and steady.


How to Wean Your Baby at Different Ages

How you wean your baby will depend on how old they are. While it’s recommended to exclusively feed your baby breast milk until they’re about six months old, weaning is a personal decision and may be necessary for medical or developmental reasons. Whenever you decide to wean, try to do it during a period of stability in your child’s life. This can help reduce problems and negative reactions to the change in feeding. To assist you along the journey, here is more information regarding how to wean your baby at different ages.

Weaning Your Baby Up to Six Months

Some mothers are unable to continue breastfeeding after a few weeks. This could be due to a mental, physical, or emotional reason and that’s okay. Every woman is different, and, in some situations, breastfeeding is not realistic. To wean your baby at an early age, introduce bottles. You’ll need to substitute every nursing session with bottle feeding, which can be difficult if your baby has grown used to your breast. Try to integrate bottles into feeding schedules from an early age to increase the likelihood that they’ll latch when you need to completely wean. You’ll also want to use a breast pump to help relieve engorgement and reduce the occurrence of mastitis. Talk to your doctor or lactation consultant for more information on how to avoid nipple confusion when bottle feeding.

Weaning Between Six and 12 Months

Weaning your baby between six and 12 months is one of the most common times to do so. This is because weaning tends to be easiest during these months as your baby begins to notice more of the world around them. Use this to your advantage, especially when you start introducing solid foods. Introduce solid foods slowly so you can watch for allergies and get ready for a messy kitchen. Continue to provide the intimacy that your baby would get during nursing and give them some extra attention during this transition.

Weaning Your Baby After 12 Months

When weaning a toddler, they may be old enough to understand full conversations. If so, talk to them and try to explain that your milk is going away and they’re becoming old enough to eat like their parents. Continue to spend plenty of time snuggling with your child and provide the same closeness during feedings to help ease the transition. Weaning your baby after 12 months can be seen as a transition into becoming a big kid, so approach it as something to celebrate and express how proud of them you are.

If you’re not ready to completely wean your baby, that’s okay. You can cut back on the number of times that you breastfeed throughout the day or week without moving towards the direction of complete elimination. In fact, many mothers continue to breastfeed well after introducing solids as breast milk continues to provide excellent nutritional value in your baby’s diet. Contrary to popular belief, weaning does not have to be an all or nothing occurrence. You can begin the process by reducing the number of times you breastfeed and continue the process for a year or longer. Do what works best for you and if you have any questions or concerns, always consult with your doctor or pediatrician.

Regardless of the speed you decide to take during the weaning process, try to avoid doing it “cold turkey.” When you abruptly stop breastfeeding, you may experience engorgement, painful breasts, and even breast infections. Wean slowly and use a supplemental breast pump when needed to help alleviate engorgement or pain.

Some Tips on Weaning Your Baby

The best thing to do when weaning your baby is to go slow and try to encourage an easy transition. Additionally, mothers have found success with some of the following tips.


  • During times you’d normally be nursing, try engaging with your child in a fun play activity or outing.
  • Avoid sitting in your usual nursing areas.
  • Try to avoid wearing nursing clothes, especially if you’ve used the same ones for feedings throughout your child’s life.
  • Delay weaning if your child is going through a major change such as teething or a new childcare routine.
  • Introduce the bottle using expelled breast milk to begin the transition early.
  • Change your daily routine to avoid expectations of nursing.
  • Ask your partner for help in keeping your child distracted during typical breastfeeding times.
  • Don’t discourage comforting habits like thumb sucking or security blankets/toys.


What to Do If Your Baby Isn’t Ready to Wean

Sometimes, mothers begin weaning and their child fights back. This could indicate a sign that your baby is not ready to begin the weaning process. Children who aren’t ready to wean may start displaying regressive behaviors, separation anxiety, tantrums, general anxiety, clinginess, and disrupted sleeping habits. If you notice these behaviors, slow the weaning process and consider increasing feedings again. Discuss these problems with your pediatrician to make sure that your baby is at the right developmental stage for weaning and if they are, try to show your child that you care about them in other ways. Increase bonding activities and consider giving them some extra attention during the process.

To help you along the transition from breastfeeding to bottle feeding to whole foods, Byram Healthcare has a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps. Breast pumping is a great way to supplement feedings and ensure that your baby is getting what they need, whether you’re there or not. While it’s important to wait a few weeks to avoid nipple confusion, nursing and feeding expressed breast milk can be done simultaneously without problems. To get started with our easy, three-step ordering process, visit our breast pump selection page today.