How to Start Weaning

The Sleep by Rachelle method of sleep training is more than just simple sleep tips. Understanding your baby’s nutrition and digestion is an important part of helping your baby find restful sleep. However, what if you’re ready to stop breastfeeding your baby? You may not know when to start weaning, how to do it, or how it might affect your baby.

Don’t worry, mama. Read our guide below to get you and your baby ready for weaning.

What is weaning?

First off, let’s talk about what the term “weaning” is. Your baby is considered weaned when she stops nursing completely and gets her nutrition from sources other than milk. However, weaning usually means when a baby stops breastfeeding. She may still take the bottle.

What age to start weaning

The simple answer? When you and your baby are ready. There’s no “correct” time you’re supposed to start weaning. 

If you need a little guidance though, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests babies are breastfed for the first 6 months of their life. After that, mothers can continue to breastfeed while also introducing other foods to their baby until at least 12 months of age. The AAP also recommends that breastfeeding continues for as long as mother and baby desire. 

There are a couple of different approaches to weaning. If you feel like it’s the right time for you, or perhaps you’re returning to work, or you have your own reasons for wanting to stop, you may decide to start weaning, which is called “mother-led weaning.” On the other hand, if your baby seems to lose interest in nursing after starting to eat solids, you may decide to start weaning then. That’s called “baby-led weaning,” and it can happen anywhere from around 4 months up to 12 months. As babies enter toddlerhood, they may become more easily distracted or impatient with nursing, which are signs that it’s time to start weaning.

Time it right

Weaning takes patience and time. To help weaning go more smoothly, you may want to start when there are no other significant changes going on in your family. For example, starting to wean when you’re moving to a new home, starting daycare, sleep training, or learning to walk can add stress on top of stress. Pick a time when things are fairly stable, and give yourself plenty of time to complete the weaning process (about a month or so.)

Take it slowly and gradually

Start weaning slowly and gradually so your baby can adjust to this new change. It’s best not to completely drop breastfeeding all at once. For one thing, your baby will probably become frustrated and upset. And stopping all at once may cause breast engorgement, plugged ducts, or an infection for you.

To start, choose your baby’s least favorite feeding and drop it from your schedule every few days. That may be in the morning, at night, or at an inconvenient time during the day for you. You’ll gradually reduce the number of feedings this way, giving your baby as well as your breasts time to adjust. You can also offer up a bottle of milk instead of nursing. If your baby won’t take the bottle from you, see if she’ll take it from a different family member instead.

Also, expect your baby to resist weaning. That’s totally normal! If your baby refuses the bottle from you or anyone else, or can’t seem to handle fewer or shorter feedings, that’s okay. Revert back to your previous routine for awhile, and try weaning again in a week or so. It may not be the right time. 

More tips for weaning

  • Try the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method: breastfeed your baby if she shows interest, and don’t offer to when she doesn’t.
  • Change up your schedule: avoid typical areas in your home where you nurse during feeding times, nurse with a bottle in the living room rather than the bedroom, or plan a different activity or a snack during typical nursing times.
  • Ask family members to help: if your baby typically nurses after waking or before bed, have them take over the morning or sleep routines.
  • Spend some quality time with your baby! Many mothers start to miss the close bond they share with their baby while breastfeeding. Take time to snuggle, play together, or read books to keep that bond strong. 

Weaning can be a stressful, difficult time for you and your baby. Many mothers feel sad that their baby is growing older, happy to get their bodies back, or frustrated by the process itself. It’s all okay. If weaning is affecting your child’s sleep routines and you need extra guidance, contact Sleep by Rachelle! We’re here to help. 

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