You’ve heard the word “wean” thrown around, but what does it really mean and when you should you attempt to wean your baby? Simply put, weaning means to transition your baby off of breast milk and onto solid foods. As to when the weaning process should start is entirely up to you, your baby, and what your situation dictates.
Why Mothers Wean
There’s no wrong or right answer when it comes to making the decision to transition your baby off of breast milk. The reasons for weaning vary considerably and may include:
- Pain and discomfort with breastfeeding
- Baby unable to latch on
- Pumping at work is difficult or impossible
- Medication use
- Medical condition
- Lack of desire to breastfeed
Please keep in mind: if you decide to wean your baby before the age of 1, you’ll need to give him formula to ensure he’s getting the nutrients he needs for proper development. Once your baby is 1, you can give him cow’s milk.
How to Wean
When it’s time to wean, what’s the best way for both baby and mom? Like the decision to wean, there’s not one right answer as to how to wean your little one. Some mothers follow a baby-led approach to weaning and others begin the process themselves. No matter what approach to weaning you decide is best, it’s recommended you do it gradually.
Stopping breastfeeding abruptly can result in a lot of discomfort for mom and can make it hard for baby to adjust easily. If a situation does not allow for a gradual weaning, it’s recommended a lactation consultant be contacted to help address any issues that may arise.
To gradually wean baby off of breast milk, follow a few simple steps:
- Skip one feeding and then gradually reduce the number of feedings over a period of time. As mentioned above, if your baby is under the age of 1, you’ll need to replace nursing with a bottle. To ensure your milk supply dries up gradually and to reduce the likelihood of engorgement, you’ll want to reduce the number of feedings slowly over a longer period of time – 3 – 4 weeks is recommended.
- Shorten nursing time little by little. If you normally nurse your baby for 20 minutes, try cutting back to 15 minutes.
- If possible, postpone feedings. This approach is only recommended if your baby is souring the majority of his nutrients from solid foods.
If the weaning process isn’t going as you thought, don’t stress. Every child is different and maybe it’s just not time yet. Other factors, such as colds, external stressors (new job, house, etc.), and teething can affect how well your baby weans. When all else fails, don’t hesitate to reach out to a certified lactation consultant in your area.