Gently weaning your breastfed baby
Weaning is a natural process in a baby’s development. It usually begins whenever a baby starts to eat solid foods. The decision to wean a baby should made according to your needs and the needs of your baby.
Below are different ways to wean a baby.
- Natural weaning
- Temporary weaning
- Partial weaning
- Abrupt weaning
- Alternatives to the bottle
- Tips to help with weaning
The natural weaning process is guided by the baby. When ready, usually between 1 and 3 years of age, your toddler will become less and less interested in breastfeeding. You can continue to offer your breast whenever your child asks, which should happen less and less often. Your milk production gradually slows, making your toddler less interested in feeding.
You may consider temporary weaning if you have to be temporarily separated from your baby for a set length of time. You must continue to express breast milk during the separation so that you can keep up your milk supply for when you resume breastfeeding. You might opt for an alternative to bottles to prevent your baby from being confused between bottle and breast (called nipple confusion). This may help your baby get back to the breast after the separation.
Partial weaning is an alternative that allows your baby to still receive breast milk while completing their feed with something else. You may start limiting the frequency of breastfeedings when you go back to work or if there are constraints on your time each day. Partial weaning allows you to breastfeed when you are available. If your baby is less than 12 months old, you should discuss an appropriate baby formula with your doctor or with a public health nurse.
This type of weaning puts an immediate stop to breastfeeding. It can be brought on by you or by your baby. If you wean abruptly, you have to avoid engorgement and other complications by using a breast pump or by manually expressing your breast milk to prevent plugged ducts. Applying a cold compress can help with engorgement.
Abrupt weaning is the least recommended method of weaning since it offers no time for adjustment either for you or your baby.
Alternatives to the bottle
- Small straw
- Breastfeeding aids
Tips to help with weaning
The following suggestions can be useful when you decide to wean:
- Place your baby in a different position when you breastfeed.
- Use expressed breast milk in a bottle.
- Warm the nipple of the bottle.
- Present the bottle when your baby is happy.
- Don’t wait until your baby is hungry.
- Let someone else, holding something that smells like you, feed your baby with the bottle.
- Listen to your baby.
- Delay introducing the cup or bottle until a better time if your baby gets upset.
- Make weaning a positive experience for you and your baby.
- If you need help, consult “Breastfeeding Help” at www.EOHU.ca/breastfeedinghelp.