What is weaning?
Weaning is when a woman stops breastfeeding. After babies are weaned, they no longer drink breast milk.
How long should I breastfeed before weaning?
Most doctors recommend that women breastfeed their baby for at least 1 year (12 months). But some women breastfeed longer.
For the first 4 to 6 months of life, breast milk is the only food babies need. Most babies start eating and drinking other foods (in addition to breast milk) when they are 4 to 6 months old. These foods include infant cereal; mashed up vegetables, fruits, and meats; and juices. Babies should not drink cow’s milk until they are 1 year old.
When should I wean?
Women choose to stop breastfeeding at different times and for different reasons. Most of the time, the mother chooses when to wean. But sometimes, weaning happens because a baby no longer wants to breastfeed.
Some babies wean quickly. Other babies can take months to wean.
How do I wean?
When you decide to wean, do not stop breastfeeding all at once. Instead, try to reduce your breastfeeding slowly. To do this, you can:
- Drop 1 breastfeeding session every 2 to 5 days
- Shorten each breastfeeding session
- Increase the time between breastfeeding sessions
Some women start to wean by stopping the daytime feedings first. They might still breastfeed at night or before bedtime. The night or bedtime feedings are usually the last feedings to be stopped.
Should I give my baby a bottle or cup when I wean?
You can give your baby a bottle or a cup. Most babies younger than 6 months old are weaned to a bottle. Most babies older than 1 year are weaned to a cup. Babies between 6 months old and 1 year old can be weaned to a bottle or a cup.
To help your baby’s first bottle or cup feedings go smoothly, you can:
- Have someone else give your baby the bottle or cup
- Give the bottle or cup before your baby gets too hungry
- Put breast milk in the bottle or cup
- Use a cup with 2 handles and a snap-on lid (if you use a cup)
What breast problems can happen with weaning?
Different breast problems can happen with weaning.
- Engorgement, which is when the breasts become too full of milk – This can cause the breasts to be swollen, hard, warm, and painful.
- Blocked milk duct – This can cause a red and painful breast lump.
- Breast infection – This can cause a fever and a hard, red, and swollen area of the breast.
These problems are especially likely to happen if you stop breastfeeding all at once. If you need to wean all at once, there are things that you can do to prevent these problems. For example, you can use a breast pump or your hand to release some milk from your breasts. You can do this a few times a day for a few days until your breasts stop hurting.
Breast problems from weaning are treated in different ways, depending on the problem. If you have any of the above symptoms or problems, let your doctor or nurse know.
How might my breasts change after weaning?
Many women find that their breasts feel emptier and get smaller after weaning. Some women have stretch marks on their breasts. But stretch marks usually fade over time.
After you stop breastfeeding, your breasts will stop making milk. But it can be normal to still have some milk in your breasts for months or years after weaning.
What if I feel sad or guilty when I wean?
It is normal for women to feel sad or guilty when they wean. Weaning can also be hard for babies. Your baby might need extra love during this time.