What Is Expected
Weaning is usually a gradual process. It starts when you begin feeding your baby in other ways than breast- or bottle-feeding. And it ends when the child no longer breast-feeds or takes a bottle. This process may last several weeks, a few months, or more than a year.
Your baby may begin eating solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. At this point, you may want to offer cup-feeding to supplement breast- or bottle-feedings. Over the next 6 months, your baby may show Reference signs that he or she is ready to wean.
It is important to switch gradually to the cup. Although some mothers stop breast- or bottle-feedings abruptly, the baby may not be ready. Babies find comfort from sucking and also may need the closeness and comfort breast- or bottle-feeding provides. Always think about your baby's emotional needs, age, and readiness as well as about your own needs, when switching from breast- or bottle-feeding to a cup. Toddlers (ages 1 to 2) may tolerate abrupt weaning better than babies.
Weaning from breast-feeding
Start by replacing one daily breast milk feeding with a bottle or cup of Reference formula. Pick your least favorite feeding. Every few days, replace an additional breast milk feeding until your baby is fed only with formula. (Use milk instead of formula if your baby is age 1 year or older.)
When you start to wean your young baby from the breast, replace your breast milk with enough iron-fortified infant formula to make up for fewer nursing sessions. After your baby stops breast-feeding, give him or her at least 16 fl oz (500 mL) to 24 fl oz (750 mL) of formula each day. When your baby is 4 to 6 months of age and older, give solid Reference foods high in iron and vitamin C. Babies at least 12 months of age can also have cow's milk.
The following tips may help you wean:
- After your baby is 4 months of age, try letting him or her drink from a cup. If your baby is not ready, you can start weaning by switching to a bottle.
- Slowly reduce the number of times you breast-feed each day. Replace a breast-feeding with a cup- or bottle-feeding during one of your daily feeding times. Stay with that routine for a week. Then the next week, choose an additional time of day to replace or shorten your regular breast-feeding time. Each week, choose one more breast-feeding time to replace or shorten.
- Offer the cup or bottle before each breast-feeding. Some babies may not accept a bottle or cup until they have nursed.
- If you breast-feed before bedtime or a nap, lay your baby down before he or she is asleep. Help your baby learn to fall asleep without the aid of breast-feeding. A new bedtime ritual can help.
- Hold and cuddle your baby to make up for the loss of skin contact during breast-feeding. If a baby asks for more breast-feedings, make them up through touching and holding.
Weaning from bottle-feeding
Your bottle-fed baby should continue to get nutrition largely from formula until he or she is 12 months old. After that, allowing your child to continue drinking from a bottle may lead to problems such as Reference baby bottle tooth decay Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
These suggestions may be helpful when you are trying to get your baby to stop taking a bottle.
- Get rid of one bottle-feeding every 5 to 7 days. Give your baby extra hugs and comfort during this change.
- Give a bottle only when your baby is being held in your arms. Do not allow your baby to crawl, walk around, or go to bed with the bottle. Doing so turns the bottle into a comfort item, may hinder two-handed development, and can lead to Reference dental cavities Opens New Window.
- Offer the cup first, then the bottle. Put a little more liquid in the cup and a little less liquid in the bottle each time.
- If your baby is 6 months of age or older, gradually dilute the formula in the bottle with water so that it will not taste as good.
- Put liquids your child likes in the cup, and put liquids your child does not like as much in the bottle. Later, put only water in the bottle, and put juice, iron-fortified formula, or milk (if the baby is over 1 year old) in the cup.
- Start a new bedtime ritual. Read a story and then give the bottle while you rock your baby. At each bedtime, slowly decrease the time your child drinks from the bottle, and continue reading a story. Eventually replace the bottle with a comfort item, such as a favorite stuffed toy or blanket.
- Provide other sources of Reference calcium Opens New Window, such as yogurt or cheese, if your baby is not drinking at least 16 fl oz (500 mL) of formula from a cup each day. Your baby needs calcium every day for growth.
- I'm pregnant. Should I stop breast-feeding my first child? No, you can continue to breast-feed your first child while you are pregnant. But talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs and other issues you should be aware of. For more information, see the topic Reference Breast-Feeding.
- I want to become pregnant. Should I wean my child? You can continue to breast-feed, but breast-feeding may make it harder to become pregnant. For more information, see the topic Breast-Feeding.
- When I wean, should I be concerned about my baby's teeth? Be sure to give your baby adequate nutrition to build healthy teeth. And as you wean your baby from the breast or the bottle, limit sugary liquids, especially at bedtime. This can cause dental Reference cavities Opens New Window. Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle. And after 12 months of age, stop night breast-feedings. For more information, see the topic Reference Teething.
- Reference What can I do if I want to stop breast-feeding, but my baby does not? If possible, continue breast-feeding a while longer. If this is not possible, offer breast milk or formula in a cup and/or give extra hugs.
- Reference What can I do if my baby does not want to give up the bottle? Slow down the weaning process, or offer a stuffed toy or blanket for comfort, instead of the bottle.
- What if I develop pain and tenderness in my breasts while trying to wean? Reference Breast engorgement Opens New Window is less likely to occur if you gradually wean your baby rather than suddenly stop breast-feeding. Weaning from the breast is easier when your baby is already taking solid foods and has been breast-feeding less often. The pain and discomfort from breast engorgement improve as your breasts stop making milk. You will likely feel better in 1 to 5 days. Home treatment, such as applying cold packs to the breasts, may relieve some of your symptoms. For more information, see the topic Reference Breast Engorgement.
- Should I start or stop giving supplements to my child? Most doctors suggest daily Reference vitamin D Opens New Window supplements for children. Talk with your doctor about how much and what sources of vitamin D are right for your child. Babies who are breast-fed may also need a fluoride supplement starting at 6 months of age.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference July 25, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics