How to begin weaning your child off breastfeeding
Clinically reviewed by: Optum National Clinical Review Team
Breastfeeding your baby exclusively for the first six months of their life,1 and then continuing to breastfeed while introducing solid foods is highly recommended by most pediatricians. However, when to start weaning your baby is an entirely personal decision and is truly up to you. Some women prefer to wean right away, while others choose to wait until their precious little ones are toddlers.
More times than not, it is the mother who will decide when to begin weaning, and often that decision is made with the help of the baby. Every baby is different. Some accept weaning naturally while others can be reluctant to stop.
At Optum Medical Care, we want to remind our moms that while you may decide it is time to start weaning, you may realize that you and your baby are not ready for that step yet. The weaning process does not need to be an all or nothing process but can be done in partial stages depending on what is appropriate for you and your baby.
Knowing when it’s time to wean
Ultimately, determining the best time to wean is completely up to you.2 Often times, your baby will let you know through subtle signs whether you should begin transitioning them away from breastfeeding. However, there are some cases where babies are completely content with breastfeeding. Signs that your baby is ready to wean may include:
- Your baby will become more interested in doing other things and breastfeeding sessions become further and further apart. This often happens gradually.2
- A lack of interest in nursing altogether. They may become more interested in sucking on a pacifier or thumb in place of breastfeeding.2
Since breastfeeding provides a sense of comfort to your baby, there are certain situations where you may want to delay the weaning process:
- If your baby is sick or teething2
- Sudden change in the family (i.e., a big move)2
- A total resistance to weaning2
How to wean
Ideally, when you decide to start weaning your baby, it may be helpful to both you and your baby to use a gradual weaning process.2,3 You can start this process by substituting one breastfeeding session with a bottle.2 Substituting mid-day feedings maybe the easiest place to start when your child has access to solid foods and liquids at lunch time.2
Depending on your baby’s age, you may want to move from breastfeeding directly to a bottle or a cup.3 Also, it is important to know that should you choose to wean your baby from breastfeeding before they turn a year old, then it will be necessary to feed your baby either an infant formula or pumped breast milk.1,3 If you are unsure about which formula to use, or other sources of nutrition, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician.
No right or wrong way
Regardless of what family and friends, and even professionals may tell you, rest assured there is no right or wrong way to wean your baby. Typically, the right time is when you feel your baby is ready or they naturally begin to wean themselves.
To learn more about breastfeeding and how to wean your baby, visit our virtual parental classes page.
The information featured in this site is general in nature. The site provides health information designed to complement your personal health management. It does not provide medical advice or health services and is not meant to replace professional advice or imply coverage of specific clinical services or products. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on such websites.
- Newborn and Infant Breastfeeding. https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/newborn-and-infant-nutrition/newborn-and-infant-breastfeeding. Last updated May 31, 2022. Accessed May 2, 2023.
- Weaning your baby. https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-home-work-and-public/weaning-your-baby. Last updated February 2021. Accessed June 7, 2023.
- Weaning. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/breastfeeding/weaning.html. Last reviewed July 9, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2023.
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