Weaning Your Baby from the Breast: When and How to Do It

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages breastfeeding mothers to continue nursing their babies through the first year and as long afterward as both baby and mother desire. The World Health Organization recommends up to age 2 and beyond.

While nursing toddlers are unusual in the U.S., they are more common in the rest of the world. There are many benefits to nursing in the second year, including the ability to comfort your toddler and provide quiet, restful moments in his busy day.

Breastfeeding, however, should be satisfying to both of you. If you feel ready to wean your baby, plan to do so when your life is free of major changes (such as a move or vacation away from home), and put it off if your baby is teething, has a cold, or is starting childcare.

When you feel the time is right, and your baby seems ready:

  • Eliminate 1 feeding at a time. Choose the feeding your baby seems least interested in, the 1 at which you seem to have less milk, or 1 during time you plan to be away.
     
  • Morning and bedtime feedings are usually the last to go; some mothers keep these for months after their babies are otherwise weaned.
     
  • To give you and your child time to adjust, wait a few days before eliminating the next feeding. Allow 3 or more weeks to wean fully and slowly. Ideally, weaning is so gradual that neither mother nor baby is really aware it has happened.
Changes That Come with Weaning:

Your baby’s bowel movements become firmer and more brown, rather than yellow, as you wean. If your baby is not yet a year old, replace the fluids in her diet with formula, rather than whole milk. Be sure that her solid food is healthy and varied.

• You may feel some sadness and loss due to changes in hormone levels and the overall adjustment to weaning. Replace the special breastfeeding time with other cuddling time—such as talking or reading a story together—to help you and your baby make the change and continue to feel close.

• Although milk production stops within a few months for some women, it can take as long as 6 months for the body to reabsorb milk and for hormones to return to pre-pregnancy levels. If you’re scheduled for a mammogram in the next 6–12 months, be sure to tell the radiologist doing the reading that you’ve been breastfeeding a baby recently, as your breasts can appear denser even months after weaning.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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