Weaning the breast-fed baby

Browse By All Topics


Weaning the breast-fed baby

Weaning is the process of completely replacing breast milk in your baby's diet with other foods. Although you can wean your baby at any time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for at least a year. Whenever you decide to wean, it is easier on both you and your baby if it is a gradual process.

Weaning before your baby is 1 year of age

Start by replacing one daily breast milk feeding with a bottle or cup of formula. Pick your least favorite feeding. Every few days, replace an additional breast milk feeding until your baby is fed only with formula. If your baby is 6 months old, you also can offer him or her some solid foods that are high in iron and vitamin C. (Talk to your doctor before feeding your baby solids between 4 and 6 months of age.) Babies close to 1 year of age can skip bottles and go right to drinking from a cup.

Cow's milk should not be given to a baby younger than 1 year because it contains much more salt than breast milk or formula and does not contain needed iron. Also, the protein in cow's milk is hard for babies to digest and can harm their developing intestines. Some babies may be allergic to the protein in cow's milk or may lack an enzyme needed to digest it (lactase deficiency). Although most formulas are made from a cow's milk base, they are processed so that most babies can digest them. Formulas also have added nutrients, such as iron, that babies need.

Weaning when your baby is 1 year or older

Weaning a child older than 1 year may be easier than weaning an infant. Older children rely less on breast-feeding and are eating solid foods. Weaning an older child may be easier on you because you are less likely to notice breast fullness after breast-feeding for a year.

Choose a time when your child is emotionally ready, which generally is during a time when you have less stress. For example, when you are moving or starting a new day care program are not good times to start weaning.

Adjustment to weaning

Recognize that you may have a strong reaction to weaning. Breast-feeding is a close physical and emotional bond you share with your child and can be difficult to give up. Think of new ways to share time and closeness with your child, such as reading a story, coloring, or going for a walk.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last RevisedApril 14, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use.

How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2012 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.