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Weaning is the term used to
describe the process of switching a baby from:
Your baby will go through one or more of these weaning
processes. All types of weaning usually work best when they are done
gradually—over several weeks, months, or even longer.
baby from the breast is a big change for moms as well as for babies. Besides
affecting you physically, it may also affect you emotionally.
Some moms feel a little sad to lose some of the closeness that
breast-feeding provides. But you will also have more freedom, because others
can feed your baby. Don't be surprised if you feel both happy and sad that your
child is becoming more independent.
Signs that a baby is ready to wean often appear after the baby has
learned to crawl or learned to walk. Your breast-feeding baby may suck a few
times and then stop nursing. He or she may just start to lose interest in your
Bottle-fed babies who are ready to wean may start spitting
out the nipple or throwing or hiding the bottle before it is empty. Your baby
may show more interest in drinking from a cup.
When to start weaning mostly depends on how ready you and your child are to start weaning.
Some breast-feeding moms aren't ready to give up the closeness
that breast-feeding brings. So they may delay weaning, even though their child is ready. Other moms are ready to wean sooner or have
responsibilities or life changes that make it necessary.
There is no right
or wrong time to start, and there's not a certain amount of time to take, except that it's best to wean your baby from a bottle by 18 months of age. Also, try not to start weaning when your child or your
family is under stress. Stress can range from cutting a new tooth to moving to
a new house or starting a new day care program.
weaning is best for both babies and moms. Look for signs that your baby is
ready. When you are both ready, try dropping one feeding every 5 to 7 days.
This will help give you and your baby time to adjust to new ways of feeding. If
you are breast-feeding, gradual weaning helps keep your breasts from becoming
too full, a problem called
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the
You can also give your baby breast milk from a cup or a
Sometimes a mother wants to stop breast-feeding but her baby seems to
want to keep it up. If you can, keep breast-feeding a while longer. Try
offering your milk or formula in a cup or bottle before you breast-feed or between
breast-feedings. There are also different bottle nipples you can try.
Some babies grow attached to the bottle and do not want to give it up.
Don't let your baby crawl, walk around, or go to bed with a bottle. Nighttime
feedings are often the hardest to give up. Try replacing that feeding with new
habits, such as reading a book or looking at the stars together.
Learning about weaning:
What to expect:
Promoting healthy growth and development:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
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 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.
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. (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 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:
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
baby bottle tooth decay.
These suggestions may be helpful when you are trying to get
your baby to stop taking a bottle.
important not only for you to give your baby nutritious foods and drinks but
also for you and your baby to interact with each other during mealtimes. These
things help your baby's mind and body grow. Breast milk (with supplements) and formula give babies
all the calories and nutrients they need until they are 6 months old. After
that, babies need other nutrients and energy from solid foods. You can
wean gradually or abruptly in order to get your baby
what he or she needs for growth. When you make choices about weaning, always
think of your baby's emotional needs, age, and readiness as well as your own
The American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends that babies be breast-fed for at least a year and as long
after a year as mother and child desire.1
When you have decided that you and your child are ready
to give up breast- or bottle-feeding, develop a plan for what you will do. Talk
with other family members and get their help.
In general, you can
start giving your baby solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age.
Feed your baby at the table with the rest of the family. Follow your doctor's
advice on when and what to feed your baby. 1 Usually, the more
solid foods a baby eats, the less breast milk or formula he or she needs, and
the easier it is for your baby to switch from the breast or bottle. Be sure your child gets the recommended vitamins and minerals for children.
Weaning from breast- or bottle-feeding can be done gradually or abruptly.
signs that your baby is ready to wean. To gradually stop breast- or
bottle-feeding while you
offer cup-feeding and/or solid foods, give up the least important feeding
first, which is usually the midday one. Then stop the late afternoon and
morning feedings. Stop the most important feeding (the one that provides the
baby the greatest emotional comfort) last: this is usually the first or last
feeding of the day. Whether you are weaning or not, the last feeding should
gradually be moved up so that by 4 months it is no longer at bedtime and other
soothing rituals can be established. Pay attention to whether your baby is
sucking for comfort or hunger.
Strive to have your baby using a cup instead of a bottle around 1 year of age. And help your child to start using a lidless cup by age 2. To help get your baby learn to use a cup, try these tips:
And to help prevent injuries from using bottles and cups during unsteady walking, have your child stay seated while drinking.
A gradual weaning slowly reduces
the number of breast- or bottle-feedings. One feeding is eliminated every 5 to
7 days, giving the mother and baby time to adjust. Gradual weaning helps
maintain emotional attachment, prevents
breast engorgement for mothers who are breast-feeding, and allows the baby to learn other
ways of eating. Gradual weaning is generally planned to suit both the mother's and child's
Gradual weaning is best for both you and your baby. It is
recommended for babies unless the mother has a medical condition that does not
Abrupt weaning is a sudden end to
breast- or bottle-feeding and can be hard for both the mother and the
child. The breast-feeding mother may experience painful breast engorgement and has an
increased risk for a breast infection (mastitis). Both the mother and the
child may miss the emotional attachment and closeness of breast- or
Your child may respond to abrupt weaning
You may not want to wean your baby:
Gradual or abrupt weaning may
work for 1- to 2-year-olds.
You may find the following suggestions helpful as you
switch to other types of feeding:
As your baby learns to feed himself or herself, keep in
mind that your job is to provide a variety of nutritious foods but your baby
will decide how much to eat. This is sometimes called the
division of responsibility.
Talk to your child's doctor
Health professionals who can deal with
your concerns about weaning include:
well-baby checkup is a good time to ask questions
weaning. During this checkup, your baby's doctor
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a
variety of educational materials about parenting,
general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other
organizations are also available.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
La Leche League International (LLLI) offers information and
encouragement—mainly through personal help—to all mothers who want to
breast-feed their babies. It also offers support and information about
breast-feeding babies with various disabilities, such as cleft lip or cleft
palate. Call for information about a chapter in your area.
CitationsAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding (2005). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2): 496–506.Other Works ConsultedAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age eight months through twelve months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 249–284. New York: Bantam.American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Age one month through three months. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., pp. 193–216. New York: Bantam.American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Diagnosis and prevention of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in infants and young children (0–3 years of age). Pediatrics, 126(5): 1040–1050. Available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/126/5/1040.Brazelton TB (2006). Touchpoints, Birth to Three: Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics (2000). Hypoallergenic infant formulas. Pediatrics, 106(2): 346–349.Keim SA, et al. (2012). Injuries associated with bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups in the United States, 1991–2010. Pediatrics, 129(6): 1104–1110.Wagner CL, et al. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 122(5): 1142–1152.
November 4, 2011
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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