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Weaning

How you go about weaning may depend on the age of your baby or child

 and how quickly you want to stop breastfeeding.

weaning

Weaning involves gradually reducing the number of breastfeeds your baby or child is taking. As feeds reduce in length and amount, your milk supply will also gradually decrease.  

Weaning slowly

Taking your time and weaning slowing has many advantages: 

  • It gives your child time to adjust. A child who weans slowly can move at their own pace beyond the close bond of breastfeeding. 

  • Slow weaning helps you to avoid painful full breasts and reduces the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis.   

  • It gives you both flexibility. If your child gets sick or has a difficult time with teething, you can go back to more breastfeeds until it passes.  

  • Occasional breastfeeds are a good way to soothe and comfort an upset child. 

Start by dropping the breastfeed that your child seems least interested in. Then cut out one breastfeed every few days, or one each week. How often you drop feeds may depend on your own comfort and how willing your child is to cooperate. You may prefer to drop the feed that is most convenient for you.  

Whether you replace the missed feeds with formula, cows' milk or water, will depend on the age of your child and the other food and drinks they are having.  

  • If your baby is less than 12 months of age and is being weaned from breastfeeding (or breastmilk feeding), they will need to have breastfeeds replaced with formula. If fully weaned before 12 months, they need about 600 mL formula per day. Ask your child health nurse to help you with this. 

  • If your child is older than 12 months of age, they can have cows' milk as a drink but only around one to one and a half cups (250 to 375 mL) in total per day. Toddler formulas are not recommended or needed.  

Depending on your child's age and how much they need to suck, you can wean onto a cup or a bottle. Drinks (of water and milk) should be offered in a cup rather than a bottle. 

Make sure you still spend plenty of time with your baby and give them lots of cuddles. 

Encouraging the weaning

If you are leading the weaning and your child is unwilling to follow, here are some more ideas which  may help your baby to take less breastmilk and therefore reduce your milk supply: 

  • Give your baby formula before breastmilk, if doing both at the same feed. If your baby is older than 12 months, you can give solids before breastfeeds. 

  • Offer one breast only at each feed and give your baby plenty of other drinks.  

  • Feed your baby according to a fixed routine, if you can. 

  • Offer your baby a dummy for extra sucking if they need it. 

  • If your breasts become engorged, hand express or use a hand pump until you are comfortable. Don’t try to empty your breasts. You don’t want your supply to build up again. 

  • Check every day for lumps. If you find some, express to remove these, so you don’t get a blocked duct or mastitis.  

If you are weaning a toddler or preschooler, you may like some extra tips.  

Rapid weaning

Sometimes a mother may need to stop breastfeeding very quickly or straight away. This may be for medical or personal reasons. In this case you may need to use extra measures to the above. Read more about weaning rapidly

If you have lost your baby, you may need some information and support to suppress your lactation

When your baby weans themselves

Sometimes your baby will decide for themselves when they've had enough. In some cases, this may happen even before 12 months of age. Depending on the age of your baby and the number of feeds they were having, you may feel disappointed, sad or even rejected. This may be especially so if you were looking forward to many more months of enjoyable breastfeeding.   

Sometimes a baby's refusal may be temporary. A chat with an ABA counsellor may help. 

If your baby does wean sooner than you would have liked, you can still cherish the time you did have breastfeeding them. You will know that you have given them the great start to life that breastfeeding provides.

Breastfeeding is just one part of being a loving mum. You and your baby can still enjoy lots of cuddles. Knowing this may help you to be able to give them and the rest of your family the best of yourself.

 

© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022

Read more about weaning