Weaning a little one off breastfeeding is no easy task. In addition to what it does to your body, the crying and fussing might make you wonder if you're doing it before the baby (and you) is ready. If you're struggling with this transition, the first thing you should know is that there is no "right" time to wean your baby off breastfeeding. What you can research more closely, however, is how to do it.
1. Start Slowly
When you're ready to wean your baby, do so gradually and slowly. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests substituting your nipple with a regular bottle or small cup for certain feedings over a period of weeks, increasing the frequency as time goes on. You can also shorten the amount of time you nurse every day to help your child smoothly adjust. While these tips are incredibly helpful, your baby still might try to reject your attempts to wean them. But experts assure that tears are normal, even if they're tough to battle through.
2. Watch Out For Signs
Sometimes, your child will give you signs that they're ready to be weaned. They may lose interest in your breast shortly after you introduce solid foods, which typically happens around four to six months, and they'll suckle a few times before stopping. If you're weaning around the 12-month mark, your child may also express interest in drinking from a cup by grabbing at your cup or pointing at it. You may choose to wean before these signs show up or once your baby makes it clear they're ready.
3. Talk to Your Pediatrician
Be open and honest. Weaning can be as much about the emotions involved as the physical logistics, so don't be afraid to go to your pediatrician with questions and to ask for advice about setbacks. The Mayo Clinic also recommends using your pediatrician for advice if things like sickness, allergies, or stress at home arise during the weaning process.
4. Trust Your Instincts
You're the parent, and you've totally got this. Choosing to do something your child doesn't like for their own health and development is tough, but you know when your child is just being fussy and when they're in pain, and you have strong instincts about what benchmarks you're aiming for with their development. Trust yourself during this time, and relish in the small steps your child takes, like the first night they take a bottle without crying. Before you know it, they'll be drinking from cups without lids and cutting their food by themselves.
5. Remember Every Child Is Different
Some children fight weaning every step of the way, and some children decide on their own that they're ready. Just remember that they will eventually be weaned. The journey may be long and arduous or quick and unexpected, but either way, you'll get to the finish line.