Weaning Tips and Tricks
Whether you have made the decision to wean from breastfeeding or the bottle for personal or medical reasons, weaning can be an emotional journey. For some families, the few minutes of quiet time spent snuggled with their child while feeding can feel like the only downtime in the day. Although the process of weaning can be challenging for both you and your child, there are numerous weaning tips and tricks you can learn to maintain the bond and security you’ve worked so hard to create.
The easiest time to wean is when your baby is "ready". This can sometimes be evident when they begin to show interest in solid food. However, if you have reasons for starting the process before that, there are gentle ways to wean without waiting until your child is 100% ready because let’s face it, some children would stay attached to the breast or bottle for years! Though extended breastfeeding or bottle feeding may work for some families, it is not necessarily practical or even a goal for all families.
When you are contemplating weaning from the breast or bottle, it is important to consider the timing as a factor. There may be instances where waiting for the ideal time is not an option. There are cases of "better times" and "worse times". If possible, it is best to wait for a good moment in your child’s life.
Consider what other changes or life events may be taking place that coincide with weaning. Make sure that when you proceed you are not in the middle of battling the illness of the century or a major life change such as integration into child care. There may never be a perfect time but you do want to aim for times when there are no other great transitions or incidents taking place at the very same time as weaning.
Introducing the cup
Whether you decide to introduce a sippy cup or a open cup, it is important to allow your child to experiment, play, and test the cup before you start weaning.
Offer it often—don’t get discouraged if your child is not interested in the cup right away. It can take a few weeks for them to become accustomed to the new feeling and flow as well as figure out how to use it effectively. When weaning from the breast or bottle if your child is under 12 months old, they will still need either expressed breast milk or formula. After 12 months of age, they can drink milk.
You may have to purchase a few different types of sippy cups before you find the one that works best for your child.
Weaning from the breast
To gradually wean from breastfeeding, the goal would be to eliminate one feeding at a time. This will help your child and your breasts gradually adjust.
If you are nursing on demand you can start by creating more of a schedule for your child so that you can see how often and how long your child is at the breast. Once you have a set schedule, it will give you a better idea as to where to start eliminating.
An example would be to structure your nursing sessions at designated times of the day with a schedule that looks like this: Nurse when they wake up in the morning, mid morning, after their nap, suppertime, and before bed.
This gives you a base of which feeding to cut out first. It also gives some structure so that your child knows what to expect and what feeding will be breast and which one will be in a sippy cup. You can start by eliminating the morning feed, then a few days to a week later, the midmorning one and so on. Depending on your routine and if the weaning is happening because of child care, you can eliminate the daytime feedings and keep the morning and bedtime feedings until you are ready to wean from those.
A second scenario would be to stretch the time between feeds to help reduce the number of feedings per day. If you typically nurse every 3 hours throughout the day, stretch it to 3.5, then 4, 5 and so on... This method will naturally eliminate one feeding at a time at which point you can replace that feeding with a cup.
- Having a distraction ready, whether it’s a toy or a snack, can help get their mind off of nursing.
- Going outside to play or for a walk can also help with the distraction.
- Playing a game they love is another great way to keep them occupied.
- You may want to wear clothes that are less easily accessible so as not to tempt them (they're smart!).
- Avoid getting into familiar breastfeeding positions when you are not feeding.
Weaning from the bottle
If your child has become accustomed to walking around with the bottle, start by offering it at designated times and taking it back once they have finished. Then move on to replacing one bottle feed at a time with a sippy cup. Replace one bottle with a cup every few days until you are down to just cups. Remain consistent throughout this process so as not to confuse your child.
Another option is to diminish the amount that is in the bottle and offer them a cup with the remaining amount of milk afterwards. If your child is used to drinking 5 oz in a bottle, you could give them 4 oz the first day with 1 oz in a cup, the next day give them 3 oz in the bottle with 2 oz offered in a cup, etc., until they are drinking all of their fluids from a sippy cup.
If you have to wean quickly, perhaps for medical reasons, your child may not take to the cup right away so it may be difficult for a few days. If you keep offering it consistently, your child will quickly adapt. They will not starve themselves!
Like all things to do with parenting and raising your children, it is very important to remain consistent when you decide to wean, as your child feels secure in their routines and will look to you for guidance when there is change. You want them to see that you are confident in this decision so that in turn, they will also feel confident. Your child might be a little bit more emotional during this transition so be mindful that they may need some extra snuggles and support from you to help them adjust to this change.
*Originally published April 18, 2016