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Weaning Off Breastfeeding

Women's Health, Infant and Children | October 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Weaning Off Breastfeeding

Every breastfed child will be weaned at some point, be it after a few weeks or a few years. In some cases it can be an easy transition. However, for some mums and babies it can take a little getting used to. Luckily there are some tried and tested techniques to make the change as smooth as possible.

When to wean

When to weanThere is no right or wrong time to wean. It depends on the mother’s individual circumstances.

Some women choose not to continue breastfeeding due to latching problems, inadequate milk supply or because they are returning to work. In these instances, breastfeeding is still possible if the correct advice and support is obtained from a qualified healthcare professional.

The World Health Organisation recommends that a baby be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their life. They also state that even when solids are introduced that breastmilk is still an important component of a child’s diet up until 12 months of age. After 12 months food should make up the majority of their diet but breastmilk can still be consumed to provide further nutrition and health benefits.

Baby led weaning

Some babies will tell you when they have had enough. For some mothers who are looking forward too many more months of breastfeeding it can bring up feelings of rejection or disappointment. In these cases, it is recommended that you still offer a child feeds as usual. It may be they have gone off food temporarily because they are unwell, teething or being fussy. Baby led weaning can be a natural progression as the child is enjoying solids and other fluids.

Mother led weaning

Mother led weaningThis form of weaning is initiated by the mother. It may mean you have simply had enough of breastfeeding, fallen pregnant again (or plan to) or have been advised to for medical reasons.

Whatever the situation, there are ways in which you can do it gradually to make the experience as smooth as possible.

Weaning slowly

A gradual weaning process involves slowly dropping the number of feeds per day. The ideal amount would be one breastfeed every few days or week—whatever is most comfortable for you. The Australian Breastfeeding Association recommends dropping the feed that the baby is least interested in. This process allows milk supply to reduce slowly, avoiding engorged breasts which can lead to mastitis and blocked milk ducts. It can also be less upsetting for both mum and baby, allowing time to adjust to the changes.

Transitioning to a cup or bottle

Depending on your child’s age the breastfeed can be replaced with a bottle or cup.

Transitioning to a cup or bottleFor children under the age of 6 months a bottle with formula is the recommended substitution. For children over six months water, food and formula can be introduced instead. Over the age of 12 months water, cow’s milk or a suitable milk alternative can introduced instead. Some families choose to implement a follow-on toddler milk and although it is not necessary, it may provide nutrients if the diet is lacking.

Tips for weaning

Here are some further tips for weaning a child, especially if you are experiencing some difficulties.

  • Offer a dummy for extra sucking if needed
  • Try feeding formula before breastmilk if you are still offering both
  • Offer a feed from one breast only and make sure that the baby is having plenty of other fluids
  • Stick to a fixed routine

Weaning a toddler

If your child is a bit older, here are some tips that might assist with weaning in this age group.

  • Avoid feeding to sleep and try singing, patting and cuddling instead
  • If you are still breastfeeding during the day, try offering in between meals instead
  • Try distracting with their favourite snacks, games and a walk in the stroller
  • If possible, try and have someone else put your child to sleep or to spend time with them if they are looking for a feed. This can help provide distraction and a change in their routine
  • Try to remain calm and positive, if you are tense they might be upset and want to seek comfort in a feed
  • If your child is looking for a morning feed, make sure they have breakfast shortly after they wake up
  • Discourage long feeds
  • Avoid wearing clothes that allow easy access to the breasts

Expressing milk

If your breasts are engorged and uncomfortable you can express a little milk either by hand or with a breast pump.

Avoid fully emptying the breast if you’re not planning on keeping the milk for feeds.  Be on the lookout for signs of infection such as breast pain, swelling, warmth, fever and chills. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

If you are weaning your child from breastfeeding and still wish for them to have breastmilk it is possible for you to express all their meals and feed from a bottle or cup. This is ideal for women who still want their child to experience the benefits of breastmilk but no longer wish to feed off the breast. Women who no longer enjoy the process or are returning to work may find themselves in this situation.

Introducing solids

Solids should be introduced at six months of age but not before 4 months. Watch for signs of readiness such as sitting upright, grabbing for food and being able to push their tongue back in their mouth. First foods to introduce include pureed fruit and veg and rice cereals. As your child gets older they will begin to consume a larger amount and a wider variety of foods.

No matter how and why you decide to wean your child from breastfeeding, doing it gradually is what’s recommended. If you need further guidance, there are many people and organisations that can assist such as Tresillian Click Here for link, Australian Breastfeeding Association Click Here for link and community nurses. Australia’s best online discount chemist


Brown CR, Dodds LLegge ABryanton JSemenic S. Factors influencing the reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding. Can J Public Health. 2014 May 9;105(3):e179-85

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