How and when to wean your baby
By Holly Daniels Nelson
Nov 4, 2020
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Just as it’s a personal decision about whether to breastfeed, deciding when to wean your baby or stop breastfeeding is also a personal decision. Here are some ideas to help you know how and when it's time to wean your baby.
As for how long to breastfeed, the recommendations vary. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breastfeed their baby exclusively for the first six months and then continue breastfeeding until 12 months of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends babies breastfeed exclusively for six months, and then continue breastfeeding until age two years and beyond.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for babies and also for moms. The antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. Breastmilk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow.
Breastfeeding is also a great benefit to the environment and society. Breastfeeding families are sick less often and parents miss less work. Breastfeeding does not require the use of energy for manufacturing or create waste. There is no risk of contamination and it is always at the right temperature and ready to feed. As long as you breastfeed, you and your baby will reap those benefits.
Sometimes women may need to wean their baby or they may choose to wean their baby. Talk with a lactation consultant, and ask about what options you might consider. Some reasons moms may start to think about weaning might be:
Sometimes your baby will lead the weaning. Or sometimes mom can lead the weaning. But the best way to wean is to do it gradually. Abrupt weaning is hard for baby and for mom. Here are some ways start weaning gradually.
Weaning before six months is harder than when your baby is older. If your baby is eating solid food, they will gradually become less interested in nursing.
Sometimes a baby is difficult to wean. You can use distraction, and do another favorite activity with your baby at the time you’d usually nurse.
When you wean your baby you may also feel a little more freedom. Weaning means you’re free to leave your baby for longer periods of time if you have someone you trust who can watch your baby.