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Weaning - What Is Expected

Weaning is usually a gradual process. It starts when you begin feeding your baby in other ways than breast- or bottle-feeding. And it ends when the child no longer breast-feeds or takes a bottle. This process may last several weeks, a few months, or more than a year.

Your baby may begin eating solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. At this point, you may want to offer cup-feeding to supplement breast- or bottle-feedings. Over the next 6 months, your baby may show signs that he or she is ready to wean.

It is important to switch gradually to the cup. Although some mothers stop breast- or bottle-feedings abruptly, the baby may not be ready. Babies find comfort from sucking and also may need the closeness and comfort breast- or bottle-feeding provides. Always think about your baby's emotional needs, age, and readiness as well as about your own needs, when switching from breast- or bottle-feeding to a cup. Toddlers (ages 1 to 2) may tolerate abrupt weaning better than babies.

Weaning from breast-feeding

Start by replacing one daily breast milk feeding with a bottle or cup of formula. Pick your least favorite feeding. Every few days, replace an additional breast milk feeding until your baby is fed only with formula. (Use milk instead of formula if your baby is age 1 year or older.)

When you start to wean your young baby from the breast, replace your breast milk with enough iron-fortified infant formula to make up for fewer nursing sessions. After your baby stops breast-feeding, give him or her at least 16 fl oz (500 mL) to 24 fl oz (750 mL) of formula each day. When your baby is 4 to 6 months of age and older, give solid foods high in iron and vitamin C. Babies at least 12 months of age can also have cow's milk.

The following tips may help you wean:

  • After your baby is 4 months of age, try letting him or her drink from a cup. If your baby is not ready, you can start weaning by switching to a bottle.
  • Slowly reduce the number of times you breast-feed each day. Replace a breast-feeding with a cup- or bottle-feeding during one of your daily feeding times. Stay with that routine for a week. Then the next week, choose an additional time of day to replace or shorten your regular breast-feeding time. Each week, choose one more breast-feeding time to replace or shorten.
  • Offer the cup or bottle before each breast-feeding. Some babies may not accept a bottle or cup until they have nursed.
  • If you breast-feed before bedtime or a nap, lay your baby down before he or she is asleep. Help your baby learn to fall asleep without the aid of breast-feeding. A new bedtime ritual can help.
  • Hold and cuddle your baby to make up for the loss of skin contact during breast-feeding. If a baby asks for more breast-feedings, make them up through touching and holding.
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