Weaning is the process of completely replacing breast milk in your baby's diet with other foods. Although you can wean your baby at any time, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for at least a year. Whenever you decide to wean, it is easier on both you and your baby if it is a gradual process.
Weaning before your baby is 1 year of age
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. If your baby is 6 months old, you also can offer him or her some solid foods that are high in iron and vitamin C. (Talk to your doctor before feeding your baby solids between 4 and 6 months of age.) Babies close to 1 year of age can skip bottles and go right to drinking from a cup.
Cow's milk should not be given to a baby younger than 1 year because it contains much more salt than breast milk or formula and does not contain needed iron. Also, the protein in cow's milk is hard for babies to digest and can harm their developing intestines. Some babies may be allergic to the protein in cow's milk or may lack an enzyme needed to digest it (lactase deficiency). Although most formulas are made from a cow's milk base, they are processed so that most babies can digest them. Formulas also have added nutrients, such as iron, that babies need.
Weaning when your baby is 1 year or older
Weaning a child older than 1 year may be easier than weaning an infant. Older children rely less on breast-feeding and are eating solid foods. Weaning an older child may be easier on you because you are less likely to notice breast fullness after breast-feeding for a year.
Choose a time when your child is emotionally ready, which generally is during a time when you have less stress. For example, when you are moving or starting a new day care program are not good times to start weaning.
Adjustment to weaning
Recognize that you may have a strong reaction to weaning. Breast-feeding is a close physical and emotional bond you share with your child and can be difficult to give up. Think of new ways to share time and closeness with your child, such as reading a story, coloring, or going for a walk.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
April 14, 2011
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
April 14, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
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