Steps to Weaning a Breast Fed Baby

My son has been breast fed from day 1.  I have loved it!  BUT….when he started getting to be about 11-12 months it became more of a chore than a bonding time.  The morning and night nursings were still wonderful, but the lunch and dinner ones were a bit much.  He was so squirmy and would get distracted easily that it took quite a while.

So, when his first birthday had arrived and his 1 year check up was over, I started to WEAN! *Am I a bad mom for being excited about it??

Yes, I was a little nervous, and yes of course I felt guilty…but I thought to myself that we made it without any formula for 1 whole year…that’s an accomplishment right?  I can’t speak to what it is like to wean a baby off of formula or even a bottle.  My son would have bottles when I wasn’t around etc. but his primary source of breast milk, was, yep you guessed it – my boob.

These steps for weaning worked well for my son and I as a stay at home Mom.  I am sure it would be different if bottles were involved as well as more pumping.  But this is what worked for us!  Hopefully it helps (smile)

how to wean from breast feeding

How I Weaned My Son from Breastmilk to Cow’s Milk

Before even thinking of weaning make sure your child knows how to drink from a sippy cup (<—–click there to find out how!).  They don’t need to do it every day, but they just need to know how to do it because you will be weaning them TO the sippy cup FROM your breast.

There are two basic ways to start weaning:

  1. Cut down on the time your child is breastfed at each feeding
    1. You basically offer your breast only for a short time and then a sippy cup of breast milk/cow’s milk/combo afterwards.  You do this at each feeding or only one (depending on how quickly you want to wean.
  2. Cut out one feeding at a time.
    1. For this method you pick one feeding and offer the sippy cup with breast milk/cow’s milk/combo instead of your breast.

I liked cutting out one whole feeding at a time because it would have been difficult to offer my breast only for a short time and then the sippy.  If baby boy wasn’t full from nursing then he would be upset that we stopped and therefore would not take too kindly to the sippy!

Step 1 (using method #2 from above)

Chose one feeding to cut out.  My son nursed 4 times per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed).  I chose the lunch time feeding because he was not waking up from a nap and expecting to eat (he was down to 1 nap per day at about 1 year old), and therefore would be more apt to take something new.

  • Mix into the sippy half breast milk and half cow’s milk.
  • Warm the milk by placing it in a bowl of hot water.  This is most like breast milk so it will not be as shocking.
  • Offer the sippy as your child is eating lunch (mostly finger food’s for us).

Cow’s milk (and any other milk for that matter) tastes WAY different than breast milk.  It is an acquired taste and WILL take time to get used to.  Don’t be upset if they don’t drink their full sippy.  Each day will get better!   My son wasn’t a fan at first and we had to experiment with different types of cups and finally found that the straw sippy cups worked best.  We also had to play some games with the cup so that he would be willing to drink from it.

  • After a few days, slowly decrease the amount of breast milk and increase the amount of cow’s milk.  At the same time work towards a colder temperature.
  • This may take weeks, but it’s OK!  Just take it slow.

After a couple week or when you see fit, start Step #2!

Step #2 (Eliminate dinner nursing)

Following the same process above start eliminating the dinner time nursing and switch to the sippy cup.  You may need to combine breast milk with cow’s milk, or if your child is used to the taste from Step #1 then you can go straight to full cow’s milk (warmed or cold).

Do this for another week or so.  For us that meant that I was nursing still when baby boy got up in the morning and right before he went to bed.

Step #3 (Eliminate AM or PM nursing)

It seems that the sentiment in most mom circles is that the nursing right before bedtime is the hardest to give up.  Baby depends on it as a way to calm down and signal that it is bed time.  For baby boy I felt the opposite.  This feeding was often the shortest and the most distracted.   Where the morning feeding was often right after he got up as he would not let me put him down until I nursed him.  So I decided to wean my son from nursing to a sippy cup for the before bed feeding rather than the morning feeding.

  • As in the previous steps mix the milk with breast milk if needed.
  • Pick a spot to give the sippy to work it into your routine.  Maybe it is the same spot that you nursed your baby in?  I usually nursed him out in the living room, so I thought that he would be too distracted to even want to touch the sippy.  So we started a new routine of sitting in his nursery rocker, reading books and sipping on milk.

Step #4 (Eliminate other AM or PM nursing)

Because I weaned off of the night time nursing first the last to go was the AM feeding.  Our usual routine was to wake up, change diapers, and go into bed where I would nurse him as I got a few more minutes to wake up.  Usually he did not want me to put him down until that nursing happened.  So obviously I wasn’t sure how to go about eliminating it.  But in the end it worked out well.

  • As with the above step, pick a routine that you think will make the weaning go easily.  Also mix and warm the milk as necessary.
  • I would change baby boy’s diaper and as he woke up (along with myself!) we sit in the rocker and read a book while he drinks about half of his milk.  Then he is content to be put down while I get breakfast ready.  He then finishes his sippy of milk with breakfast.

Bonus Step #5 (Eliminate PM sippy all together)

I don’t think this step happens for quite a while, but we decided to get rid of the sippy of milk before bed time.  We did this mostly because baby boy was leaking out of his diaper EVERY night.  We tried different night time diapers, but finally found that we were just giving him too much liquids right before bed.

According to my pediatrician baby boy needs 16-24 oz of milk every day (we supplement this with water in between meals also).  He usually drinks about 6 oz of milk with breakfast, lunch and dinner, so we know that he is getting around 18 oz of milk each day, and is gaining weight as normal.  Because of this we decided to eliminate the before bed sippy.  Baby boy has been very easy to wean so we had no trouble forgoing this feeding.  Of course every baby is different, and make sure to check with your DR!

So this is what worked for us!!  Any tips you might add??


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