Fletcher Allen, a Vermont university hospital and medical center, serves all of
Vermont and the northern New York region. Located in Burlington, Fletcher Allen is a regional, academic healthcare center and teaching hospital in alliance with the University of Vermont.
Winning Ways to Wean
Mothers who have been breastfeeding have been babying me for information about when is the best time - and best way - to wean a baby from the breast.
Let me start by saying that when to wean is not my decision as a pediatrician. It's a very personal decision on the part of a breastfeeding mom. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that moms not consider weaning until at least a year of age.
The AAP also recommends that solids be introduced while moms and children are still breastfeeding, sometime close to six months of age. As solids increase in frequency and the nutrients included in those solids have more of what a toddler needs to grow, it lessens the demand for breast milk and decreases milk production, making weaning easier to do after a year of age.
Weaning is not an all or nothing decision. A mother might want to reduce the frequency of her breastfeeds just during the day but not at night, which is very doable.
No matter when moms opt to do this, weaning should be gradual. One approach is removing one breastfeeding session per day per week and replacing it with a bottle or cup feed until the child is taking all feeds from a bottle or cup, perhaps starting with the midday feeding and saving the night feeding for last. To make the transition easier for both you and baby, engage in play or a fun activity during times you might otherwise nurse, and do it in a location that is not used for breastfeeding.
Don't attempt weaning if other life events are occurring for your older infant or toddler, such as getting ready to have them move into a new room. If the thumb or a blanket comes into play at the time of a weaned feed, that's perfectly fine as an alternative to the breast.
Is there a time when breastfeeding simply goes on too long? Again, that is up to the mother and toddler or even preschooler and how comfortable they are continuing. It is not up to your child's health care provider.
Hopefully tips likes this will keep you abreast of what you need to know when it comes to weaning your baby off of breast milk.