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Simple Tips for Weaning

Posted: Breastfeeding » Weaning | August 1st, 2004



By Kerry Luskey

Try to avoid beginning the weaning process during an illness or developmental milestone or when your baby’s schedule is disrupted.

Eliminate one nursing session every two or three days to allow your milk supply to decrease slowly.

If your baby is younger than a year, you may have to substitute the nursing session with a bottle or cup. For older babies, you may substitute other foods or drinks, or even just a cuddle session.

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“Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” is a reliable and time-tested way of accelerating the weaning process. Breastfeed whenever your child asks, but don’t offer or encourage it.

Change your daily routine. If you have a certain time of the day or favorite chair that your baby associates with breastfeeding, change your usual routine so that your baby will not be reminded to nurse as frequently.

Enlist the help of the child’s father. Have Dad do bedtime or nighttime duty when your baby wakes up, if she associates nighttime waking with breastfeeding.

Offer substitutions and distractions. When your child asks to nurse, offer a glass of water or snack, or even reading a book or playing a favorite activity.

Keep an eye on your baby’s response to the weaning process. If your baby becomes upset and cries or does not seem to be responding well to your attempts at weaning, it’s okay to back off and try again in a few weeks or months. Ideally, weaning should be done with gentleness and respect for your baby’s emotional needs, as well as your own.

Remember that weaning doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” – many mothers choose to wean just during the day or just at night. If nursing at a particular time of the day is getting you down, it’s okay to eliminate breastfeeding at those times and continuing at other times.

© Kerry Luskey

Kerry Luskey is a breastfeeding counselor, nursing student and herbalist.

18 Responses to “Simple Tips for Weaning”

1 mary kositzky says:

My baby is 6 weeks old, has a few supplemental bottles a day.Then breast at night and during the day. with the bottles 2 oz. formula he sleeps longer and is happier. I still want to breast feed, but want some sort of schedule. Without the bottles, he would be feeding 24/7.Any advice on a schedule?

2 publisher says:

Hi Mary!

I’m sure you’ll get better answers than mine, but here’s a little bit….

Breastfeeding is tough for some of us! You can really expect a breastfed baby to be on the breast 24/7. Once in a while (like a friend of mine with a two-month-old) you’ll have a baby who naturally feeds every few hours on an internal schedule. But for some, it’s constant.

Is there something you can do (like co-sleeping and sling wearing) to ease the burden?

Here’s another article about breastfeeding and sleep: http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com/go/index.php/213/feeding-solids-and-sleep/ and another on a mom desperate for sleep (with a 6-month-old) http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com/go/index.php/218/hourly-breastfeeding/

You could also join a GREAT group NFO sponsors that’s filled with other moms who might be able to help: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Attachment_Parenting

Also try breastfeeding support at La Leche League meetings:

3 linda palmer says:

Tiny babies do need to nurse very often. The breast is rather the extension of the placenta. In the womb they’re being fed totally 24/7. The breast provides a gradually reducing attachment. Baby is snuggled up all warmly listening to mother’s heart and tummy gurgles that they’re accustomed to from the womb. It’s all meant to be a gradual transition. The act of sucking at the breast and looking into mother’s eyes and the skin-to-skin contact are all known to be very important developmentally as well as wonderfully comforting.

When formula supplements are added to the breastmilk diet, they block a large portion of the immune protection provided by breastmilk. If you were to go back to exclusive breastmilk, it would take a few weeks for baby’s intestines to revert back to something near the protective breastfed environment, but baby would surely benefit nicely (and baby’s diapers won’t be as smelly).

You’ll find that the frequency of breastfeeding gradually reduces over time and it’s OK to gently encourage that spacing-out a little if you feel the need — especially after baby is a few months old.

Formula is more difficult to digest and does sit in the intestines longer. It doesn’t benefit baby but I understand that you feel it’s buying you some time, (except for the time involved in buying, meaasuring, mixing and heating the formula and cleaning the bottles etc.)

Whatever you decide works best for your family is the right thing for all of you but do know that it’s very normal for such a young baby to feed a large portion of the time and please be encouraged that this does gradually reduce and that these times last for such a very short time and these are the days you’ll soon be longing for.

linda palmer, DC
author: Baby Matters

4 Lisa Poisso says:

Ohhh, your wee one is so little still! Congratulations. :) I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but the time will fly by and he will go longer stretches at a time. Also, you and he will get more comfortable as a breastfeeding team, and nursing will become something that you just do without much thought at all. It gets easier!

Keep in mind that at six weeks, you’re still at the end of the period of setting your body’s milk supply “gauge” — so throttling back now means you’re telling your body to slow down on the supply. As you can imagine, that can leave both you and him high and dry! He’ll only be this small for such a short time, so indulge him in his needs for a little longer … Before you know it, you’ll be looking back on all this nursing and snuggle time with much nostalgia!

Best wishes ~

5 April Foster says:

Is there some reason why you needed to supplement? Do you have low supply issues? Any amount of supplementing will tell your breasts not to make as much, and will reduce your supply. If you have supply issues, then my adivce would help…

I would suggest you check out using a Lactaid, and get rid of all the bottles. A lactaid is a device that allows you to breastfeed, but supplement from a tube at the same time. This will also build your supply better. Every ounce of milk your baby gets from a bottle will tell your breasts not to make as much. Then your baby could breastfeed as much as he wants, all day long. And when he did breastfeed, he would be getting a little bit of the formula every time, so he would naturally go longer inbetween feedings with the formula in his belly. This would help with a schedule also, rather than all breast, and then one bottle of formula, then all breast.

One other thing you can do to build supply, is to pump right after breastfeeding is done. This will also tell your breasts to make more milk. This is a lot of work, but it depends on what you are trying to do. Good luck!

6 Natalie says:

Hi, I lost my b/milk with my first one by 6 weeks old. (I was working, going to school, trying to pump and not pumping enough–my mom gave her formula while I was out.) Well, I couldn’t get any of my 4 babies on a schedule until around 4 months. I basically fed the last 3 babies whenever they wanted it. I’m still b/feeding my 1 year old (the 4th baby). Yes, it’s a pain to not have a schedule, but for me, it’s worth it. None of my kids got sick until I stopped b/feeding. Also, the last 3 kids are always in the very high brackets for weight and height. Even if formula is easier to have a schedule with (baby gets full faster), it’s a pain to sterilize the bottles, make the formula, warm the sterile water, take the stuff in the car, etc. With breastfeeding, you just need easy access-type shirts (I loved the ones that I could discreetly b/feed baby in public) and staying near baby. But, you do what you have to. And, my first 2 babies did end up on formula. Big thing about having enough milk–rest when you can (forget about housework & exercising vigorously), relax (don’t get nervous or have too much noise or people around when you’re trying to feed the baby), and drink plenty of water–every time you feed baby, have a glass of water.
Good luck & God bless you!

7 Mielle Walther says:

To Mary K., This is the really needy time for your 6 week old, I remember feeling a little tied to home b/c of the nursing demands. I used a sling to carry my DS, and figured out how to nurse while carrying him in it. I also made myself comfortable with nursing him in public, with enough modesty for myself. Just know that this time will pass. I never used a schedule, but could go 1 1/2 to 2 hours between feedings. Soon your DS will learn how to nurse more efficiently and require fewer feedings. Good luck. I sympathize.

8 Sarah Broad says:


Hang in there. As others have noted, the frequency does get better. I have a 5-month-old who now nurses every 3-4 hours in the daytime and every 2 hours in the evening up until bedtime. But for the first couple of months, it was difficult getting her to wait 1.5 hours for her next feeding. Plus, she took over 30 minutes to eat so it felt like I was doing nothing but nurse. But that time passed quickly.

One thing I tried that helped was to nurse her on only one side per feeding. I’d burp her and put her back on the same side. That ensured that the breast was emptied completely and that she got the richer, more satisfying hind milk. Otherwise, the milk passes through the digestive system too quickly. I wish I had known about that from the beginning.

Definitely avoid the formula, though, or your supply will diminish and might even dry up entirely.

Hang in there. Once a few more weeks have passed, you will be in the “reward phase.” God bless!

9 Tonya says:

I have nursed my child now for 26 months and I am ready to stop. She is very indepedant. She was completely potty trained at 20 months and spoke in full sentences by 24 months. This is one thing that she is not ready to give. My problem is that she has exzema and often wakes up at night itching and crying. Nursing her seems to be a way of soothing her.
Suggestions Please! I do not want to be the lady who is thrown off of airplane for nursing a five year old.

10 publisher says:

I typed in eczema in the google search bar at the top of our site (the one that searches our site) and found a few articles that might help the eczema problems so she will sleep. If these don’t help, continue to look for natural ways (like homeopathy and diet) to cure the eczema. That should help her sleep!!


11 Kimberly Hasapes says:

Thank you so much for the information. My baby is 17 months and I “usually” only breastfeed him at night. I have been thinking about weaning him completely. He is not happy about it at all. I no longer feel so much pressure to stop after reading several articles on this website. Thanks again!

12 Ellen Garcia says:

I have a 29 month old head strong boy that is still breastfed. He’s the baby of three and I just started working so I tend to feel guilty about being away from him so much. So I continue to breastfeed, even though most of the time I am tired of it and ready to stop. Occasionally, my 29-month old, Joseph, says it’s “yucky” and he doesn’t want it anymore (of course this is after me and my husband have tried convincing him of that. But eventually, he always goes back to wanting to be breastfed. What can I do to get this 38 pounder off of me for good?

13 Margaret Heninger says:

My daughter has very sensitive skin too. For my psoriasis and her eczema, I use a nice baby oil and lotion that doesn’t have mineral oil in it to block pores — it is from a mlm company called Arbonne, that makes botanically based products. Check it out on arbonne.com; if you want to order it, you need to sign up (free) and can sign up under my number if you’d like— 10870791. They have a 45 day money back guarantee, so it might be worth trying out!! Good luck, and keep up the great work with your very smart baby!

14 Binet says:

I am trying to wean my 11 month old she doesn’t nurse during the day anymore but at night she nurses practically all night and she will not take a bottle she will take a cup but not when shes tired any suggestions

15 Rebecca says:

I really like your responses to questions. You and I would get along well, lol.

Like Kimberly, I “usually” only breastfeed at night or at his naptime. There are days when he really wants his “bob” though. I love the time we spend together and the closeness, but I dislike the looks and comments I recieve when people realize I am still nursing. He eats solids fine and drinks from a sippy, but I am his comfort. How to I transition and wean in a way that won’t upset him (or myself, lol)?

16 Mayuri says:

Hi, my DS is 12 months now. I have breast fed her so far. But now my milk supply has dried almost completely due to some illness. She gets formula during the day and is OK with it. But night time she still wants to nurse every 3 hours. If I do not offer her my breast she whines all night and can not sleept well. My pediatrician suggested if she is getting enough solids during the day there is no need to offer her breast. But she is not accpeting it. She still wants to nurse even though there is no supply. Please help, what should I do?

17 Nicole says:

Get a copy of Elizabeth Pantley’s book…the no cry sleep method…in it she describes how to wean your child from night-time feedings…

18 Desiree says:

Hi my daughter is 14 months old and I am so ready to wean her but she whines and crys when I try to give her a sippy cup or bottle. I am in need to wean her soon since in 2 weeks I have to leave her for 3 days to go to my husbands army graduation. Is there anything that I could possibly do to speed up the weaning process?

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