October 25, 2014

How to Tell When Your Child is Ready to Wean

All children wean eventually and at their own pace. How can you tell if your child is ready to wean?

First off, realize the weaning process starts when you’ve offered your baby that first spoonful of solid food. Weaning doesn’t refer to the day your child finally stops drinking breastmilk—rather, think of weaning as a gradual process similar to learning how to walk.

You may think you child is initiating weaning because she suddenly refuses to nurse. Weaning is rarely abrupt. If your baby suddenly refuses to feed after nursing happily for months, it’s probably just a nursing strike. These can last for a few days and are often caused when nursing is uncomfortable for some reason: perhaps baby has an earache or sore throat, or is teething. A nursing strike is miserable for a baby, and doesn’t indicate a desire to wean.

Weaning should happen when your child and/or you are losing interest in nursing. Remember that breastfeeding is a two-way street. If your child is drinking from a cup and is more interested in solid foods, try dropping an unimportant nursing session and see what happens. Replace the lost fluids and nutrition with healthy solid foods and liquids. Consult your baby’s health care provider if you’re concerned about their nutrition.

If your child is OK with the reduction in nursing, then you’re proceeding with the right pace. Wait several days and drop another session until your baby is completely weaned. If your baby protests, consider pushing off active weaning until your child is older. Keep in mind that while your baby is weaning they’ll likely need more attention, affection and cuddling to make up for the loss in comfort that nursing provides.

Above all, use guidance, understanding and love. Follow your instincts and listen to your baby’s cues. Abrupt weaning can be uncomfortable for babies and moms, so take it slow.

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Until next time,