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How to Wean a Baby

Tips to make weaning from breast and bottle easier for you and baby.

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Hi. I'm Kimberly [unk]. I'm a board-certified lactation consultant and I've been helping moms breastfed for over 20 years. You might be wondering when is the best time to wean my baby. Weaning is the period of time where you gradually reduce the amount of breast milk that a baby gets and eventually they don't get breast milk at all, so weaning is that process. A lot of moms wonder when is the best time to do that and I tell moms that this is a highly personal decision. Around the world, the average age for weaning from the breast is actually 4 years old which for a lot of folks in the United States are very surprised to hear that. In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms breastfeed for the first 6 months exclusively. That means that baby get it only breast milk for the first 6 months of their life, and around 6 months we begin to add complementary foods. And with the foods of course we're continuing to breast feed the AAP recommends that we breastfeed our babies for at least the first year of life. So that's first 6 months exclusive breastfeeding and from 6 months on or around 6 months on, we're breastfeeding and we're introducing complementary foods. The AAP hopes that moms will at least give their babies the benefits of breast milk for their first year of life. If moms and babies want to breastfeed longer than that, it's definitely encouraged. Even though a baby is beyond a year old or even 2 years old, they're still getting wonderful benefits of breastfeeding. Certainly beyond 6 months and a year, babies are receiving other foods, but breast milk still protects baby from illnesses, infections, diseases, has benefits for their dental development and many, many, many more benefits. As long as you continue to breastfeed, the baby is receivng really great health and nutrition. The World Health Organization actually really encourages moms to breastfeed for at least 2 years. When it comes time to wean, gradual weaning is considered the best for mom and baby. There are things like baby-led weaning or child-led weaning which is really just providing breast milk, breastfeeding to the child for as long as they wanna breastfeed. And there's also mother-led weaning where mom is encouraging her baby to wean from the breast. Some of the ways she might do that is providing other forms of nourishment for the baby in place of her breast milk. So maybe gradually reducing the amount of breastfeedings and adding in other foods or drinks as appropriate to that baby's age. Sudden weaning such as just stopping breastfeeding cold turkey can actually impact baby and mom. Baby is used to this form of nourishment and this form of comfort and cuddling and holding that goes along with the breastfeeding. So sudden weaning can be very, very disturbing to babies. Moms who wean suddenly also put themselves at risk for engorgement, breast infections, clogged up and things of that nature. So for mom and baby, we definitely recommend that they try to go as gradual as possible in the weaning process. If mom is encouraging the weaning, take it slow. Be careful that your baby is not actually having a nursing strike. This sometimes comes up around 3 months of age or can come up also around the time a baby is teething or even a baby that's a little under a year old can sometimes go on what we call a nursing strike where they have a period of a couple of days where they're refusing the breast. If your baby is under a year old and he starts refusing the breast, talk to a board-certified lactation consultant. They might not be weaning themselves. They actually might be having what we call a nursing striek which is just a temporary period where they are not interested in breastfeeding. And sometimes this happens because a baby is teeting or because the baby is ill. Maybe the baby has an ear infection and it's difficult for them to lie down or lie sideways to attach on to the breast because they have pressure in their ears from illness. Typically if a baby refuses the breast before 12 months of age, they may not necessarily be weaning themselves. However, beyond 12 months of age, sometimes babies do wean themselves and they can wean themselves very suddenly which can be very distressing to mom. If your baby is showing any signs of weaning before you're ready for them to wean, talk to a board-certified lactation consultant. If you need help with weaning, talk to a breastfeeding professional that can guide you through the process. Thanks for watching.