Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Baby at 12 - 18 Months
Congratulations, mama! A full year (or longer!) of providing breast milk for your baby is something to be incredibly proud of. If now is the right time to think about weaning, we can help you get started to ensure a more seamless transition for you and your little one.
Weaning Off Breastfeeding at 12 Months (or Older!)
You are a breastfeeding rock star, mama! A full year or longer of providing breast milk to your little one is certainly an accomplishment to proud of, because we all know it takes a lot of dedication, commitment, patience, flexibility, coordination, and…well, you get the idea. Whether you’ve already met (or smashed) your personal breastfeeding goal, you and your partner are planning to expand your family again, or you simply wanted to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ breastfeeding recommendations, know that you have done a wonderful job providing the very best to your growing toddler.
In fact, the AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing complementary foods until he or she is 12 months old or longer – so long as mutually desired by both you and your little one. Because the composition of your breast milk changes as your baby gets older, your milk adjusted to his or her evolving needs and provided exactly the right nutrition for their growth and development – even as solids were introduced and then gradually took over as his or her primary source of sustenance and calories. Be proud of the amazing things that your body has done to nourish your now-toddler – and if now is the right time to wean, we have some tips to ease the transition for both of you!
How to Wean a Baby at 12 - 18 Months Old
- Be gentle with yourself. Some moms are more than ready to wean at this stage of their toddler’s life, while others go through a range of emotions that can touch on sadness (“my baby isn’t a baby anymore”), excitement (“my body is my own again!”), frustration (“why, oh why, is he or she still waking up for an overnight nursing session?!”), and everything in between – sometimes all in the same day! Take some time to understand where your feelings are stemming from and be sure to be extra loving and patient with your little one too. After all, he or she may be going through their own range of emotions while weaning and they simply don’t know how to express these emotions just yet in the same ways that we do.
As you wean, find other ways to have bonding time with your toddler. While he or she may be very active during this stage of life and may not wish to sit still all the time, try rocking and reading books or spending some extra one-on-one time playing together. From here on out, parenthood will be a sometimes-blurry balance of encouraging your little one’s independence and self-discovery while making it clear that you’re still a “safe spot” and source of comfort!
- Focus on nutrition. Just because your little one is transitioning from breast milk to whole milk – and eating a diet of nearly all solids! – doesn’t mean that you can’t still find ways to give him or her the benefits of your breast milk. If you have a fridge or freezer stash of pumped milk, it can be used as an ingredient in all kinds of foods for him or her, such as cereal, yogurt, pancakes, and even ice cream and popsicles – which can pull double duty by helping numb sore gums to temporarily alleviate teething pain.
Once you’ve tapped out your stored supply of breast milk, take an active role in what your little one eats. After all, ensuring that he or she eats plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and grains – while steering clear of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and too many processed foods – will help encourage preferences for healthy food choices and a lifetime of better-for-you eating decisions.
- Take it slow and steady. By now, you know your body – and breasts – well. Take your time to wean gradually, rather than suddenly or cold turkey. Drop one or two nursing or pumping sessions at a time, wait for your body (and milk supply) to adjust accordingly, and then drop another from your daily routine. Continue doing this – and even shortening the remaining nursing or pumping sessions by a few minutes each time – until your supply has fully tapered off and you’ve eliminated all your nursing and/or pumping sessions. This minimizes the risk of painful complications and allows your body to adjust naturally.
For the last year or year and a half, your body has done amazing things to nourish your little one and provide him or her with the very best possible nutrition! That’s an incredible accomplishment and you should be proud. Whether this is your first baby, your last, or somewhere in between, Medela is here for you every step of the way through your parenthood journey!