Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Baby at 3 - 6 Months
Making the decision when - and how - to wean is a personal one that is solely between you and your baby! Every drop of breast milk provided to your little one counts and, if now is the right time to wean, then we have some tips to help.
Ready to Start Weaning from Breastfeeding?
At Medela, our primary focus is breastfeeding – by helping moms like you breastfeed their babies for as long as you choose. Meeting this goal responsibly is at the heart of everything we do, including helping you wean safely and carefully if you have decided that it’s time to do so. Deciding when and how to wean your little one from breast milk is a completely personal decision that is solely yours to make – no matter how long your breast milk feeding journey may be. Oftentimes, outside factors, such as going back to work; the amount of postpartum support received from your partner, family, and loved ones; and even challenges like supply issues, latching difficulties, or breast infections can all influence a mother’s decision to wean her baby between 3 and 6 months old.
Many of the above-mentioned difficulties can be worked through by chatting with your doctor, a lactation consultant, your family, and even your employer or manager – and doing so may resolve some of the breastfeeding challenges that you’re facing. Because breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis – meaning, the more that you nurse and/or pump then the more that your body will be signaled to make – providing milk for your baby and maintaining your supply often requires commitment and dedication.
…And if you’re unable to commit yourself to breastfeeding right now, due to challenges or difficulties that can’t be overcome? Well, Mama, that’s perfectly okay too! Every drop of breast milk that you provided to your baby counts and has given them valuable, long-lasting benefits – and that’s something that should be applauded and celebrated!
How to Wean a Baby at 3 - 6 Months Old
Ready to start weaning, mama? Here’s how you can make the transition as smooth as possible for yourself and your baby:
- Integrate bottles. Though your little one may initially balk at feeding from a bottle, consistency is key. Start offering a bottle of stored breast milk or formula in place of a few nursing sessions each day. Eventually, your baby will adjust to feeding from the bottle instead – and your milk supply will start to dwindle as these nursing sessions are gradually replaced with bottles, resulting in less milk being removed from your breasts and signaling to your body to produce progressively smaller volumes.
- Go gradual (rather than cold turkey). Your breasts will frequently be full during your baby’s first few months. Be sure to stay patient and wean gradually, as doing so cold turkey can cause uncomfortable engorgement (and a higher likelihood of complications like mastitis) for you. Slow, steady, and gradual weaning instead allows your body to adjust accordingly!
- Choose your baby’s new food wisely. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should only drink breast milk or formula during their first year of life. When weaning your little one between 3 and 6 months old, it’s especially important to research and understand all the different formula options available. While no formula can replicate all the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and other completely unique components found in your breast milk, if you do choose to transition to formula be sure to look carefully at each option’s ingredients to find one that may be most beneficial – or as close to your milk as possible – for your little one. Ensure that any formula fed to your baby is iron-fortified and includes things like DHA, ARA, and other ultra-important ingredients to support their health and development. You may also wish to feed him or her a formula that is certified organic and/or non-GMO, sensitive and gentle on the tummy (minimizing painful gas and/or frequent spit-ups), and milk-based or soy-based, depending on you and your baby’s preferences.
While there can be a lot to consider, it’s important to remember that you’re doing a great job – regardless of how long your breast milk feeding journey may be. We bet that your baby thinks you’re doing a pretty amazing job too! As you begin weaning, be sure to reach out to your doctor, your little one’s pediatrician, or a lactation consultant with questions. They can help ensure the smoothest transition for both you and your baby. You’ve got this!