Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Baby at 6 - 9 Months
If now is the right time to begin weaning, that's perfectly okay - Every drop of breast milk provided to your baby counts and has given him or her a myriad of valuable benefits and the best possible nutrition. Here's our tips to help kickstart the weaning process if you've decided it's time!
Time to Wean from Breastfeeding?
Congratulations, mama! You’ve made it to 6 months (or more!) of breastfeeding and that’s something that should be celebrated. Whether you’re opting to wean now due to extenuating circumstances (such as an inflexible workplace) or because you’ve simply met your personal breast milk feeding goal, take pride in the fact that you’ve met the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for at least the first 6 months of your baby’s life. Doing so requires commitment, dedication, patience, support, and a lot of other things that you’re likely all too familiar with!
If now is the right time to begin weaning, that’s perfectly okay. Every drop of breast milk that you fed your baby counts and has helped provide a myriad of valuable benefits, both now and as he or she grows into a full-blown kid (trust us, it’ll be right before your very eyes, mama!) – and if you’ve been able to build a refrigerator or freezer supply of milk prior to weaning, then that can help with the coming transition as well. You’re probably starting to introduce solids, which can be a prime opportunity to encourage baby-led weaning and allow your growing little one to wean at his or her own pace while experimenting with all the exciting new foods that they’ve discovered. However you choose to proceed with weaning, always remember one thing – You’re doing a great job!
How to Wean a Baby at 6 - 9 Months Old
The decision to wean is a personal one between you and your baby. If the right time to do so has arrived, here are some helpful tips that can make the transition as smooth as possible:
- Watch for signs of self-weaning. Some babies wean entirely on their own around 9 months old. Signs that they’re losing interest in nursing can range from becoming easily distracted and nursing for shorter periods to biting at the breast, refusing to nurse, and being especially fussy during nursing sessions. If you’re ready to wean too, then keep an eye out for these signs and don’t try to resolve your baby’s disinterest or breastfeeding strike.
Instead, feed him or her with your pumped milk – or formula, if you’ve already exhausted your fridge or freezer supply – in a bottle. Around this time, your little one is also likely ready for you to begin introducing sippy cups, which can be helpful to minimize nursing sessions and further encourage weaning.
- Speaking of formula…The American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies should only drink breast milk or formula during their first year of life. Since your little one won’t reach their first birthday for another 3 – 6 months, it’s important to have a healthy alternative on hand to take the place of your breast milk. While no formula can replicate all the wonderful vitamins, nutrients, and components found in breast milk, finding the best “next best thing” can help ensure your little one still gets many of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for their early health and development.
If your baby is closer to 9 months old, try building a strong freezer supply of breast milk to get him or her through the next few months. If that’s not possible or if your baby is closer to 6 or 7 months old, then be sure to carefully research various formula options so you can make the best possible decision around what he or she will drink until they reach their first birthday. For starters, ensure that any formula fed to your baby is iron-fortified. Know what the different options mean and how your little one reacts to them, such as “gentle” or “sensitive” formula versus traditional formula or milk-based compared to soy-based.
- Remember, weaning is a marathon – not a race! To ensure the most seamless transition, know that weaning won’t happen overnight (and please don’t try, for the sake of your breasts!) – Instead, a gradual, progressive transition away from nursing, pumping, and feeding your little one with breast milk will help him or her adjust much easier and minimize painful engorgement, unexpected leakage, and plugged or blocked milk ducts for you. Start by dropping one or two nursing and/or pumping sessions from your routine while also shortening their length, and then on from there.
While weaning, remember to take your time, listen to your body, and be flexible – Your body will quickly adjust by producing progressively less milk, until you’ve fully weaned. You’ve done amazing things for your baby and your breast milk feeding journey is something to be proud of!