Ultimate Guide: How to Wean a Baby at 9 - 12 Months
Ready to start weaning, mama? No matter the circumstances around your decision to wean, all the milk that you expressed, pumped, and fed to your baby over the last almost-year has given them the best possible nutrition! If you're ready to make the transition, we can help you start.
Time to Start Weaning from Breastfeeding?
Ready to start weaning, mama? Of course, the decision to start weaning your little one is personal and solely between you and your growing baby. No matter the circumstances around your decision to wean – whether you’ve recently encountered breastfeeding challenges, your baby is showing signs of self-weaning, or it’s simply time to begin the transition – all the milk that you expressed, pumped, and fed to your little one over the last almost-year has provided so many incredible, long-lasting benefits towards his or her health and development! We all know how much dedication this has required over the last 9 – 12 months, so be sure to take a moment to applaud yourself and to celebrate your unique breast milk feeding journey.
By now, you’re likely well-versed in all the great benefits that breast milk provides to your baby – and to you too! Though your little one may initially resist weaning (if he or she isn’t already beginning to self-wean), the introduction of solids, sippy cups, and all kinds of different tastes, textures, and flavors can help make the transition easier while giving him or her some exciting new things to explore. Remember, weaning is a gradual process and allowing both your body and your baby the time and flexibility necessary to wean – usually by progressively dropping nursing and/or pumping sessions – makes it much easier for everyone to adjust.
How to Wean a Baby at 9 - 12 Months Old
Your active little one is likely a far cry from the tiny, sleepy newborn who you first learned to nurse! Your baby may be crawling, taking their first few tentative steps, trying out their first words – or otherwise developing their own little personality and exploring the world around them! Despite all the new adventures, mama, know that you’re still your baby’s “safe place”. This means that, while some babies in this age range may be perfectly ready to wean or have even started self-weaning, some little ones will occasionally want to ensure their source of comfort (read: you and nursing) is still readily available when they want it.
Though weaning may require some patience and flexibility, here are some tips that can help:
- Build a freezer stash. Use your breast pump to build a strong supply of milk that can be stored in your fridge and freezer – This can be especially beneficial if your baby is nearing 1 year old, and you just need enough milk to get through another 6 or 8 weeks before he or she can begin transitioning to whole milk. Even if your little one is closer to 9 or 10 months old, having pumped breast milk stored can minimize or prolong the need for an artificial alternative like formula.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should drink only breast milk or formula during their first year of life. If you do end up needing to supplement, be sure to find an alternative that is iron-fortified and take some time to research all the different options available, so you can choose the best one for your baby.
- Expect some resistance. If your little one is having a hard time letting go of the breast (literally!), replace the time that you’d normally spend nursing with some quiet bonding time together. Try sitting together and reading some books, or holding your baby while feeding him or her with pumped milk in a sippy cup – chances are, your little one is simply seeking the comfort they associate with a nursing session, rather than wanting to nurse out of hunger.
Consistency is key, so offering him or her food at mealtimes and/or in their high chair and giving them milk in a sippy cup throughout the day will eventually help them get the idea. Despite any lingering desire to nurse, babies know to eat when they’re hungry – no matter how the food or milk is given to them!
- Bring on the sippy cups! The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that your little one is likely ready for sippy cups around 6 – 9 months old. In fact, a Pediatrics study even found that about 9 months old is the “ideal” age to transition babies away from the bottle and onto sippy cups instead. Replace one or two nursing sessions each day with pumped breast milk from your fridge or freezer stash given to your little one in a sippy cup. Once they grow accustomed to these new cups and learn how to drink from them, you can start gradually replacing more nursing sessions with self-feedings using your pumped milk (or milk alternative) and their own cups.
At the same time, your milk supply will begin to slow as your body produces less milk to adjust to less daily nursing and/or pumping sessions. A gradual slow-down can help minimize uncomfortable engorgement, plugged or blocked milk ducts, and even complications like mastitis – Your milk production will adjust to these changes quickly and eventually taper off completely.
Your little one is growing right before your very eyes, mama, and that’s because of what an amazing job you’ve been doing so far! Every drop of breast milk that you provided counts – and has helped your baby in so many different ways. Be proud of what you and your little one have already accomplished together and get ready – The fun is only just beginning!