How do I wean? - La Leche League USA (2023)

Are you feeling ready to wean? Breastfeeding sometimes can feel overwhelming. Sometimes just cutting back on the amount of times you breastfeed may help you feel that it is more manageable. If your baby is under a year (or older, sometimes), you might have to substitute a bottle feeding or cup feeding for a missed breastfeeding. An older baby may accept a drink from a cup, a nutritious snack, or just a distraction in the form of a game, a toy, or change of scene. Breastfeeding is a relationship, a two-way street. If you resent sitting down to breastfeed, your child will pick up on your feelings. Remember, weaning does not need to be all or nothing. The first time your baby has something besides your milk is the first step on the long road to weaning.

If weaning is your decision, it’s best for you and your baby to do it gradually and with love. If you wean abruptly, your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, and you might develop a breast infection.

How do I wean? - La Leche League USA (1)


If your doctor decides that you need to take a medication for a medical condition, make sure that they know how important it is for you to continue breastfeeding and check to see if a breastfeeding compatible drug can be used. You may not need to wean at all or it might be temporary. Do your own research, or get a second opinion from another doctor/hospital, if necessary. A Leader can also help you find information about how a certain medication can impact nursing.

Depending on the age of your child and the frequency with which they nurse, certain medications may have little or no effect on them.

If you must wean suddenly, it helps to express some milk from your breasts, for comfort, until you begin to produce less.

If you must be separated from your baby while undergoing treatment but do not wish or need to wean, you can help to maintain your supply by expressing your milk by hand or with a pump and disposing or storing the milk.


Try to substitute their least favorite feeding session first. If the baby won’t accept the bottle from you, see if a support person can do so. It also may be helpful if you are not in the room/home so baby cannot smell you. Let the baby have a few days (or weeks, if possible) between each time you substitute a breastfeeding session with a bottle.

Be sure to express a little milk from your breasts, to your own comfort, if you become engorged. Don’t express a whole feeding’s worth of milk; just enough to take the pressure off. Your body will get the signal to make less milk over time, slowly. For help with the weaning process,contact a La Leche League Leader.


There is no set number of years or months that you should nurse your child. If you and your child enjoy breastfeeding, there is no reason you need to stop. Both of you will continue to benefit from breastfeeding as long as you like. Many parents choose to wean naturally, allowing the child to outgrow the need gradually, in their own time.

Breastfeeding an older toddler or child can be different from breastfeeding an infant. Many parents naturally begin to place some restrictions on nursing as their child grows. This may include delaying feedings, (“We can nurse after I finish cooking.”) or limiting access. It may also mean focusing more on good “nursing manners” to discourage some behaviors, such as, twiddling, shirt pulling, pinching, fidgeting, “niplashing”, nursing gymnastics, and more.While all of these behaviors are normal, they certainly can be unwanted or even painful. Luckily, there are strategies to help to establish good breastfeeding manners.

(Video) La Leche League of Portland, ME - What we are all about.

  • Start early– Putting in the effort to stop unwanted behaviors like twiddling in the beginning is more effective than waiting until it grows into a more ingrained habit.
  • Wait it outOftenannoying toddler behaviorsareaphasethattheywilleventuallyoutgrow.
  • Distract and redirect– Find alternatives like playing with a necklace or soft toy. Talk to them or read a book to shift their attention.
  • Communicate– Older babies and toddlers can sign for “milk” or “please” rather than pulling at your top. Praise them for gentle nursing, but also set firm boundaries and communicate those boundaries clearly. For example, “I can’t nurse you while you wiggle. Let’s go play and get the wiggles out. Then we can nurse in a little while.”

Learn more about Nursing Manners (PDF), LLL USA

It can also be helpful to learn more about typical childhood behavior and needs based on age. A good place to start is by attending La Leche League meetings. There you will meet families who have nursed their children through the years and are happy to share information and ideas with you.Find a group near you.

It is possible to wean during the day but only nurse at night as the nighttime feeding is usually the last to go. Or wean at night but still allow nursing during the day. It does not need to be all or nothing.

How do I wean? - La Leche League USA (2)


Generally, these strategies work best for daytime nursing.

  • Don’t ask, don’t refuse– Breastfeed the child when they ask, and don’t offer when they don’t. This simple technique known as “don’t offer, don’t refuse” may help accelerate the weaning process when used with other methods.
  • Change daily routines– Instead of heading home after picking him up from daycare, head to the grocery store or elsewhere instead. Try to avoid the “nursing chair” or other usual “nursing station” in your home as much as possible at the times when they usually would ask to nurse. Yes, this may mean a lot of standing up.
  • Ask your support for help– If possible, get help from other family and household members. If she usually nurses upon waking, try getting up first and have your partner or someone else do part of the morning routine. Someone could also take over bedtime so that a child may forget about “milkies” before bed.
  • Distract and substitute– Anticipate nursing sessions and offer substitutions and distractions. Try offering a snack or drink at that time. Take them to their favorite place at the usual nursing time. Other distractions include: reading, bike or stroller rides, visits from friends, a new toy, walking/singing to the child.
  • Shorten and delay– Shorten the length of sessions or see if you can delay even by a few minutes. Some parents will say that they can have one ABC song per breast or count to 25. If they don’t yet understand time, saying that you can once you finish reading a book may help.


The nap and bedtime nursing sessions are often the last to go and can be more difficult. La Leche League does not advocate for any sleep-training techniques that includes children being left to cry for long periods of time. Staying close to your little one to allow for quick attention before they are fully awake can also help with the overnight times.

  • If the child is sleeping with you, you might consider moving them to their own bed or into bed with an older sibling. However, if the child resists the move, they might increase breastfeeding in order to preserve the feeling of closeness with you.
  • Allow another family member to help by taking over sleep-time routines or nighttime wakeups.
  • Offer a drink of water or snack if the child seems hungry or thirsty at bedtime or during the night.
  • Offer cuddles, hugs, and music to replace nursing at night or for naptime.

There are also children’s books that focus on night weaning. You can find them listed in our Goodreads account.

If you decide to wean the nighttime feeding, make a bedtime routine not centered around breastfeeding. A good book or two will eventually become more important than a long nursing. Your child may agree to cuddle or rest their head on your chest instead of feeding. Talk to your child about what’s going on ahead of time if you can as they may understand more than you expect. If you’re open to it, it can help to let your child make suggestions. If they’re part of the plan, they may handle the transition better.


If weaning is going too quickly for the child, they’ll usually let you know by their behavior. Increased tantrums, regressive behaviors, anxiety, increase in night waking, new fear of separation, and clinginess are all possible signs that weaning is going too quickly for your child. Illness and teething can also interfere with weaning and it might be necessary to take a break. Transition periods can be good or bad times to wean; sometimes, a child is so busy moving from one house to another or starting preschool, that they forget about nursing entirely. Other times, they want to nurse even more, making weaning an even harder road.

Your child may be old enough for you to simply explain to them that you feel it is time to wean. Many children this age or older can understand the concept of stopping nursing. Some families let the child pick a date, or choose one themselves, and call that the “weaning day” after which they will no longer nurse. Some parents will throw the child a “weaning party” with supportive family and understanding friends to help celebrate the milestone. Perhaps the child will receive a special “weaning present.”

Some families allow the child to choose a coveted toy and buy it after weaning, or buy it before weaning and wrap it up to be put on a shelf for when the weaning day or weaning party comes.

Obviously, these techniques will not work if the child is extremely resistant to weaning, but many families have used them with success. Remember that they will have a continued, perhaps even deepened, need for closeness with you. You can anticipate the child’s need for closeness and spend as much of the day as possible having “special time” with your child.

(Video) Breastfeeding Tips on How to Get a Deep Latch & How to Avoid Pain While Nursing

Weaning can be a difficult time for everyone. It’s normal to have many feelings including sadness, anxiety and despair, or even post-weaning depression. A La Leche League Leader or group can help you to feel less alone as you go through this big step. To learn more about weaning you canattend a local group or reach out to leader.


Learn more about Nursing Manners (PDF), LLL USA

Gentle Toddler Weaning (PDF), LLL USA

Is My Baby Self-Weaning? (PDF), LLL USA

Is My Baby Ready for Solids? (PDF), LLL USA

Thinking of Supplementing? (PDF), LLL USA

Excerpts from A Loving Weaning, LLL USA blog

LLL USA recommended weaning books, Goodreads

Weaning: I Want To, LLLI

Weaning Articles, La Leche League New Zealand

Breast comfort during weaning, KellyMom

FAQ about Weaning, KellyMom

(Video) How to Get Through a Nursing Strike | 7 Tips to Keep You Breastfeeding

Night weaning, KellyMom


My Weaning Story: Honoring the Last Time, LLL USA blog

Weaning: We did it together, LLL USA blog

A Weaning Celebration, LLL USA blog

My attempt at mother-led weaning, LLL USA blog

Breastfeeding and weaning: A personal reflection, LLL USA blog

Breastfeeding through the years, LLL USA blog

The Last “Susu”: Our Weaning Story, LLL USA blog

Weaning from the Pump, LLL USA blog

Weaning Gently: Outgrowing the Need, LLLI blog

Raphaela’s Weaning, LLLI blog

I need to wean quickly, but how?, LLL USA Facebook

(Video) Breastfeeding - How to do the Side Lying Hold

I’m feeling guilty about weaning earlier than I wanted, LLL USA Facebook

How can I commemorate weaning?, LLL USA Facebook

How should I commemorate my preschooler weaning?, LLL USA Facebook

How do I wean my toddler to get pregnant?, LLL USA Facebook

How do I know when it’s time to wean?, LLL USA Facebook

How should I react when my weaning toddler “plays baby”?, LLL USA Facebook

Does your weaned child talk about nursing?, LLL USA Facebook

I’m desperate to wean, but my child isn’t ready, LLL USA Facebook


Please contact alocal LLL Leaderwith your specific questions.

Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.

Page updated April 2020

(Video) How I get more sleep as a new mom WITHOUT Sleep Training!

Resource partially adapted from LLLI materials.


How do I wean? - La Leche League USA? ›

“Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up two years of age or beyond.”

How long does La Leche League recommend breastfeeding? ›

“Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up two years of age or beyond.”

What are the American guidelines for weaning? ›

Weaning an infant is a gradual process. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends feeding infants only breast milk for the first 6 months after birth. After 6 months, the AAP recommends a combination of solid foods and breast milk until the infant is at least 1 year old.

How do I wean my baby off lactation? ›

Start weaning by replacing one breast milk feeding a day with a bottle of infant formula (for your child younger than 12 months old) or with a cup of plain whole cow's milk or fortified unsweetened soy beverage (for your child 12 months or older). Continue to replace more breast milk feedings over time.

What age do Americans wean babies? ›

"The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends weaning breastfeeding at four to six months," she says. "Babies can receive great nutrition in their first few months with breast milk or formula. But by four to six months, a baby is ready for weaning," she says.

What is the 3 hour golden rule with breastfeeding? ›

What are the “3 Golden Hours”? The 3 Golden Hours refer to the immediate hours after a mother gives birth. It's so important that mothers are given the opportunity to be skin to skin with their babies during these 3 hours to breastfeed their baby and form that immediate bond.

What is the hardest time of breastfeeding? ›

The first four to six weeks are the toughest, then it starts to settle down,” says Cathy. “And when you get to three months, breastfeeding gets really easy – way easier than cleaning and making up a bottle.

What is the 4 days rule for weaning? ›

Have you heard of the Four Day Rule? It is a simple way to test if Baby has an allergic reaction or digestive issue from a certain food. You simply introduce one food at a time every four days. For example, if you introduce bananas on Monday, then wait until Friday to introduce the next food.

What are the four stages of weaning? ›

Skills your baby learns
  • Move from thick purées to mashed foods, to foods with soft lumps.
  • Chewing lumps.
  • Beginning to feed themselves with soft finger foods.
  • Drinking from a beaker or cup.

Will I lose weight after I stop breastfeeding? ›

You will burn some stored body fat, but your body protects some fat for the purpose of breastfeeding. Many women don't lose all the baby weight until they completely stop nursing.

Will my baby naturally wean off breastfeeding? ›

Natural weaning occurs as the infant begins to accept increasing amounts and types of complementary feedings while still breastfeeding on demand. When natural weaning is practiced, complete weaning usually takes place between two and four years of age (12).

Is it worth breastfeeding once a day? ›

Breastfeeding, even just once a day, is worth it.

Your body is regulating your hormones and your endocrine system with stimulation. Second, the baby receives that contact, that transfer of energy from the parent, and being skin to skin continues to support heart rate, respiration, glucose levels and temperature.

What country breastfeeds the longest? ›

In Mongolia, breastfeeding is celebrated and public breastfeeding encouraged with 65 percent of babies being exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding also tends to continue until after the second birthday.

How long do mothers breastfeed in America? ›

The average mom exclusively breastfeeds for the baby's first 6 months and then gradually introduces other food while continuing to breastfeed for 2 years or longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months after birth.

What is the average age Americans stop breastfeeding? ›

Little data are available for extended breastfeeding rates in the U.S. One small study of American women who breastfed more than a year found that the average weaning age was between 2 1/2 and 3 years, with some children breastfeeding more than 7 years.

What is the Magic 8 rule in breastfeeding? ›

Your “magic number” is the number of times you need to empty your breasts per 24 hours in order to keep your supply robust. On average, your magic number is 8 (hence the recommendation to breastfeed every 3 hours).

What is the rule of 4 for breastmilk? ›

Do not store breast milk in the door of the refrigerator or freezer. This will help protect the breast milk from temperature changes from the door opening and closing. If you don't think you will use freshly expressed breast milk within 4 days, freeze it right away.

What is the magic hour after birth? ›

The first hour after birth when a mother has uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with her newborn is referred to as the “golden hour.” This period of time is critical for a newborn baby who spent the past nine months in a controlled environment.

What is the longest a woman has breastfed? ›

For this list, a child named Charlotte Spink is considered the oldest known kid to have been breastfed. Sharon Spink, a mother of four, argued that nursing daughter Charlotte up until earlier than 10 years old was quite normal, which solidified their relationship for the rest of their lives. What is this?

What's the shortest amount of time you should breastfeed? ›

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms feed their babies only breastmilk for the first six months. Then they say to keep breastfeeding for at least one year. After that, it depends on how long the mom and child want to keep it up. Keep in mind that breastfeeding even for a few weeks has benefits.

Why is breastfeeding so exhausting? ›

As well as using a lot of energy, nursing also triggers the release of prolactin, the main hormone involved in milk production [3]. Prolactin can increase your body's dopamine and oxytocin levels, which can also cause you to feel more relaxed and tired.

Can you stop breastfeeding cold turkey? ›

If weaning is your decision, it's best for you and your baby to do it gradually, and with love. If you wean “cold turkey,” your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, and you might develop a breast infection. Your baby will probably fight the switch from your warm, soft breast to a plastic substitute.

What time of day should I start weaning? ›

Introduce your baby's first meal at a time they are most content. They shouldn't be too hungry as this is just a taste. I suggest midday as you can offer your baby their milk at 11am and then give them their solid food between 12 and 12:30pm.

How slowly should you wean? ›

If you choose to initiate weaning, start by eliminating nursing sessions slowly. By slowly eliminating breastfeeding sessions over the course of several days or even weeks, you'll reduce the risk of painful engorgement, which can lead to plugged ducts or mastitis.

What should I do on my first day of weaning? ›

Begin with simple vegetables like pureed sweet potato or carrot and try to feed before their usual milk. Weaning with vegetables exclusively (no fruit) for the first two weeks gives the best chance for healthy eating habits to develop in later life.

What is the first step in weaning? ›

  • Step 1 - Check that your baby is ready to wean. OK, sounds easy. ...
  • Step 2 - Decide which weaning method you want to use. ...
  • Step 3 - Check you have the right feeding equipment. ...
  • Step 4 - Decide what time to start. ...
  • Step 5 - Choose first foods. ...
  • Step 6 - Make your baby's first food. ...
  • Step 7 - Start slowly and go at your baby's pace.
Jan 13, 2019

What is the best way to stop breastfeeding? ›

Phasing out breastfeeding gently will give you both time to get used to the idea. Stopping gradually will also help prevent problems like overfull, hard (engorged) breasts and mastitis. You'll probably find it easiest to drop 1 feed at a time.

Can you wean too quickly? ›

Your child's behaviour will let you know if weaning is moving too quickly. Increased tantrums, crying, regressive behaviours, anxiety, thumb sucking, increased night waking, new fears of separation and clinginess are possible signs that weaning is moving too fast for your child.

What is progressive weaning? ›

Weaning is defined as a progressive decline in the amount of ventilatory support that a patient receives from a ventilator. The weaning process includes decreasing ventilator support, assessing the patient's response, and possibly extubating the patient.

What happens to a woman's body when they stop breastfeeding? ›

Both oxytocin and prolactin contribute to feelings of calm, love, relaxation, closeness and contentment. As breastfeeding ends, both prolactin and oxytocin levels will lower – and so may your mood and sense of wellbeing. It may last a few days, or it may go on for longer.

How do I lose belly fat after stopping breastfeeding? ›

The best way to lose weight once you stop nursing

Just adjust your diet and exercise habits to ensure you burn calories. Set a cut-off period and make some serious changes to your diet and routine. These are a few pointers — replace carbs like rice and maida with complex carbs and multigrain items.

What happens to the mother when they stop breastfeeding? ›

Stopping breastfeeding suddenly could put you at risk of engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis, as well as being an abrupt change for your baby's digestive and immune systems to cope with. It may also be difficult for you both emotionally.

What does self weaning look like? ›

A baby who self-weans is usually well over a year old, is getting most of his nutrition from solids, is drinking well from a cup, and cuts down on nursing gradually. If children are truly allowed to self-wean in their own time, most will do so somewhere between the 2nd and 4th year.

What is the world average age for breastfeeding? ›

And a related article in Time shows that the World Health Organization recommends breast-feeding until at least age two, and the average age of weaning worldwide is around four, she points out.

Why the French don't breastfeed? ›

Another reason French women don't breastfeed is that they simply don't like doing it, it appears. A study in 2014 found that 41 percent of French women found breastfeeding in public to be embarrassing, compared to just 18 percent in the UK and US.

What percent of US moms breastfeed? ›

Key Breastfeeding IndicatorsCurrent Rates
Percentage of infants who are breastfed: Ever.*83.2
Percentage of infants who are breastfed: At 6 months.*55.8
Percentage of infants who are breastfed: At 1 year.*35.9
Percentage of infants who are breastfed: Exclusively through 3 months.*45.3
2 more rows
Apr 4, 2023

Which countries breastfeed least? ›

LONDON — Only 1 in 200 women in the U.K., or 0.5 percent, breastfeed their children until they are 1 year old — the lowest rate in the world.

How long do they recommend breastfeeding? ›

How long should a mother breastfeed? The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [PDF-30.6MB] recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until your child is 12 months old or older.

How long is the ideal breastfeeding session? ›

How Long Does Nursing Take? Newborns may nurse for up to 20 minutes or longer on one or both breasts. As babies get older and more skilled at breastfeeding, they may take about 5–10 minutes on each side.

Can you breastfeed and work La Leche League? ›

There is no legal protection to express milk in your workplace. However, individual employees may negotiate with their employers around their individual breastfeeding needs and the organisational needs of the employer.

How often should you breastfeed La Leche? ›

If you aim to nurse every hour and a-half to two hours during the day and no less than every three hours at night, you will easily achieve the frequency that will help you establish your milk supply and ensure your baby gets enough to help stimulate weight gain.In fact, with frequent and effective nursing during the ...


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