Breastfeeding comes with its fair share of highs and lows, and you’ve been through them all! But now you’re ready to start weaning your baby. You’re just not quite sure how to go about this daunting task.

With a few simple steps, you can make the transition from breast to bottle as smooth as possible! In this article, Mustela’s baby experts will discuss when to start weaning, how to do it, and a few tips for caring for yourself and your baby during the process.

What Is Weaning?

The word “weaning” can refer to a baby starting to eat and drink things other than breastmilk. It can also be used to talk about the transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. Finally, sometimes weaning means that the baby completely stops taking a bottle.

In this article, we’re talking about transitioning a baby from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. This means you’ll quit breastfeeding entirely or drastically reduce how often you breastfeed. If that’s your goal, you’re in the right place!

When To Begin Weaning Your Baby

The decision of when to start weaning your baby is a completely personal one and depends on several different factors.

It’s worth mentioning that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively (no water, no juice, no solid food) for the first six months or so. After that, they advise adding solid foods to baby’s diet along with continued breastfeeding until one year.

Breast milk is packed full of nutrients that your rapidly growing little one needs, so you might want to continue breastfeeding as long as your little one will have you!

But there are also plenty of reasons you may need or want to wean your baby from the breast to the bottle at any given time. Maybe you aren’t producing enough milk, you’re going back to work, or you have mastitis — and those are only a few of the possible reasons.

All of this means that there’s no one “right time” to start weaning! It’s completely up to you and your baby’s needs.

You also have the option of letting your baby wean naturally. This means that you offer breastfeeding when they want it as you introduce other food and drink at age-appropriate times.

mom feeding her baby solid food after weaning

Some babies will naturally begin weaning when they start solid foods around six months old but won’t fully give up breastfeeding until they’re two years old or older. Others will lose interest in breastfeeding completely once they’ve been given solids.

All of that being said, is there a bad time to start weaning? It’s probably best not to start the weaning process if your little one has been sick or if you and your family are going through a lot of stress or changes.

If possible, wait until you and your baby are in good shape to begin the weaning process, which can be a little stressful for both of you!

How To Wean Your Baby

mother weaning her baby by feeding them a bottle

Once you’ve decided to wean your little one, you’ll need to know how to make the big transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding. It’s really pretty simple, and we’ll lay it out for you here with just a few steps.

1) Take It Slowly

There are situations in which a mother might have to wean in a hurry. But if you can, make the transition gradually. Weaning slowly will help your baby adapt to a bottle without too much stress and will help keep you and your breasts as comfortable as possible!

Plan to wean over the space of at least a few weeks. If you’re heading back to work soon and want your little one weaned before that, think ahead and start several weeks prior.

2) Replace One Feeding At A Time

Begin weaning by swapping one breastfeeding session per day with a bottle-feeding. If your little one has a least favorite breastfeeding session or you notice a low milk supply at a certain time of day, replace that feeding.

Instead of breastfeeding at that time, give your baby a bottle of your milk or formula.

After several days like that, replace one more feeding with a bottle. Continue this pattern until your baby is no longer breastfeeding or until you’ve reached your goal number of breastfeeding sessions per day.

For example, maybe you want to continue breastfeeding in the morning and at bedtime but give a bottle for all other feedings.

3) Go At Your Own Pace

There’s no set rule about how long you have to wait before increasing the number of breastfeeding sessions you replace. If you want to wean super slowly, feel free to wait a few extra days in-between.

4) Make Yourself Comfortable

Here’s another reason to wean gradually: your breasts will take the hint and naturally adjust to the reduced demand for milk. That means you’ll be less likely to have breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, or a breast infection.

But even with a slow transition, your breasts might feel uncomfortable. To give yourself some relief, express a little bit of breastmilk. Just not too much or your body might think you’re still breastfeeding and keep up the milk production!

Tips For Weaning Your Baby

We’ve explained the backbones of weaning your little one. To help things go smoothly for you, we’ll also list a few tips to keep you and your baby happy and healthy during this time!

1) Start With Breast Milk

Even if you’re planning on using formula in your baby’s bottles, start off giving bottles of your breast milk. Your infant might take to a bottle more easily if they recognize the breast milk they’ve come to know and love!

2) Try Different Bottle Nipples

The switch from your breast to a plastic bottle nipple can be understandably frustrating for your little one! If they seem to be having a hard time, don’t hesitate to try out different bottle nipples. You might find one that your baby takes more easily than others.

3) Care For Your Nipples

mother sitting on a bed breastfeeding her baby

No matter how much you’re currently breastfeeding, take care of your nipples. Your body goes through a lot between pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, so you’ll want to show your nipples some TLC!

To moisturize and protect your nipples, apply Mustela’s Nursing Comfort Balm after nursing. This soothing cream is fragrance-free, paraben-free, and made of 100% naturally derived ingredients — safe for both you and your baby!

4) Change The Routine

dad feeding baby a bottle because she is weaning

A switch from your normal nursing routine could help your baby realize they aren’t breastfeeding and allow them to take a bottle more easily.

Feed them in a different room, change chairs, or stand up if you normally sit down while breastfeeding. Also, try letting your partner feed your baby until they are comfortable taking a bottle.

5) Offer A Sippy Cup

If your baby just can’t stand the idea of a bottle, consider skipping the bottle and going straight to a sippy cup if they’re old enough to get the hang of it.

6) Continue Cuddling Your Baby

Nursing provides mommy-baby cuddle time and skin-to-skin contact. As you breastfeed less and less, you might notice that you also spend a little less time touching and cuddling your baby.

Make up for it by giving your little one plenty of mommy time — hold them, cuddle them, talk to them, and make eye contact with them while holding them and playing with them.

7) Have Patience With Yourself

Weaning can be an emotional time for you as a mother! Have patience with yourself no matter what emotions you’re experiencing.

You might feel sad that your baby’s breastfeeding chapter is coming to a close. Or you might be happy and excited for the extra freedom that weaning gives you.

Either way, show yourself and your emotions some extra grace during this time!

8) Take Care Of Your Body

woman applying cream to her neck after taking a shower

Weaning can be physically and emotionally hard for you as a mom. Pamper yourself and take care of your body with products like Mustela’s Bust Firming Serum.

To give your skin a firmer look and feel, simply massage this serum onto your breasts, neckline, and neck every morning and evening. Relax and enjoy!

Take Care Of Both Of You While Weaning

Whether weaning turns out to be a breeze for you and your little one or you both struggle through it, the key is lots of patience and TLC!

Follow our steps and tips for weaning your baby and throw in extra cuddles and snuggles! And don’t forget to take care of yourself while you wean your little one.

Express your breast milk as needed, have patience with your emotions, and care for your skin with Bust Firming Serum and Nursing Comfort Balm. With these tips, your baby will be enjoying their bottle before you know it!