Q&A: My baby's weaning herself. What should I do?
I've read that I should breastfeed my daughter until she's one year old, but she is losing interest and weaning herself. What should I do?
Most babies go through phases in the first year of life that can disguise themselves as early weaning. After the first six months, when babies are reaching different developmental milestones—such as sitting, crawling, and even walking—breastfeeding can seem like a distraction.
In addition to this problem, sometimes what appears to be early weaning can instead be due to a reduction in your milk supply. If Baby is drinking from a sippy cup or bottle, this may further decrease your milk supply (your baby may enjoy the faster flow, increased independence, and mobility of feeding herself).
Most moms believe that a baby weaning before one year is normal, and many women aren’t aware that this may be a temporary state of affairs—and not necessarily a sign that Baby is ready to wean. Conversely, many women are discouraged, much like you, because they want to nurse longer and know there are benefits to doing so.
Preventing Premature Weaning
Try these tips to prevent premature weaning:
- Make sure that breast milk is a large part of your baby’s nutritional intake
- Increase solid foods gradually after six months
- Offer breast milk before solids are offered
- Avoid giving water or juices, which can make your baby feel full and uninterested in nursing
- Limit pacifier use
- Use sippy cups instead of bottles
- If using bottles, use a slower flow nipple (so she doesn’t get used to a fast flow)
- Try distracting your baby while nursing to keep her interested (let her hold a small toy, sing, hold hands, read or tell stories)
- Try a new position—let her sit up on your lap while nursing
- Be available to the baby when she wants to nurse (frequent delays or being held off for feeds can lead to weaning)
- Be in close physical contact with your baby—even letting her snuggle or sleep with you at night
- Pay attention to changes (milestones) if they are in conjunction with a sudden disinterest in nursing
- Talk to other moms who have worked through a nursing strike
- Talk with a lactation consultant or your pediatrician
Setting a goal to nurse for one full year is a good idea. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) would like to see all moms breastfeed for at least the first 12 months of a child’s life (longer if possible) for maximum health benefits for Mom and Baby. So, hang in there—this stage will hopefully pass!