Q&A: How should I wean my baby?
I would like to start weaning my baby at 11 months and have her completely weaned by the time she is 1 year old. I know you are not supposed to start cow's milk until children are 1 year, but I don't want to introduce formula for only a month. Any suggestions?
First, let me congratulate you on your very worthwhile plan to breastfeed your daughter for the full first year of her life, as it really is one of the very best things you can do for your baby’s health. That said, you are correct that it is not recommended to start babies under the age of 1 on regular cow’s milk. While you didn’t say how old your daughter is now, I’ll assume that you are planning how to wean her enough in advance of her turning 1 that you have time to actually pump and store breast milk before starting the weaning process. Getting a head start on storing extra breast milk is a very doable option for anyone who doesn’t want to introduce formula during the weaning process.
While pumping and storing extra breast milk may seem like a daunting task – particularly for breastfeeding moms who may not have pumped or bottle fed before—it’s actually not as difficult as it may seem. A useful thing to keep in mind is the concept of supply and demand. Throughout the first year, your body adapts to your baby’s growing needs (her “demands”) by increasing the supply of breast milk your body makes (your “supply”). If you start pumping and storing a little extra above and beyond what your baby needs, or pumping in lieu of a feeding and then pumping more than your baby typically drinks during each feeding, you’ll be able to start storing and freezing extra milk to use during your month of weaning. Similarly, as you want to get your body to start making less milk, you can simply cut down the number of times you nurse your baby—thus decreasing the “demand.” Just remember that as you start to use stored breast milk in lieu of nursing, you’ll want to use the oldest milk first.
When it comes to the timing of feedings during the weaning process, some moms choose to simply stop nursing all together, relying on their stored supply of breast milk to bottle feed their babies. They then pump or express breast milk only as needed to relieve pressure while their bodies decrease their milk production. Others choose to cut down the number of times they nurse each day much more gradually by introducing a single bottle per day of stored breast milk at first. They then gradually build up to three or four bottles a day over the course of the weaning month. This approach can give soon-to-be toddlers a chance to adjust to bottles and a new feeding routine, while still letting a weaning mother’s body get the necessary signal to decrease the amount of milk it’s making.
Regardless of what approach you take, I hope this information facilitates a very smooth and successful weaning process for you and your baby.