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Weaning Your Baby

Weaning is the process of moving your baby from breast or bottle-feeding to using a cup. When you first introduce a cup to your baby (recommended around 7 months of age), you begin weaning. Your goal should be to have your toddler use only a cup by 12 to 15 months of age.

Why is Early Weaning Important?

  • Improper bottle use can cause tooth decay. Early loss of teeth may make it difficult for your child to talk.
  • Bottle use may cause frequent ear infections.
  • An older child is harder to wean. Your child will get more attached to the bottle/breast and become less willing to give it up.
  • Too much nursing or use of bottles may reduce the toddler's appetite for solid food.
  • Prevents cow's milk iron deficiency anemia.

Tips to Make Weaning Easier

  • Begin by letting your child hold an empty, plastic cup to get used to it.
  • Let the child take small amounts of formula, breast milk, juice, or water by cup. Be prepared for spills; it will take practice.
  • Help your child drink until he or she can do it alone.
  • Gradually (every 3-4 days) cut down on the number of bottles or nursing and increase the number of cups your child takes per day.
  • At bedtime: if you have been using a bottle, this should be the first bottle to take away. A drink of water from a cup is fine. Try rocking, singing or reading a story to help the child prepare to go to bed.
  • After awhile, offer only juice from a cup. Limit juice to 4 ounces per day. Offer water if thirsty between meals.
  • If your baby is not breastfed, limit formula to 24-32 ounces per day for your 6-8 month old, 16-32 ounces per day for your 8-10 month old, and 16-24 ounces per day for your 10-12 month old.
  • Limit whole milk to 16-24 ounces per day for children 12 months old to 2 years of age. Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk after 2 years of age.
  • When you go out, take along snacks like plain crackers, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, and water or milk in a thermos with a cup. Offer your child the cup when he or she is hungry instead of milk or juice from a bottle.

For Breastfed Babies Only

  • If you must wean suddenly: On the first day, replace every other feeding with a cup or bottle, depending on the age of the child. On the second day, replace the remaining feedings. Make sure that your baby continues to get lots of special attention and plenty of skin-to-skin contact. If weaning to a bottle, try using a bottle nipple similar to the breast or the baby's pacifier if they use one.
  • Your breasts will continue to produce milk for up to one month after sudden weaning. Express only enough milk to relieve the tenderness. A cold washcloth or ice applied to the breasts may ease discomfort. Contact your doctor if you have any problems or questions.
  • As your baby is weaned, his or her bowel movements will probably become more formed, and the color will change from brownish-yellow to brownish-green. In rare cases, your baby may develop cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. Call the baby's doctor if this happens.
  • As you nurse less, your breasts will produce less milk, until you eventually stop making milk. Your breasts will then return to their usual size.
  • For you, feelings of sadness or loss are common due to the hormonal changes. Remember, weaning is a normal stage in your child's development. It is not a rejection of you.