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Weaning from the Breast

Dr. Koren is the founder and director of the Motherisk Program and professor of Paediatrics, Pharmacology, Pharmacy, and Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto. He is also the Richard and Jean Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology in the Schulich School of Medicine, at The University of Western Ontario, where he holds the rank of professor in Medicine and Paediatrics.


I have been breastfeeding my baby for a year and I think it’s time to wean her. How long should it take?

Answer:
Weaning may take several weeks or it could take up to 6 months. It all depends on you and your relationship with your baby.


You have been breastfeeding for almost two years. You were happy about it, but you feel now is the time to end it. Your toddler does not agree with you and he or she makes it known very vocally. What is the best way to wean your baby? Today more and more women breastfeed. They recognize that this is the ideal infant nutrition. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends a minimum of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, but many women continue to breastfeed for much longer, while gradually introducing different foods.

Weaning totally from breastfeeding before age one generally means that you will need to supplement, at least partially, with formula. Gradually, your baby will receive less and less of his or her nutritional requirements from breastfeeding. Yet, for your baby breastfeeding is much more than a method of nutrition, it is a major source of comfort, bonding and relaxation. Itt is about being close to you.

Here are some of the weaning rules suggested by breastfeeding experts:

  • Start by adding small amounts of soft or liquid foods after the end of the full breastfeeding, and gradually increase the amounts of food you add. 
  • When the toddler seems to eat other foods well, start by introducing the food first, and breastfeed only toward the end of the meal. 
  • It may not be ideal or easy to wean a child when he or she is sick. A baby who has the flu, an ear infection, or gastroenteritis, may need more comfort and reassurance and you may want to put off weaning during this time. 
  • Similarly, moving house, or going back to work may not be ideal times for little ones to give up breastfeeding.

Today, many more women, acknowledging the benefits of breastfeeding, continue to breastfeed well into and beyond the second year of life. This is a major commitment: you might have returned to work outside the home, or you want to sleep through the night. You may be tired.

Then comes the moment when you feel you wish to wean your baby totally. Typically this may take up to several weeks, during which he or she will use all their charm to dissuade you or simply protest your unilateral decision. Weaning may take several weeks (as in most cases), or it may take up to 6 months. There is no norm here. It all depends on you and your relationship with your baby. There is no right or wrong. Just listen to yourself.


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The Information on this web page is provided for educational information purposes only. It is not designed or intended to constitute medical advice or to be used for diagnosis or to replace your physician. Consult your physician to determine the appropriateness of the Information for your specific situation and before making any decision regarding treatment and/or medication. The Information is believed to be reliable when posted. However, neither Motherisk nor The Hospital for Sick Children guarantee or warrant the quality, accuracy, completeness, timeliness, appropriateness or suitability of the Information provided. Reference to or mention of specific products or services do not constitute an endorsement by Motherisk or The Hospital for Sick Children or Shoppers Drug Mart.