Breastfeeding is an amazing time for both mama and baby. From the countless nutritional benefits to the time spent bonding, it's an irreplaceable time in both you and your baby's lives. (But you already knew that.) At some point though, all good things must come to an end, and you might be tossing around the idea that your baby might be slowly weaning from breastfeeding. Whether your ready to be done or are a bit sad that your breastfeeding relationship is coming to a close, there are a few ways your baby may be trying to tell you they're ready to wean — and you should listen.
Weaning, like every aspect of parenthood, won't look the same for every family. Each baby will start to wean at different ages and for longer (or shorter) amounts of time. Whatever the case may be, as long as you've nursed for the recommended amount of time (at least six months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics), weaning probably isn't too far off.
And believe it or not, the process doesn't have to be painful, contrary to popular belief. If you don't wean abruptly, giving both your body and your baby time to adjust to new schedules and new foods, the process should be smooth and trauma free.
1. They're Past The Recommended Age For Exclusive Nursing
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding until at least six months of age and then breastfeeding with solids until (or beyond) 12 months. After you start to introduce solids to your baby, a natural weaning process will already begin. Although how much you nurse your baby versus feed them solids will be up to you, it's best to at least wait until they've reached the six month point.
2. They're Doing Well With Solids And Eat A Variety Of Foods
No matter if you start with purees or a more "whole foods" approach to introducing your baby to new foods, it's important that they are doing well and are enjoying a wide variety of nutrients before you limit nursing sessions.
The American Pregnancy Association notes that with such an incredible list of vitamins, fats, carbs, and proteins found in breast milk, it can be hard to justify removing those nutrients from your baby's diet if they're not being made up for elsewhere. Remembering to introduce new foods from different food groups will ensure that your baby is still getting the key nutrients they need to stay healthy.
3. They Drop Feedings On Their Own
Different than being easily distracted, which your baby will naturally become as they become more and more involved with the world around them, a baby who is ready to wean will start to take steps toward dropping feedings on their own, according to Baby Center.
Just as you wouldn't set a specific time frame for your child to reach other milestones like rolling over or sitting up, they shouldn't be expected to give up their need for breast milk by a specific age. However, when your baby is eating enough solid that they're not as interested in nursing, it's fine to start gradually dropping feedings.
4. They've Mastered The "Pincer Grab"
If your nursing sessions are lessening, it's important that your baby has reached a point where they can feed themselves, to ensure that they're eating as much as they need to be. Sometime between the age of eight and 12 months your baby will master the "pincer grab," according to Parents. This means that it will be much easier and more effective for them to feed themselves, instead of you having to spoon feed them for each meal.
5. They Nurse For Shorter Periods Of Time
According to Breastfeeding USA, you shouldn't limit their nursing sessions in an effort to help them wean. However, if they're starting to stop nursing on their own, or aren't as fussy as normal during your regular feeding times, it may be a sign that they're ready to move on to more solid foods.