The decision to wean your baby isn't an easy one to make. Whether you're reluctant to give nursing up, excited to have your body back, or a mixture of the two, no one can make the decision to wean except you and your baby. There are two primary ways to wean your baby from breastfeeding and, like most aspects of raising children, they'll both look differently from one family to the next.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, mothers are recommended to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, and continue with solids and breastfeeding until at least 12 months. After this point, there really aren't any "official" recommendations for the best way to wean your baby from breastfeeding, leaving it up to what works best for each mother and baby.
The first weaning method focuses on letting your baby take the lead, often called Baby Led Weaning. In this method, parents wait until their baby shows a undeniable interest in solid food (ie. reaching for the food on their plate, and wanting to try solids instead of nurse,) before weaning at all.
The method, according to What To Expect, is very gradual. Proponents of BLW steer clear of purees, rice cereals, and traditional baby foods, instead opting for feeding their baby strips and manageable pieces of finger food. Think foods like strips of chicken, banana, avocado, strips of bread, and any fruits and veggies that are easy to gnaw and chew on.
Not only is this method incredibly convenient — no buying extra food or making it yourself — it's proven to teach babies how to handle, chew, and enjoy a large variety of foods.
The only drawback to the method is that it takes time. It's entirely reliant on your baby's interests. In fact, in the beginning, your baby will still rely on breastmilk for their main source of nutrition until they get the hang of eating and feeding themselves.
The second option, Mother Led Weaning, is great if you need to stop breastfeeding quickly or if you choose to wean due to something like going back to work, a vacation, or just because you feel that you're both ready.
In Mother Led Weaning, it's still easiest to take it slow, not quitting cold turkey, but you can probably increase the amount of solids quicker and lessen the amount of nursing sessions as a quicker rate when you're not totally reliant on your baby's cues. According to Baby Center, quitting cold turkey can be traumatic for your baby and cause you a fair amount of pain from engorgement, clogged ducts, or mastitis.
Baby Center noted that mother led weaning can take a lot of patience and time as well, since your baby may not be on the same page as you. However, simply dropping a feeding here and there, while increasing the amount of solids you introduce at a gradual pace will ensure that your baby is weaned in a reasonable amount of time
Whatever method you decide to go with (or maybe even a mix of the two,) knowing when the time is right to wean from breastfeeding is a choice only you and your baby can make, so don't let the opinions or criticism of others influence what works best for the two of you.