Self-weaning is a gradual process common amongst babies over a year old. You can tell when your baby is self-weaning when they start losing interest in breast milk, gets distracted, feeds lesser and infrequently, or altogether skip breastfeeding. If there is a pre-mature self-weaning, you should take the necessary steps to ensure it doesn’t happen.
Breast milk is the most nutritious liquid for your infant, especially for the first 6 months of their life, and they need nothing more than your milk.
Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the first 6 months be focused on breastfeeding. If your baby starts weaning, you can switch to other milk.
But what is it that drives your baby to start self-weaning? What are the signs you should watch out for? And if you’re not yet ready for your baby to wean, is there any way to continue breastfeeding? Let’s tackle all these questions one by one.
What is self-weaning?
Don’t worry this doesn’t happen overnight but actually takes longer and comes gradually. You can probably begin to notice it if you take in the breastfeeding patterns of your baby.
Why self-weaning takes place?
While some babies are taught how to stop breastfeeding and focus on the external way to get that nutrition over time as they grow older, some babies start to self-wean.
This is crucial because as your baby grows older, they need to get more nutrition in other forms, and your breast milk can no longer fulfill all their nutrition needs.
With time, they need to learn how to eat solid foods, and become independent, as they gradually start nursing less with time. Self-weaning depends on the child to child.
Some start it before they turn one year old. If they self-wean before they turn a year old, you should replace your milk with formula and make sure their milk intake doesn’t stop.
Signs your baby is self-weaning
As I said, your baby doesn’t just stop breastfeeding overnight, but it is a process that happens gradually. Your baby is ready to self-wean when:
- They turn one year old.
- Drinks well from a cup.
- Gets more of their nutrition from solid foods.
You can notice the following signs in a self-weaning baby:
- Losing interest in breastfeeding
- Distracted while breastfeeding
- Start to skip breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding for shorter periods
- Gradually breastfeeding less frequently
Note: If your little one has started to show these signs before they turn one year old, it might be temporary because of reasons like teething, feeling sick, distracted, or if you’re pregnant. Also known as a nursing strike, which can be due to various other reasons, which can bring your baby back to healthy nursing if taken care of.
Reasons your baby is self-weaning
Decrease in milk supply
There are times when self-weaning in babies occurs because mothers start to produce a lesser amount of milk. As a turn, their supply decreases over time.
Your baby will become less interested in nursing if your breast milk supply isn’t adequate to their needs. They will prefer taking formula instead as they can get the amount they need.
There can be many factors why your milk supply is decreasing:
- Your baby nursing on time and your body producing adequate milk are interrelated and dependent on each other. If one is affected, the other get affected directly.
- A sudden drop in your calorie intake can affect your milk supply.
- Certain medications can also affect your supply.
- If you introduce solids to your baby before they turn 6-month-old can change their preferences.
As your baby grows older, their developmental abilities start moving at a faster pace.
Now, they are interested in a lot of things and want to explore everything around them. As a result, older babies cannot concentrate on breastfeeding as much as they do till they turn 6 months old.
Cups and bottle
As you introduce your baby to cups and bottles, they get more involved in them. Finding it much easier to drink from them, they tend to lean towards fulfilling their milk requirements from a cup or bottle.
They can quickly drink from their bottle and play simultaneously or move around in the house.
It is evident that when you introduce your baby to solid foods as they turn one year old, they find this new food quite interesting. This is because their bodies tend to get all the required nutrition from all this new food, and they lean towards it rather than focusing on nursing.
How to stop premature self-weaning?
If you’re not ready for your baby’s self-weaning and want to delay it for some time, you can do a few things:
Start increasing the times you nurse your baby. Make a feeding schedule, and don’t wait around for your baby to start demanding to nurse. Likewise, don’t force if they don’t want to nurse.
You can increase your milk supply by eating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Apart from this, start pumping your milk, as it’s a great way to store your milk whenever your baby demands it, and it also makes sure your supply is maintained.
Make sure there are fewer to no distractions when breastfeeding your baby. And be patient with your little one as sometimes they might not be in the mood, but you need to make sure they keep on feeding in regular intervals.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is weaning traumatic for the baby?
Weaning should always take place gradually. If it’s sudden, then it’s problematic and traumatic for you and your little one. It should never be before they turn 6 months old.
If your baby is losing interest in breastfeeding, there are multiple ways to ensure they keep on feeding your breast milk.
Do babies self-wean from night feeds?
When your baby starts to wean, then they usually start by losing interest in night feeds. Your baby can now learn how to sleep longer at night without needing any milk.
So, you can even help in the process by reducing their night feeds. It is much more comfortable that way.
What are the side effects of stopping breastfeeding?
It is normal to feel emotional and at a loss for some time after your baby stops breastfeeding, as nursing became a part of your life for many months. However, this only lasts for a short time, and you shouldn’t be too worried. Even your baby will soon adjust to not getting nursed.
How many times a day should you feed a weaning baby?
For a weaning baby, try increasing the amount of food you give them slowly. You can tell best depending on how much your baby is feeding and how much you need to feed them the solid food.
Gradually, they won’t be needing your milk and shift to eat solid food for all their meals. Try to make a balanced diet for them.
Do you gain weight after stopping breastfeeding?
Depends on your body, most women notice their weight gain after stopping breastfeeding, but other notice it remains stable. So, it really depends on your body type and metabolism.
Self-weaning is the most natural way for your baby to stop breastfeeding and depend on solid foods for their nutritional intakes. And many signs can tell you how and when your baby is self-weaning.
You can make this process easier by helping them latch onto solid foods and reducing their intake of breast milk.
If your baby is pre-maturing into self-weaning, then you should take the necessary steps to ensure they keep on breastfeeding for at least 6 months. Then change it up with the formula for the next 6 months.
Understandably, you might not be ready for your self-weaning baby. Still, your baby knows more than you expect, and although it might be a bitter-sweet experience, you should be happy about the next chapter in your baby’s life.