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Weaning

7-minute read

Key facts

  • Weaning is when you stop breastfeeding.
  • It can happen at any time after breastfeeding has begun.
  • Weaning may be parent-led or baby-led.
  • Replace breast milk with other fluids.

What is weaning?

Weaning is when you stop breastfeeding your baby or toddler. It is a natural process, and all growing children go through it, but it can sometimes be a difficult time.

Weaning can happen at any time. It can happen shortly after birth, or when your child is older. Most children are weaned by the age of 3 years. But it is a personal choice, and you can breastfeed for as long as you and your child would like.

The World Health Organization suggests exclusively breastfeeding your baby for their first 6 months. You can then combine breastfeeding with solid foods until your baby is 2 years old or longer.

The best time to wean is when you or your child feel that the time is right. It’s not when your friends or relatives feel you should stop breastfeeding.

How is weaning different from introducing solids?

Weaning is different from introducing solids. Weaning is when you stop breastfeeding your baby and replace breastfeeds with another fluid. This may be: expressed breast milk, formula or milk (depending on your baby’s age).

Weaning is different for everyone. It’s important to remember that it’s a process. The time taken to wean varies from person to person.

Are there different ways to wean my baby?

Weaning can take place in 2 different ways:

  1. Parent-led weaning — there may be many reasons why you want to wean your baby, such as:
    • problems with breastfeeding
    • another pregnancy
    • medical issues
    • going back to work
    • just deciding it’s the right time
  2. Baby-led weaning — this is when your baby stops showing an interest in breastfeeding.

How do I wean my baby?

Depending on your baby’s age you can wean them from breast milk to a cup or a bottle.

  • First, stop the breastfeed your baby seems least interested in.
  • Next, stop another breastfeed. This may happen after a few days or it might take longer. It will depend on how you and your baby are coping.
  • Express breast milk when you need to. This will help you to stay comfortable.
  • Check for lumps in your breasts every day. Massage any lumps you find to help avoid mastitis.
  • If your breasts are painful, paracetamol, cold packs and a snug fitting bra may help.

You can ask a Lactation Consultant for advice on how to wean.

Weaning slowly

Slow weaning has many advantages for you and your baby.

For you, it will be more comfortable because your milk supply will fall slowly. This will reduce your risk of blocked ducts and mastitis. You will also avoid a sudden hormonal change.

Slow weaning gives your child time to adjust. Occasional breastfeeds can still be used to comfort your child.

Rapid weaning

Sometimes there are reasons why you might need to stop breastfeeding very quickly. This can happen: shortly after birth or after you’ve been breastfeeding for a while.

There are medicines that stop you making milk. But these don’t work well if you have been breastfeeding for a while.

For babies younger than 12 months

If your baby is less than 12 months of age, they will need to have breastfeeds replaced with formula.

Babies who are fully weaned before 12 months need about 600 mL of formula a day. Ask your child health nurse to help you with this.

Cow’s milk is not suitable for babies under 12 months of age. Until your baby reaches 12 months, you should continue feeding them expressed breast milk or formula.

For babies older than 12 months

Children who are older than 12 months of age can have cows' milk as a drink. They only need about 1 to 1 ½ cups (250 to 375 mL) a day. Toddler formulas aren’t needed.

Give drinks (water and milk) in a cup.

My baby doesn’t want to wean

If your baby is finding weaning difficult, try:

  • offering only one breast at each feed
  • offering formula before breast milk (if weaning on to formula)
  • offering solids before breastfeeding (if your baby is older than 12 months)

Make sure that you still spend lots of time with your baby.

How do I wean my toddler?

There are many things you can do to make weaning easier for both you and your toddler.

Explain to your toddler that breastfeeding will stop soon. Toddlers understand more than they can say.

Here are some tips to help both of you:

  • Stop the early morning feed by getting up and getting dressed before your toddler wakes.
  • Keep feeding times the same.
  • Discourage long feeds.
  • To stop feeding when you are out, wear clothing that makes it harder for your toddler to get to your breasts.
  • If you have always fed your child to sleep, change their routine. Start to increase the time between their feed and bedtime.
  • If your baby wakes at night, have your partner re-settle them.

Be guided by both your and your toddler’s needs.

Where can I get more information about weaning?

For information and advice on weaning, call:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2022


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Need more information?

Weaning: stopping breastfeeding | Raising Children Network

Whether weaning is led by you or baby, you can make the process of stopping breastfeeding easier if you take it slowly to start with. Get more tips.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Should I stop breastfeeding? | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Should I keep breastfeeding or wean? There are many reasons for weaning, but with support you may decide to keep feeding.  

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Rapid weaning (Lactation suppression) | Australian Breastfeeding Association

Need to wean fast? There are ways to dry up your milk or stop it coming in. 

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Weaning at 6 Months | Tresillian

Babies start weaning when they begin consuming foods other than breastmilk. For advice on weaning check out Tresillian's tip page.

Read more on Tresillian website

Weaning for older children | Raising Children Network

Is it time for weaning for your toddler or preschooler? How you wean is up to you, but it helps to take things slowly and give your child cuddles and comfort.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Weaning your toddler or child | Australian Breastfeeding Association

You’ve loved breastfeeding and you know it’s good for them. But now you’re ready to stop.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Weaning | Australian Breastfeeding Association

It depends on the age of your baby or child and how quickly you want to reduce or stop your baby's feeds.

Read more on Australian Breastfeeding Association website

Breastfeeding Advice | Tresillian

Find top breastfeeding tips and answers to common questions, including advice on how to increase your milk supply and weaning your baby.

Read more on Tresillian website

Night weaning & phasing out night feeds | Raising Children Network

There’s no hurry to phase out night feeds, but night weaning and phasing out night feeds might be an option once your baby is about six months old. Read more.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Breastfeeding tips - Ngala

There are many things you can do to support breastfeeding as your baby grows and develops

Read more on Ngala website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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