If you’re breastfeeding, you know that nursing is a wonderful experience that brings you and your baby closer. But even good things come to an end. How do you know when it’s time to wean?
There’s no magic age when you must wean your baby. As long as you and your little one are happy, you can continue breastfeeding into the toddler years. It’s also worth noting that, given enough time, all babies will wean themselves naturally, gradually reducing the number of times they nurse while increasing the amount of solid food they eat until eventually they are no longer breastfeeding.
Here are three signs that weaning has begun naturally or that it’s time to begin:
1. Your baby has become too busy to breastfeed.Once your child is mobile, he may become too busy exploring his world to sit still and nurse, especially during the day. But don’t be surprised if he still nuzzles up to you for a little breastfeeding closeness before bedtime or when he’s in need of comfort.
2. Your baby’s tastes shift to solid food. Once your little one discovers solid food, she may begin to lose interest in breast milk in favor of all the interesting new tastes and textures you are now offering her. Keep in mind, however, that solid foods should not replace breast milk before your child’s first birthday. Instead, think of solids as an addition to breast milk (or formula) until your baby is at least 1 year old.
3. Your lifestyle has changed. Your baby isn’t the only one whose life is evolving. A new pregnancy, a change in your job situation, a shift in schedule, new activities, or simply a waning desire on your part to continue breastfeeding — these are all valid reasons to start weaning your baby.
Finally, if you are weaning your baby (or she is weaning herself), don’t forget that her delicate digestive system won’t be ready for cow’s milk until she’s 1 year old. Until then, offer breast milk or formula in a bottle or cup to supplement solid food. No matter when weaning starts or how it occurs, mark this transition as another positive step in your little one’s development.
This article first appeared on The Healthy Moms Magazine on November, 21, 2013.