Deciding When to Wean Your Breastfed Baby

when to wean you baby

Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience for many mothers and babies, but you may be considering when it’s time for your breastfeeding journey to end. It's a common question, and the answer can vary from one family to another.

It’s important to consider both the physical and emotional aspects of ceasing breastfeeding, and how you make an informed decision that best suits your family's needs.

What Age to Stop Breastfeeding?

The ideal age to stop breastfeeding varies from family to family. The World Health Organization recommends continuing for up to two years or longer, but many factors, including your child's readiness and your personal circumstances, should influence the decision.

The World Health Organization's Recommendation

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by the introduction of complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years or longer. This recommendation is based on extensive research supporting the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.

  1. Nutrition: Breast milk is a complete source of nutrition for infants. It provides the ideal balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for a baby's growth and development during the first two years of life.

  2. Immune System Support: Breast milk contains antibodies and immune-boosting factors that help protect infants from infections and illnesses. Continuing breastfeeding beyond the first year can further enhance a child's immune system.

  3. Brain Development: Breast milk contains essential fatty acids that support brain development. The long-term cognitive benefits of breastfeeding are particularly significant during the first few years of life.

  4. Emotional Bonding: Breastfeeding fosters a strong emotional bond between mother and child. This emotional connection provides comfort and security, promoting healthy emotional development.

  5. Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Breastfeeding has been linked to a decreased risk of chronic diseases in both children and mothers. It can lower the risk of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers in mothers.

  6. Convenience and Cost-Effective: Breastfeeding is convenient, requiring no preparation or sterilization of bottles. It's also cost-effective compared to formula feeding.

  7. Environmental Benefits: Breastfeeding has a lower environmental impact compared to formula production and packaging, reducing waste and energy consumption.

  8. Natural Weaning: The WHO recognizes that natural weaning, where the child gradually reduces breastfeeding as they become developmentally ready, is a healthy and respectful approach that aligns with a child's individual needs.

Approaching The End to Breastfeeding

The decision to stop breastfeeding is a deeply personal one, influenced by a variety of factors including your child's development, your individual circumstances, and the emotional connection you've cultivated throughout this special time. When the time comes to end your breastfeeding journey, you may consider different approaches to weaning your child from breastfeeding.

Child-Led Weaning

Child-led weaning is an approach where you let your child decide when to stop breastfeeding. This can happen anywhere from two to four years of age or even older. Child-led weaning respects your child's natural weaning process and can promote a strong sense of security and bonding.

Mother-Led Weaning

Mother-led weaning involves the mother taking the initiative to gradually reduce breastfeeding sessions. This approach is often influenced by a mother's personal circumstances, including her physical and emotional well-being, work commitments, or the desire to have more autonomy over her body.

Signs Your Child May Be Ready to Wean

Decreased interest: If your child starts showing less interest in breastfeeding sessions or becomes easily distracted, it might be a sign they are ready to wean.

  • Self-soothing: As your child grows, they may develop other ways to soothe themselves, making them less reliant on breastfeeding for comfort.

  • Sleep patterns: If your child starts sleeping through the night without needing to breastfeed for comfort or nutrition, this may indicate readiness for weaning.

  • Verbal cues: Older children may communicate their readiness to wean through words or gestures, expressing their desire for more independence.

Weaning Gradually

Regardless of whether you choose child-led or mother-led weaning, it's generally recommended to wean gradually. Gradual weaning allows both you and your child to adjust to the change at a comfortable pace, reducing discomfort and potential emotional stress.

Physical and Emotional Aspects of Weaning

Weaning is a multifaceted journey that involves both physical and emotional aspects for both mother and child. Understanding and navigating these elements can help make the process smoother and more fulfilling.

Physical Changes

  • Breast Discomfort: As you reduce breastfeeding sessions, you may experience breast fullness or discomfort. Gradual weaning can help alleviate these sensations.

  • Suppressed Milk Production: Weaning typically leads to a gradual decrease in milk production. This process can take time and varies from person to person. Engorgement and leaking might occur initially but will gradually subside.

  • Menstrual Cycle: For many mothers, weaning can trigger the return of their menstrual cycle, which may have been absent during exclusive breastfeeding. This is a normal part of the hormonal changes associated with weaning.

Emotional Transition

  • Child's Emotional Response: Your child might experience a range of emotions during weaning, such as frustration, sadness, or confusion. Be prepared to provide extra comfort, reassurance, and attention as they adapt to this change.

  • Maternal Emotions: As a mother, weaning can evoke mixed emotions. You may feel a sense of accomplishment and freedom, but it can also be bittersweet, as the close bonding moments of breastfeeding transition into other forms of connection.

  • Maintaining Bonding: While breastfeeding may decrease, it's important to continue nurturing your emotional bond with your child. Cuddling, skin-to-skin contact, and spending quality time together can help maintain the emotional connection you've built.

Patience and Communication

During the weaning process, maintaining open communication with your child is key. Even if your child is too young to fully grasp the concept, explaining the changes in a simple, age-appropriate manner can help ease the transition.

Pay close attention to your child's cues and emotions. Some children may adapt to weaning quickly, while others may resist the change. It's essential to be patient and responsive to their needs throughout this journey.

Listening to your child and providing comfort when needed can make the process smoother and less stressful for both of you.

Celebrating Milestones

As you embark on the weaning journey, take moments to celebrate the milestones you achieve along the way. Breastfeeding is a significant part of your mother-child bonding experience, and transitioning away from it can be bittersweet.

Creating special keepsakes or commemorating achievements in a meaningful way can help you and your child appreciate the journey you've taken together. These celebratory moments can serve as a reminder of the love and connection you've built while breastfeeding, fostering a positive outlook on the changes ahead.

Seeking Support

Throughout the weaning process, seeking support is vital. If you encounter challenges or discomfort related to weaning, consider reaching out to lactation consultants or experts who can provide guidance and solutions.

Additionally, don't underestimate the power of emotional support. Friends, family, or support groups can offer valuable empathy and understanding as you navigate the physical and emotional aspects of weaning.

Sharing your feelings and experiences with others who have gone through similar transitions can be reassuring and comforting, helping you feel more prepared and less alone during this transformative time.


Deciding when to stop breastfeeding is a deeply personal choice. The "right" age to stop breastfeeding varies from family to family, and it should be determined by the unique needs and circumstances of both you and your child.

Whether you choose child-led weaning or mother-led weaning, the key is to prioritize your child's well-being, emotional connection, and your own physical and emotional health throughout the journey.

Trust your instincts, communicate openly with your child, and remember that the bond between you and your child will continue to flourish, even as your breastfeeding journey evolves.

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Author, Founder @ Latch Luxe

Stefanie Statler

Stefanie Statler is an author and the founder of Latch Luxe, with a loving husband and daughter. She is a dedicated advocate for breastfeeding mothers and understands the challenges and joys of motherhood firsthand. Email me at

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