Breastfeeding can be one of the most special parts of motherhood. One of the most personal and sometimes stressful decisions to make as a breastfeeding mom is when to wean.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed until 6 months old, and fed breast milk and solids from 6 months to 1 year old. When it’s time to wean for you and your baby, for whatever reason, experts recommend you take it slow.

“Breastfeeding is only partially about food, and a great deal about security,” says Judy Levy-Stutsky, co-coordinator of parent education and clinical coordinator of outpatient lactation for Adventist HealthCare’s Center for Health Equity and Wellness. “Help make it an easy and gentle transition by letting baby lead and making plenty of time for cuddles and bonding.”

Here are a few other tips to keep in mind when weaning your baby:

  • Make a plan. Look at the calendar and pick a goal date, one that’s at least a month away, to have baby weaned from breastfeeding. Then, make a plan and work toward that date, gradually replacing breastfeeding with a bottle or cup. Knowing what you’re working toward and having plenty of time to reach that goal can help reduce stress and make it easier for you and your baby.
  • Let baby set the pace. One method of weaning is “don’t offer, don’t refuse.” In other words, don’t initiate breastfeeding unless baby wants it, and don’t refuse when baby needs it. This approach may take a little longer, but it can help ease the transition for your baby.
  • Start with a mid-morning or mid-day feeding. Try bottle-feeding or offering a cup when your baby is more likely to be receptive to it, not when she is overly tired or hungry. Consider keeping the first morning or nighttime feedings at the breast, until your little one is used to bottles or a cup. Those early morning and night nursing times provide as much comfort as they do nutrition.
  • Introduce solid foods when it’s right for your baby.

Be sure to go by your baby’s readiness cues, not what family or friends say, when deciding to introduce solid foods.

Your baby might be ready for solid foods if:

  • He’s mastered the pincer grip, and can pick up objects between his index finger and thumb.
  • She mimics your movements when you eat, and closely watches you bring food to your mouth.
  • He can hold his head up without assistance.

Those are just a few signs it may be right to introduce solids. Talk with your pediatrician first, and make a plan for offering first foods.

Have a question about breastfeeding or weaning your baby? Review our breastfeeding resources, sign up for a class or talk to one of our certified breastfeeding experts.