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Signs of Weaning: How to Know It’s Coming

How will you know if your baby is truly weaning, or if it’s a simple (yet incredibly frustrating!) nursing strike? There are several signs of weaning which can help you know the difference.

Signs of weaning: how to know it's coming

Signs of Weaning

Weaning happens over the course of months. Weaning from the breast is a very gradual process of a baby slowly cutting back on the number of nursing sessions and duration of each session. If the baby is suddenly refusing the breast, this could be for any number of reasons, including teething, illness, pain, or emotional stress. This is known as a nursing strike, and usually continues for several days, but does not indicate weaning. Weaning is a gradual decrease in both physical and emotional need to nurse.

Decrease in breastfeeding is accompanied by increased solids. Children do not self-wean without solids being a substantial source of their nutrition intake. If it seems like your baby is refusing to nurse, but they aren’t replacing their caloric intake with solid foods, weaning is not the likely scenario.

Age is relevant. Of course all children are different in their habits, personalities, and needs, but the age of biological weaning is usually between the ages of two and four. If the child is significantly younger than this (particularly under the age of 12 months), then it is not likely for self-weaning to happen without extenuating circumstances (frequent bottle usage, etc.)

The child is not bothered by the lack of nursing. Because weaning happens gradually, signs of weaning should not include a child being upset by the lack of nursing. If baby is unwilling to take the breast but seems distressed by this in any way, look to other causes, such as those mentioned above (pain, teething, illness, etc.) for clues as to why nursing has suddenly decreased.

Weaning should be mostly comfortable for mom. When babies go on nursing strikes (or when moms attempt to wean quickly without removing milk some other way), the breasts can become uncomfortably engorged, leading to pain, plugged ducts, and mastitis. As mentioned above, child-led weaning is gradual, with the child tending to drop one feeding at a time, sucking a shorter amount of time over the weeks as they stop nursing. This will lead to the milk supply decreasing slowly, which should not result in pain or discomfort for mom.

What signs of weaning did your child show?



Rachel Wideman lives with her husband Andrew. They have a 6-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. She is a registered nurse and enjoys knitting and reading.

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