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- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their life and then continue to breastfeed with solids until at least 12 months of age.
- When your little one begins eating solids at six months, he or she will still depend on breast milk for the majority of their calories, but as he or she begins to eat more solids, your breast milk will begin to supplement the meals and snacks her or she eats through 12 months of age.
- During daytime weaning, your baby will continue to nurse on demand. The switch to solids will happen gradually as your little one slowly replaces breast milk with solids.
- Though the time for weaning will be exciting, don’t be surprised if you feel a little emotional about cutting back on feedings. This is completely normal.
In the early days of breastfeeding, your little one needed to eat every two to three hours (or more often!), which probably made you feel at times that breastfeeding would never end. As your little one grows, however, he or she will begin to replace some breastfeeding sessions with solid foods. This is an exciting time that can also be a little emotional for you.
When and Why You Should Begin Cutting Out Feedings
Your baby will still need milk for a while. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their life and then continue to breastfeed with solids until at least 12 months of age.
When your little one begins eating solids at six months, he or she will still depend on breast milk for the majority of their calories. As he or she gets better at eating solids, your breast milk will begin to gradually supplement the meals and snacks her or she eats through 12 months of age.
Between four and six months of age, your little one will begin to sleep through the night, which means he or she will sleep for a stretch of seven to 12 hours. This will mean more sleep for you (thank goodness!) and less breastfeeding sessions with your little one.
What to Expect When You Begin Decreasing Feedings
The first time you wake up after your little one has slept through the night, you may run to their room or crib in a panic to make sure all is well. You will also probably wake up with breasts that feel fuller than usual. Your body makes breast milk based on “supply and demand.” The more milk (or less milk) your little one needs, the more or less your body will make. Your body will eventually adjust to the decrease in nighttime feedings by making less milk during this time.
During daytime weaning, your baby will continue to nurse on demand. The switch to solids will happen gradually as your little one slowly replaces breast milk with solids. Because of this gradual change, you may not notice any extra milk or experience the feeling of fullness.
Best Methods for Cutting Back on Feeding Sessions
By four to six months of age, experts agree that a healthy, full-term baby can go through the night without breastfeeding. That doesn’t mean that your little one won’t continue to wake up at night and want to nurse. This may be because you’ve just returned to work and he or she wants to spend some extra time with you and enjoy a midnight snack or because he or she is simply used to waking up at night.
If you want to cut down on nighttime feedings and your little one is ready, it’s important that you have two important things in place first:
- Your little one is put down to sleep independently (without nursing) initially at the beginning of the night. If your baby is used to nursing to sleep, he or she will have a difficult time getting themselves back to sleep on their own should they wake up in the middle of the night. Nurse your little one and then put them to bed while they are still awake so they can learn to get to sleep on their own.
- You must structure your daytime breastfeeding (or pumping) sessions to ensure that your baby is getting all of the calories and nutrition he or she needs during daytime hours. If your little one misses a breastfeeding session, or you miss out on a pumping session, your baby will be too hungry to go through the night and your milk supply may decrease.
Once you have both of these things down, start by decreasing the time of your nighttime feeding sessions. By four to five months, most babies are breastfeeding experts and can get all of the nutrition they need in 10 to 15 minutes (after this, your little one may just be comfort nursing). Watch your little one closely; as soon as he or she begins comfort sucking, gently unlatch him or her and put them back to bed.
When your little one first starts solids, always begin by either breastfeeding or offering your little one a pumped bottle. Once some of their hunger has subsided, he or she will be more likely to want to eat solid foods.
Continue to nurse on demand throughout the day until your little one is nine months old. At this time, he or she will probably be eating two solid meals a day (lunch and dinner). Give your little one breakfast first and then follow with nursing. Your little one will gradually wean as he or she becomes full from eating solid foods.
It’s thrilling to see your little one grow up and be more independent by eating solid foods and sleeping throughout the night. Though it will be exciting, don’t be surprised if you feel a little emotional about cutting back on feedings. This is completely normal. Be reassured that you have done a wonderful thing for your little one, and he or she will still need you as they continue to grow.