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A mother breastfeeding her baby.

What is weaning and how do I do it?

Weaning is the process of switching an infant's diet from breast milk or formula to other foods and fluids. In most cases, choosing when to wean is a personal decision. It might be influenced by a return to work, the mother's or infant's health, or just a feeling that the time is right.1

Weaning an infant is a gradual process. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends feeding infants only breast milk for the first 6 months after birth. After 6 months, the AAP recommends a combination of solid foods and breast milk until the infant is at least 1 year old.2 The Academy advises against giving cow's milk to children younger than 1 year old.3

You may have difficulty determining how much to feed your child and when to start introducing solid foods. The general guidance below, as reported by the National Library of Medicine, demonstrates the process of weaning for infants up to 6 months of age.4 You should speak with your infant's health care provider before attempting to wean your infant to make sure that he or she is ready for weaning and for complete guidance on weaning.

  • Birth to 4 months of age
    • During the first 4 to 6 months, infants need only breast milk or formula to meet their nutritional needs.
      • If breastfeeding, a newborn may need to nurse eight to 12 times per day. By 4 months of age, an infant may need to nurse only four to six times per day.
      • By comparison, formula-fed infants may need to be fed about six to eight times per day, with newborns consuming about 2 to 3 ounces per feeding. The number of feedings will decrease as the infant gets older, similar to breastfeeding.
  • 4 to 6 months of age
    • At 4 to 6 months of age, an infant needs to consume 28 to 45 ounces of breast milk or formula per day and often is ready to start being introduced to solid food.
    • Starting solid foods too soon can be hazardous, so an infant should not be fed solid food until he or she is physically ready.
    • Start solid feedings (1 or 2 tablespoons) of iron-fortified infant rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula, stirred to a thin consistency.
    • Once the infant is eating rice cereal regularly, you may introduce other iron-fortified instant cereals.
    • Only introduce one new cereal per week so that intolerance or possible allergies can be monitored.

For more information on weaning your infant, visit MedLinePlus: Feeding Patterns and Diet—Children 6 Months to 2 Years.

Citations

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  1. KidsHealth from Nemours. (2014). Weaning your child. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/weaning.html External Web Site Policy [top]
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827–e841. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. AAP. (2015). Ages & stages: Why formula instead of cow’s milk? Retrieved January 28, 2016, from http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Why-Formula-Instead-of-Cows-Milk.aspx External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. MedlinePlus. (2016). Feeding patterns and diet—babies and infants. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000712.htm [top]

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