I remember rocking her in my arms as I nursed her one last time. At this point she was only nursing for about five minutes before she became bored, so I savored those last few minutes I had. I studied her face intently, felt her breath against my breast, and stroked her cheek as tears fell down mine. I knew this would be the end of our breastfeeding journey. It was so bittersweet.
Breastfeeding is a very personal and individualized experience. The same goes with weaning from breastfeeding. When I was pregnant, my initial goal was to breastfeed until six months but once we hit that milestone, I knew we weren’t ready to quit.
We were extremely lucky to breastfeed until my daughter was 11 months and 3 weeks old. The weaning process we went through was very gradual and probably looks a lot different from a typical weaning process. If you are interested in how we weaned from breastfeeding, continue reading!
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Why I decided to start weaning from breastfeeding
Breastfeeding wasn’t always a pleasant experience for us. I pumped for the first few months of her life. I continued to pump at night before bed until she reached about 10 months.
Breastfeeding can be stressful, and I was tired. I carried her for 9 months and continued nurturing her long after that. As selfish as it may sound, I was ready to have my body back. So, once we hit six months and decided to keep going, I told myself we would be weaned by 12 months.
Luckily, she is easily adaptable. Since I pumped in the beginning of her life, she took the bottle like a champ. This made weaning from breastfeeding so much easier. I recommend introducing a bottle several months before you want to wean, just so your baby has an easier transition.
Signs she was ready to wean
We started introducing solids around six months of age. Once we increased her solid intake, weaning became easier. She became less interested in nursing and more interested in food.
Our sessions became shorter and she became easily distracted. Around 10 months is when we picked up speed with weaning from breastfeeding.
Weaning from breastfeeding schedule
When I start this schedule at 7 months, we were nursing about 4 times/day and I pumped before her bedtime and my bedtime. I pumped before her bedtime for the purpose of night weaning. I also pumped before my bedtime to have extra milk just in case she woke up in the middle of the night and my husband could feed her.
We made sure my daughter was getting at least 2-3 four oz bottles of formula or breast milk until she was 11 months, and then I introduced almond milk (which eventually replaced formula) and water with meals.
I decided to wean on a biweekly schedule once she hit 10 months of age. The recommendation is to not wean quicker than 3-7 days at a time. The more gradual, the better.
Under each month I will add the changes we made and the total amount of nursing + pumping + bottle sessions during a typical day.
Our weaning schedule was as follows:
7 months: we began with night weaning. I stopped nursing her before she went to sleep. My husband gave her a bottle of breast milk before bed. I pumped once before her bedtime and once before my bedtime.
*Total of 4 nursing sessions + 2 pumping sessions + 1 bottle of breast milk
9 months: night weaning continued. My husband gave her a bottle of formula instead of breast milk. I dropped the before her bedtime pump.
*Total of 4 nursing sessions + 1 pumping session + 1 bottle of formula
10 months: replaced 1 nursing session with a bottle of formula. I dropped the before my bedtime pump.
*Total of 3 nursing sessions + 2 bottles of formula
10 months & 2 weeks: replaced 1 nursing session with 1 bottle of formula (my supply significantly dropped at this point, so I continued to add formula – if you feel comfortable, you can just drop a nursing session and not add formula here)
*Total of 2 nursing sessions + 3 bottles of formula
11 months: dropped a nursing session, added water in a sippy-cup with meals.
*Total of 1 nursing session + 3 bottles of formula + water with meals
11 months & 2 weeks: replaced last nursing session with 1 bottle of almond milk.
*Total of 3 bottles of formula + 1 bottle of almond milk + water with meals
12 months: replaced formula with almond milk and water.
*Total of 3-4 bottles of almond milk + water
Our current feeding schedule
My daughter is currently 12 months and 1 week old. A brief overview of her feeding schedule is listed below. For a more detailed description of the types of meals she eats you can check out my solid baby food meal ideas post.
6:00am: 4oz bottle of warm almond milk
7:00am: breakfast (banana or cup of fruit, egg) + water
9:30am: 4oz bottle warm almond milk
11:00am: snack (happy tot bar, applesauce, veggie sticks) + water
12:30pm: 4oz bottle of warm almond milk
1:00pm: lunch (avocado, fruit, whole grain rice cake + peanut butter) + water
3:00pm: snack + water
6:00pm: dinner (whole wheat pasta, veggie pasta, lean meat)
Weaning from breastfeeding Q+A
Why did we use formula?
I was worried about engorgement, painful breasts and mastitis, so I decided to wean very gradually. Our weaning experience was unique because I introduced formula since I started weaning so early. If you do not want to use formula at all, you can use a bottle of breast milk instead. Then, you can drop a bottle once your baby starts eating more solids and replace it with water or replacement milk (such as cows milk or almond milk).
What formula did we use?
What if my baby doesn’t like formula?
If your baby isn’t a fan of formula and you’ve tried a couple different brands, I would try mixing it with breast milk or replacement milk. Replacement milk could be almond milk, cows milk, soy milk, coconut milk, etc. Just make sure you get unsweetened with no added flavors.
How did you dry up your milk and prevent discomfort?
My milk dried up pretty quickly once my daughter weaned down to a couple of nursing sessions a day. The main key is to avoid stimulating your breasts to produce milk. Sage tea can also be used to help speed the process of drying up milk.
To avoid discomfort I wore a tight fitting sports bra and used cold breast compresses. You can also add cold cabbage leaves to your breasts and use anti-inflammatory medication.
What distraction techniques did you use?
There were times my daughter would grab for me and act as if she wanted to nurse. If we already had our nursing session for the day I would use a few different distraction techniques:
- give her a bottle instead
- give her a snack
- change scenery – go outside, go for a drive
- read a book
- snuggle with her – sometimes she just wanted the comfort of being close to me
Did you feel any hormonal changes?
YES. Especially once I weaned to about 2 nursing sessions a day and I got my menstrual cycle back. My body had to regulate my hormones, and as a side effect I definitely became emotional. I got emotional over weaning in general and had feelings of just being overwhelmed. This is very normal and I felt like I was back to my normal self after my first menstrual cycle.
Why did you choose almond milk?
I personally transitioned to almond milk years ago. I still eat dairy products, but I feel that non-dairy products are a healthier choice. We use unsweetened original almond milk fortified with calcium. Some benefits of almond milk over cows milk are:
- less fat, which equals more hydration
- high in calcium
- good source of vitamin A + D
How did you know she was ready for solids?
I started giving her tastes of food around 5 months. I kept trying to introduce new foods until she seemed interested. She took a long time to start eating a full meal (around 10 months). This was partly because she didn’t have teeth until that time.
How did you know what size portions of solids to give her?
I honestly didn’t think too hard about this. I just gave her food until she didn’t want anymore. If she didn’t eat very much solid food that day I made sure I supplemented with enough formula or breast milk. Here you can find recommended portion sizes for solids at each stage.
Did you track your progress?
Yes. I used my phone to keep track of when I dropped a nursing session, pumping session or added bottles. It wasn’t the most organized system in the world.
Because I want to make this process easier for you, I created a free weekly weaning planner. It is planner that goes up to 10 weeks where you can track the number of nursing sessions, pumping sessions, bottles you give and meals your baby eats in a week. Just sign up below and it will be emailed to you shortly!
Everyone has very different experiences when it comes to breastfeeding and weaning. Even though it wasn’t always the easiest, I cherished every moment I got to breastfeed my daughter. I will hold those intimate moments in my heart forever.
Good luck to you and your weaning journey!