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Duration of breastfeeding: when should you wean your baby?

14 min
Overview

Until what age is it possible to breastfeed (see article: The benefits of breastfeeding)? Is there a minimum or maximum breastfeeding duration to respect before weaning your baby (see article: Weaning: preparing well, 6 tips to approach it calmly)? What are the telltale signs of a child who no longer wants to breastfeed?... Switching from breastfeeding to weaning from breast milk is a decision that can be a source of many questions for you, parents. We help you get through!

Weaning: when should you stop breastfeeding your baby?

Breast milk is the best food for babies from birth and during the baby's first months. However, if breastfeeding contributes to the good health and development of the infant (see article: Lactoferrin: pillar of the baby's immune system), its weaning will be inevitable at one time or another...

Recommendations from the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises mothers who have decided to breastfeed to encourage exclusive breastfeeding of their baby during the first 6 months of life (see article: Healthy breastfeeding). It should be noted that infant breastfeeding can be continued beyond this period. Thus, it is recommended to parents who so wish to continue to feed their child with breast milk (see article: Breast milk: all you need to know about its composition) until the child is 2 years old or more, while diversifying their diet in a essential between 4 and 6 months but not later than 6 months. (see article: Keys to successful diversification).

Your choice of parents

Keep in mind that the breastfeeding durations recommended by the WHO are ideal data for the health of children to guide you in breastfeeding yours. Whether or not to continue breastfeeding is a decision that is entirely up to you, as long as breastmilk is replaced with a diet suited to her age and nutritional needs.
It is preferable that the mother who decides to wean her baby is supported by the father or by the person who shares her life. Indeed, the support of loved ones is essential during this new stage, which we know to be difficult, in order to guarantee a serene weaning for the mother and her child. (see article Wean baby: the precious support of the father)

For more information and advice on weaning children, we invite you to consult our FAQ Stopping breastfeeding: answers to parents' questions. (see FAQs)

 

Why might a mother want to stop breastfeeding her infant? Every woman is different and experiences breastfeeding differently. Here are the main causes of a baby stopping breastfeeding:

  • In France, the first cause of withdrawal is the return to work. However, this does not in any way require you to stop breastfeeding.

For more information on the subject, we invite you to consult our article Weaning from breastfeeding: managing the return to work.

  • Poor sucking of the baby, painful breasts (engorgement, mastitis…), drop in lactation, low production of breast milk… So many elements likely to discourage the breastfeeding mother.

Rest assured, there are many solutions to remedy this and continue your breastfeeding with complete peace of mind. You can consult our article Little hassles of breastfeeding to discover them.

How do you know if your child no longer wants to be breastfed?

If the weaning of your baby can be decided at any time, it can happen that it is the toddler himself who triggers it! This is called “natural weaning”. It occurs most of the time after a long breastfeeding of the infant. It is generally when the child discovers new foods, thanks to food diversification (see article: Beginning food diversification), that he loses interest in the breast, preferring to turn to new flavors.
Here are different reactions likely to be observed in a child who no longer wishes to be breastfed:

  • Her body pulls back when her mother offers her the breast,
    He turns his head to the sides,
    He skips several feedings,
    He simply expresses his refusal of breastfeeding through language (in the case of a child of speaking age).

It is important that you, the parent, remain attentive to the needs of your child. If you regularly notice the signs mentioned above, be sure to stick to his decision by stopping breastfeeding. Did you know ? From 6 months, it is recommended to give the baby 500 ml of 2nd age infant milk every day. You can then:

Switch to baby milk bottles (see article: The 1st bottle). To help you choose the right milk for your child, you can read our article Infant milk: a difficult choice!

Offer your child dairy equivalents (infant milk porridge, infant milk and fine semolina, yogurt, cheese, etc.) if you find that he does not want to drink milk from a bottle either.

You can consult our article The keys to successful food diversification to learn how to correctly introduce these foods into your child's diet, according to their age and nutritional needs.

The choice of mixed breastfeeding
If you want to experience the breastfeeding / weaning transition smoothly, why not opt ​​for mixed breastfeeding at the beginning? This practice encourages the mother to breastfeed her baby as soon as they are together, and that he is bottle-fed with infant formula the rest of the time. Gradually, if weaning is decided, breast milk feedings will be reduced and then removed from his diet, in favor of the bottle.

For more information, we invite you to refer to our article Successful Mixed Breastfeeding.

Parents, remember that how long you breastfeed your baby is up to you. If the breastfeeding mother and her child wish to continue it for weeks, months, or years, you are free to set the duration! On the contrary, if one of the two no longer wishes to continue it, it should be stopped. A decision to be made with the dad, or the person who shares the life of the child, to ensure the success of the project. (See our article: Weaning baby: the precious support of the dad)

Annexes : 

Nutrition Committee of the French Society of Pediatrics, D. Turck, Breastfeeding: the benefits for the health of the child and its mother, Archives de pédiatrie, October 2012, volume 19, supplement 3: p.S77-S96

French Coordination for Breastfeeding, https://cofam-lactating.org/

National Institute for Prevention and Health Education, Ministry of Health, Guide to breastfeeding, 68 pages

The nursery school, Breastfeeding: what is natural weaning?

Magic Maman, 8 things to know before weaning your baby, https://www.magicmaman.com/,sevrer-son-bebe,557,3354877.asp

Mpedia, How to make breastfeeding last as long as possible?, https://www.mpedia.fr/qr/10-mois-sevrage-naturel/

Mpedia, Up to what age can you breastfeed your child?, https://www.mpedia.fr/art-comdien-de-temps-can-on-laiter/

Mpedia, Quantity of dairy at 9 months?, https://www.mpedia.fr/qr/nombre-de-laitages-a-9-mois/

Mpedia, My 7-month-old breastfed son refuses bottles at the nursery, what to do? -the-creche-what-to-do/

Health and Breastfeeding, http://www.santealimentationmaternel.com/

Tremey L, Gelbert N, Schelstraete C, French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics (AFPA) with the assistance of Lactariums de France and the Regional Union of Liberal Physicians (URML), Breastfeeding from the first to the last feeding, CD- ROMs