Transitioning a baby from breastfeeding to solid food or a cup is called weaning. Choosing the appropriate time to begin the process, tapering feeding, providing the right alternative foods and having a great deal of patience are the key steps in the process.
- Choose the right time
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be breastfed until they are at least 6 months old. If the baby is sick or going through a major change at home, delaying weaning until the external stress has passed may be best. The appropriate time to wean is often when a baby starts showing an interest in solid foods, which is often between 6 to 12 months of age.
- Taper off gradually
Try dropping one breastfeeding per day at first. It's usually easiest to choose the feeding that the baby shows least interest in. Try replacing just one feeding with solid foods, and see how the baby responds. If the baby still wants to nurse after eating solids, that's fine. The child will still nurse less at that meal and eventually start taking in enough food to not be hungry afterwards.
- Introduce a sippy cup or bottle
The baby will still need liquid, so try to introduce an appropriate cup or bottle at this stage. Expressed milk as a drink can help the baby to get used to the idea. As he or she becomes more accustomed to a drinking vessel, substitute water for breast milk when paired with meals of solid foods.
- Take the time to do it properly
Many babies still want to breastfeed in addition to eating solid food right through their first birthdays and beyond. There is no right or wrong time to finish weaning. If baby's insistence on continuing to nurse is becoming wearing, pay extra attention to him or her in other ways and use distraction techniques to see if the baby is really hungry or simply wants the closeness that comes with breastfeeding.