Early Weaning Causes and Prevention

Baby Being Bottle Fed

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Weaning from breastfeeding means starting to breastfeed less and replacing breastfeeding with another source of nutrition, such as infant formula or solid foods. When a baby fully weans, they are no longer getting any nutrition from breastfeeding.

The natural weaning process typically begins when a baby starts solid foods at about six months of age. Early weaning is when a baby stops breastfeeding before natural weaning begins.

Reasons for Early Weaning

Some people choose to wean early, and others have to stop breastfeeding before they want to due to a variety of issues. Here are some of the many reasons weaning may happen sooner than expected.


Pain is perhaps the most common reason for early weaning. Breastfeeding should not hurt but often does to varying degrees at the start. Once you pass the initial stages and get the hang of your breastfeeding technique, discomfort is usually a thing of the past. Many common breastfeeding problems such as sore nipples, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis can lead to pain. If you can find and treat the underlying cause, it can help you to keep breastfeeding longer.

Concern Over a Low Milk Supply

It is rare that a new parent cannot make enough breast milk for their child. However, it's very common to worry that you are not producing enough milk, even if you are. This is called perceived insufficient milk supply. On the other hand, some people do have a low milk supply. But there are many things you can do to boost your breast milk production. If you feel you have a low breast milk supply, talk to your doctor or a lactation professional before you give up.

Lack of Support

It is difficult to continue to breastfeed if you don’t have support. Studies show that the approval and encouragement of a partner is one of the most important factors that predict the duration and success of breastfeeding. A breastfeeding person's parents and friends are others whose support or lack thereof can influence early weaning.


Healing from childbirth and making breast milk takes up a lot of energy. If you also have other children and responsibilities, you may feel even more drained. It can be difficult to breastfeed when you’re always exhausted.

Return to Work or School

Some new parents have to return to work or school within weeks of having their child. It can be tough and time-consuming to pump at work.

Breastfeeding Difficulty

When a baby is born with a medical issue such as a tongue-tie or a cleft lip, breastfeeding can be frustrating and challenging to continue.

Maternal Medical Issues

The need to begin medication or medical treatments can require early weaning. Many prescription medications are safe to take while you’re breastfeeding, but some are not. For example, chemotherapy drugs for cancer and radioactive iodine for an overactive thyroid are not compatible with breastfeeding, so weaning is necessary.


Breastfeeding tends to expose part of your breast. While some people aren’t bothered by it and can breastfeed anywhere at any time, others may feel anxious about breastfeeding around others, especially in public. It’s possible to practice and become very good at breastfeeding discreetly, but even then, some parents are just too embarrassed and prefer to stay covered. As the baby grows, staying covered can become even more difficult, so some parents choose to wean.

The Desire to Have Another Child

It can be more challenging to get pregnant again when you’re breastfeeding. Even more so during the first six months if you’re breastfeeding exclusively. Some people, especially older parents or those who have struggled with infertility and fear it may take a long time to have another child, may decide to stop breastfeeding after six weeks or a few months to try to get pregnant again right away.

Why to Avoid Early Weaning

Research shows that breastfeeding provides your child with many health benefits. Breast milk is easily digestible, and it contains all the nutrients a baby needs as well as antibodies and immune properties to prevent infections and illness. When a child is weaned early, he may miss out on some of these benefits:

  • A breastfed baby has a lower risk of developing health problems such as eczema and certain childhood cancers.
  • Babies who breastfeed are less likely to get some of the common childhood illnesses such as ear infections, diarrhea, and upper respiratory infections.
  • Breastfeeding can decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Breastfeeding can help to prevent digestive issues that can develop from infant formulas or the start of solid foods too early.
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity and the issues that go along with it including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Studies also show that breastfeeding is favorable for parents. Continuing to breastfeed longer can lower the chances of ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer. Breastfeeding reduces the parent's risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes in later life. It also may decrease the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

How to Prevent Early Weaning

Not only does breastfeeding provide a variety of health and developmental benefits for your child, but the longer you breastfeed, the greater the benefits will be. The benefits of breastfeeding can also last into adulthood. So, it is good for you and your child if you can continue to breastfeed longer.

Some of the things you can do to prevent early weaning are to ask for help and support from family and friends and/or join a local breastfeeding group. Additionally, it's key to maintain a healthy supply of breast milk. Breastfeed your baby often, and avoid bottles and pacifiers, if possible. If you’re worried that your milk supply is low, there are ways you can work to increase it.

Find out about the common breastfeeding problems. By learning about the typical issues that breastfeeding mothers face, you will understand how to treat them and prevent them. You will be more likely to continue breastfeeding through them instead of giving up.

Take care of yourself, too. If you can get some rest, drink enough fluids, and take in enough calories, it can make all the difference. And, when you’re feeling exhausted and need a break or a nap, it's OK to ask your partner, family, and friends for help.

Wait to introduce solid foods into your child’s diet. Wait until your baby's doctor recommends adding baby foods at approximately six months, and begin to add them slowly. If you give your child too much solid food, they may not breastfeed as well. Also, during the first year, you can breastfeed first before offering solids. Then, after one year, additional foods can become a more substantial part of their daily diet.

Weaning Before You’re Ready

Early weaning could also mean having to wean before you planned. Weaning before you’re ready can be disappointing and stressful. You may feel guilty that breastfeeding didn’t work out or sad and cheated out of an experience you had hoped for. Weaning, in general, can lead to feelings of sadness and depression, even more so if you weren’t ready to stop. If you need to take time to grieve the loss of the breastfeeding experience, that's OK.

As difficult as it may be, try to focus on the special time you were able to spend breastfeeding and remember that any amount of breast milk that your child received is beneficial. Breastfeeding is only one small piece in a lifetime of parenting. There will be so many other wonderful things you will experience with your child as they grow.

What Is the Right Age to Wean From Breastfeeding?

There is no right or wrong age to wean a child from the breast, but there are recommendations. The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months and the continuation of breastfeeding along with the addition of new foods for one year.

After that, the AAP states that you should continue to breastfeed for as long as you and your child wish to do so. The World Health Organization advises mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue to breastfeed along with complementary foods for two years or longer. In many places around the world, women breastfeed their children for over two years.

A Word From Verywell

Breastfeeding recommendations are general guidelines that experts come up with based on research and the current information available. If possible, you are advised to try to meet the recommendations. However, that is not always easy or what you wish to do. After weighing all your options, only you and your partner know what’s best for your family. It is certainly OK to choose to wean when you feel the time is right for you and your child.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Meedya S, Fahy K, Kable A. Factors that positively influence breastfeeding duration to 6 months: A literature reviewWomen and Birth. 2010;23(4):135-145. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2010.02.002

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Why breastfeed.

Additional Reading

By Donna Murray, RN, BSN
Donna Murray, RN, BSN has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University and is a current member of Sigma Theta Tau, the Honor Society of Nursing.