Is Your Baby Self-Weaning?

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Self-weaning is when a baby stops breastfeeding on their own. Self-weaning usually happens at a gradual pace over time. As children grow older, get more of their nutrition from solid foods, and become more independent, they will eventually begin to nurse less often than when they were younger. Self-weaning does not usually happen until a child is over a year old.

If you are not yet ready to wean, take heart. There may be ways to delay or prevent your baby from self-weaning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for at least one year or longer if mutually desired.

Babies who stop breastfeeding before they turn 1 year old should be given infant formula or expressed breastmilk until their first birthday.

Signs of Self-Weaning

Some babies have what seems like a loss of interest in nursing as they get a little older. A nursing strike is when a baby stops breastfeeding out of the blue. A nursing strike is temporary and is not the same thing as weaning.   

A baby who is ready to self-wean:

  • Is over 1 year old
  • Gets most of their nutrition from solid foods
  • Drinks well from a cup

An older baby may be self-weaning if:

  • They gradually breastfeed less frequently
  • They gradually breastfeed for shorter periods
  • They begin to skip feedings
  • They lose interest in breastfeeding
  • They are distracted while breastfeeding

Is It Temporary?

You should be suspicious if your baby refuses to breastfeed before they turn 1 year old. Babies may temporarily stop breastfeeding out of the blue if they are sick, teething, distracted, or if you are pregnant.

Reasons for Self-Weaning

There are multiple reasons a toddler may begin to self-wean. If it’s not a nursing strike, self-weaning is often a natural and gradual progression.  

A Decrease in Your Milk Supply

Your child may lose interest in breastfeeding if there is a drop in the amount of breast milk you're making. The return of your period, a new pregnancy, less time feeding at the breast, and other factors can cause a decrease in your breast milk supply

New Interests

As your child grows and begins to notice all the exciting things around them, it may be harder for them to sit still and breastfeed. Not only are older babies curious about the things happening in their periphery, but they are also constantly on the go and often eager to get back to moving around.

Preference for Bottle or Cup

As babies get older, bottles and cups tend to become more appealing. Cups make babies feel like big kids, and bottles allow a baby to get more milk more quickly. In addition, babies can carry cups around with them while they play and in their car seats. Over time, some babies will gradually drop breastfeeding in favor of milk from a container.

More Complimentary Food

After a child turns 1, they start getting more of their nutrients and calories from solid foods and less from breastmilk. When that happens, babies may be too full for a full breast milk meal. Often, babies who breastfeed past a year do so primarily for comfort.

What Is Baby-Led Weaning?

Weaning is the gradual progression from one type of feeding to another. With baby-led weaning, parents skip introducing spoon-fed purees to younger babies. Instead, they introduce solid foods that babies can eat with their fingers around 6 months of age.  

How to Delay or Prevent Self-Weaning

If you are ready to wean, you can use this natural lull in breastfeeding as an opportunity to fully wean or partially wean your baby. If you are not quite ready to wean, there are things that you can do to encourage your baby to continue breastfeeding.

Techniques to encourage breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeed often: Don’t wait for your baby to ask; offer to breastfeed frequently, but don’t force it. 
  • Increase your supply: If your supply of breast milk is going down, take some steps to increase the amount of breast milk you're making. Pumping can help to increase your milk supply and maintain it, especially if your baby is not nursing regularly. 
  • Find a quiet place: Keep distractions to a minimum when it's time to nurse.
  • Offer the breast first: Try to breastfeed your baby before giving them any other type of food, drink, or snack. If they’re hungry or thirsty, they may be more willing to nurse. 
  • Be patient: Remember that this is just a normal developmental stage that some children go through. 
  • Get support: Ask your doctor, a lactation consultant, or a local breastfeeding group for advice and assistance. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I encourage self-weaning?

Self-weaning occurs naturally and gradually in babies who are over 1 year old. To encourage your child to self-wean, simply follow their lead. Don’t offer to breastfeed, but don’t refuse when they ask, either. If your baby is self-weaning, you probably won’t notice because it happens gradually over time.  

7 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. Nemours Foundation. Weaning your child.

  2. Eidelman AI, Schanler RJ, Johnston M, et al. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129(3):e827-e841. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3552

  3. La Leche League International. Nursing strikes.

  4. Robert E, Coppieters Y, Swennen B, Dramaix M. The reasons for early weaning, perceived insufficient breast milk, and maternal dissatisfaction: Comparative studies in two Belgian regions. Int Sch Res Notices. 2014;2014:678564. doi:10.1155/2014/678564

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding mealtime milestones.

  6. D'Auria E, Bergamini M, Staiano A, et al. Baby-led weaning: What a systematic review of the literature adds on. Ital J Pediatr. 2018;44:49. doi:10.1186/s13052-018-0487-8

  7. Nemours Foundation. Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and demand.

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Year Third Edition. Bantam Books. New York. 2010.
  • Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition.  Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

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.