Should I Wean My 1 Year Old from the Breast?

Updated on September 10, 2006
C.A. asks from Lindon, UT
23 answers

My 13 month old baby is in the 10th percentile for weight, and he has always been around 50th before. He nurses a lot, but does not eat a whole lot of solid food. I wonder if nursing him so much discourages him from eating. I offer him regular balanced meals and snacks daily, but he usually only eats a few bites and then begs to nurse. So, he is nursing an average of 4 or 5 times during the day, and then another 4 times during the night. He cannot fall asleep without nursing or driving in the car, so whenever he wakes up at night I have to nurse him back to sleep. I am getting pretty tired of it. Also, I know it will be really hard to wean him from night feedings when the time comes if he cant go to sleep without milk. My older son nursed the same way untilI weaned him completely at 19 months, and he still has a hard time going to sleep without mommy. So, I need some advice if there are any lactation experts out there or moms with experience in overcoming this problem I would really appreciate it. Should I wean him completely? WOuld that help him eat food and gain weight? Thanks in advance for your help.

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So What Happened?

I did end up weaning Nephi, because I found out last week that I am pregnant! So, it has been 4 days now since I nursed, and Nephi is sleeping much much better. He only wakes up once or twice a night and goes back to sleep quickly.

More Answers



answers from Portland on

That is totally a personal question! People can tell you what they did, but you have to do what is best for you and your baby. I hope you can find the answers you are looking for and you should look into every resource available to you. Check out La Leche League (the Hillsboro meetings are on the first Monday of each month, so one is coming up!) I found the link for you: They are very nice and extremely knowledgable. Don't worry if it's your first meeting, they are all friendly mamas in there, just like you, looking for answers and support. Also talk with someone at Nursing Mother's Council, they have seen everything and I think they can send someone to your house if you want. And there is an Attachment Parenting group that has regular meetups with other moms. Many are nursing toddlers so you'd be in good company! Knowing someone to talk to in person may help you figure things out.

I would not consult your pediatrician. They are not the baby's mother and rarely know what to say about breastfeeding. Their charts are for formula babies anyway, so your baby may be just fine. If you and your husband are thin, maybe that is his body type. Ask any of the 3 groups I listed above for better advice.

Your child may not want solids yet and there is nothing wrong with that. Try to offer it to him anyway, but don't be upset if he doesn't eat it or only nibbles. You are only responsible for putting healthy food options in front of him. He is responsible for eating and deciding how much. Some children just want mommy. Make sure your diet is high in protein and healthy, not junk foods, that way you'll know he is getting the best you can offer when he nurses.

That said, I went through the same thing. I also had the feelings of wanting to wean when he was nursing 5x a night! I thought it would never end!! But I can say that around 16 mos he started sleeping throught the night better (maybe waking 1 or 2 times to nurse) and by 22 mos can sleep through the night without nursing (about 10 hours). Babies are all so different. I wanted to pay attention to my child's cues and know what he needed and what he could live without. When he was nursing so much and I was getting touched out, I tried to deny him the breast, saying he didn't need it and offer him other drinks and foods. He would throw fits and scream and cry so I knew it was not time to wean. I was frustrated and once I began to feel OK with nursing again, and he saw that he could get it when he needed it, he actually slowed pace and cut out 2 feedings a day. He just needed to know it was there, as it always had been.

I hope there is something here that helps! You can email me if you wish. I am still nursing a 26 mo old and he still very much "needs" it. We will wean whenever he is ready.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

One of my sons breastfed until 15 months. This really is a question for your pediatrician, but you might want to start weening him from nighttime now at a slow pace. Some children just aren't ready. Make sure you are giving him plenty to eat during the day (baby food wise) and give him some cereal mixed in with breast milk before bed. This might help him sleep better.



answers from Anchorage on

Honestly, nursing him is the best thing you can do for him. So I would say NO to the weaning, especially since he has little interest in table foods.

My dd refused all food until well after a year and come to find out, she had several food allergies... so it was like her body telling her not to hurt herself. Now at 3, she's 39 pounds and over 40" tall.... so it's obvious she came around just fine. She also just weaned about 3 months ago.

At least with nursing, you know his body is getting everything it needs to survive. I'd just give him more time.

As for the sleeping issues, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of "the no cry sleep solution". It was a godsend for us. My dd always had to nurse to sleep.... and woke every hour at night to nurse (up until 18 months when I started using her techniques) She has a very gentle approach to easing them into learning to self soothe.



answers from Louisville on

I've been concerned about my daughter's weight since shortly after she was born. She was in the 25th percentile at 7.4, but lost weight rapidly after we left the hospital and I was forced to supplement as I had major trouble establishing my milk supply. We still breastfeed, but if I get anxious, I will offer her a bottle - usually about once every two weeks. She is now 7 months old and has started solids, but her weight gain is still slow. She's down below the 5th percentile at just under 14 pounds.

At my last visit to the doctor with her, we discussed it because the slipping percentile really concerns me. She told me a couple of things you might find helpful:

While my daughter's weight percentile has dropped, her height percentage has gone up 25% since birth, indicating that she is growing well, even above average.

With the weight, I explained her eating habits and patterns (she LOVES solids and still nurses about 8 times a day) The doctor said that as long as she's on the chart there is nothing to worry about. She pointed out the fat stores on her thighs and arms (small though they are) and said that if she was well and truly scrawny, she would be more concerned, but it seemed to her that her fat stores had actually grown, even if she'd only gone up 15 oz in a month.

Normal weight gain in the early months is usually 1/2 oz to 1 oz a day. This can be more during growth spurts and less during plateaus, but that's the average you're looking for.

Remember the percentiles aren't like a test score at school. 10% is just as healthy for some babies as 95% is for others. The important thing to remember is that from 1% to 100% the chart is describing normal, healthy babies. My pediatrician even said that there are children who are off the chart in both either direction who are healthy and happy, but slipping off the chart is a red flag to do some testing and make sure there isn't a problem.

If your child is hitting his milestones developmentally, is somewhere on the chart, has fat stores in his thigh area, and your doctor says he's okay, then trust that.

Congratulations on coming this far with nursing, I know what a battle it can be. I would continue night nursing right now to make sure he's getting enough, but maybe start the process of the original bedtime without nursing him down. Establish a routine and then be consistant. I think it matters less what you do, and more that you are firm about that structure. Think about what you're comfortable with and stick with it.

good luck!



answers from Las Vegas on


I had the same issues with my son and I stuck it out until he was 23 months old. He was really, really slow to start solid foods so I really didn't dare wean him. As long as he was nursing at least I knew he was getting good nutrition. Even though my son nursed to sleep until he was almost 2 and all that, now that he's almost 3 he's a great sleeper and it isn't an issue. For what it is worth, I don't think meeting your child's needs makes them clingy or insecure or bad sleepers. I think NOT meeting their needs does. The investment in time and patience you make now will pay off later. It is just hard to see the end of the rainbow from where you are at! Some kids are just naturally more clingy than others (and my son was a really clingy one) but they grow up fast and get more independent and then you get to wonder where the time went. Try to hold out for a few more months, your son will start eating more solids and it will get easier. The "1 year" mark that is so popular for weaning is a really subjective thing. Some kids are ready at that point but some aren't.

Oh, and my son was less than the 5th percentile for height and weight from around 10 months on. At 3, he hit a growth spurt and is now in the 25th. No one in my family is very big and my pediatrician was never concerned. Keep in mind that most growth charts are from formula fed babies who tend to be bigger. And bigger isn't better. Fat babies tend to grow into fat kids who grow into fat adults. Formula fed babies are more likely to be obese as kids and adults. So as long as your babe is developing normally, I would not worry about the growth chart.




answers from Honolulu on

I'm still nursing my 16 month old. My older son nursed until he was 17 months. I started by cutting out the night feedings. It basically was a lot of crying. Even though your son seems like he's not eating, he doesn't need to nurse at night. I started by nursing my son until he was almost asleep. Then I'd lay him down in the crib and walk away. It was hard because he had to cry himself to sleep. I had to do it cold turkey. Many people don't like to let their children cry it out. It did work for me. After four days, he realized I wasn't going to get him and he found a way to soothe himself back to sleep. It's a joy now because he and his brother can share a room again.

In terms of the daytime, I would serve him to eat food first as you're doing but deny the breast. I only nurse him at naptime and bedtime now. It's hard because you don't want to deny your child anything. Maybe you can cut down on the daytime feedings after you work it out at night. Good luck!



answers from Las Vegas on

C., your poor thing. When are you sleeping if you are nursing so much? I think your son is definitely nursing rather than eating. There are La Leche meetings on both sides of town. The Nursing Mothers Companion is a great book on nursing/weaning. Try some online breastfeeding sites for help too.
Perhaps once he starts eating more during the day, he will begin sleeping through the night. Good Luck!



answers from Pocatello on

C.- I would start feeding Nephi rice cereal and fruits. He will probably give up the breast on his own. If you still want him to benefit from your milk maybe just pump and use a bottle and you can even use it in the rice ceral. He'll plump up. Have you talked to your pediatrician about his weight loss> Is it eally loss or is he just getting taller?

The sleep issue really needs to be addressed. Wow! That's got to be tough on you. Try to maybe change a little something about his sleep -a little at a time. Maybe not in car but, in carseat...or in stroller. Good luck! H.



answers from Portland on

I was feeding my 1 year old 4 -5 times a day and once at night. He also was not that interested in eating food. He was a big baby and around the 75th percentile at the time, so I think your baby's percentile probably does not have that much to do with anything. Your breastmilk is the healthiest thing you can give him, so I am sure he is getting all the nutrients he needs. I, too, was worried, and one day may baby started being more interested in food. I think if you just keep offering sooner or later he will want to eat. Having said that, if you feel ready to start weaning that is entirely your decision and I think one you should feel comfortable making. You have given your baby lots of healthy nutrition for the first year of his life and have nothing to feel guilty about it, if is that time. I started by trying to replace one meal with nursing, and then so on. We are at 21 months and I only nurse him in the morning and will be stopping that soon.

I do think for your own sanity, it might be worth trying not to feed at night because he does not need food at night, he just needs comfort. It may be very difficult at first to deny him, but once he learns the new rules in a few days, he will probably sleep easier and so will you. One of my friends, held her baby instead of feeding her and she screamed and cried a couple nights and then adjusted. I think her husband also participated because sometimes it is easier if it isn't the person who is the breast feeder doing the comforting. I am not sure this helps, but best of luck to you.



answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi C.,
I would suggest speaking with your pediatrician about this matter. Surely she/he could suggest someone with the expertise to advise properly on this subject. Be sure to be very clear that this is a big concern for you, and you would like some help. At 13 months, I would think that your child should be able to sleep through the night without feeding.

For your own health and well being and that of your child, you should seek professional advice soon. Good Luck!




answers from Portland on

Hi there, wow I thought I was reading about my son Owen! He's 13 months and exactly the same. He's in the 5% for weight, never been good at drinking from a bottle and doesn't eat much. He also nurses 3-4 times a night. He only goes to sleep through nursing, driving or most recently his dad rocking him. That doesn't work for me... I also am fairly tired of the night rountine. I would like to be able to go out with friends occasionally and have some cocktails as well! I really don't have any advice, just mostly wanted to comiserate. I'm planning on trying to start rocking him at night but I don't think it will work. I want to have dad do it but I don't really think he'll last the night. What does it mean when you say your an LDS mom? Anyway, let me know if you have any ideas! Cheers, L.



answers from Portland on

C. ~
I have heard that your child benefits if you breastfeed them for 2 whole years. I wasn't able to do this with either one of my girls (I have never been successful at pumping). Also, the longer you breastfeed, the more your chances of getting breast cancer greatly reduce. And, breastfeeding helps build & keep the bond between baby & mother strong. I hope this helps. As far as eating solids, keep introducing new foods, maybe you'll come across one that is a hit. I found a few great websites for kid-friendly meals that might help.

Also, if you search the web for "Kid-Friendly Recipes" or "Children's Recipes" You'll get lots of websites. God Bless.
~ S.



answers from Portland on

Hey C.,

I didn't read the last responses so I hope I'm not repeating anything here, but I thought I'd address the night nursing.

If you want to help your little one sleep longer at night and wean him from needing to nurse to fall asleep, BUT you don't want to let him cry it out, I would recommend the book: The No Cry Sleep Solution. It's not an instant fix -- it might take a few weeks, even 1-2 months -- but the book outlines a way to help a child learn to sleep through the night without having to let him cry it out.

The author writes that her 12 month old son was still waking up every 1 1/2 hours to nurse back to sleep. She gradually helped him learn to sleep through the night (while still cosleeping with her and her husband) WITHOUT having to let him cry. This experience inspired her to write the book.

I know there are a lot of different opinions on the whole sleep issue and I hope I didn't overstep any boundaries, but if this resonates with you, you might want to check it out. It worked for me.



answers from Salt Lake City on

You are the only one who knows when to wean your baby...but I think he will gain weight if you feed him more solid food. He will also sleep better. I would go slowly though, both for you and for him. Just try nursing him for a few minutes at night and then put him back in the crib, let him cry a little, then nurse him a bit more and put him back. Eventually he will put himself back to sleep without you. You will be surprised how well this works if you are consistent. He may cry for a minute or two (which seems like forever, as you know) but then will settle down. There's a great book called The No Cry Sleep Solution which outlines this method, and it was priceless for me. During the day, I would try to feed him less often and make sure he is really hungry before feeding him solid food. Once he gets a taste for it he'll convert. He's mostly nursing for comfort right now, so just go slow and try to eliminate one feeding at a time. Institute a routine at bedtime--bath, reading, cuddling, nursing and then eventually try to cut out the nursing--but this will be the last feeding to go, because he is so dependent on it. Of course you will be glad once you have him weaned completely--it's hard to let go but it's the only way they can grow. Good luck!!!!



answers from Las Vegas on

Hello there!

I'd have to take exception to ask your Pediatrician for weaning advice. I have never found that to be as good idea, as most know very little to nothing about breastfeeding, much less extended nursing (Said by a mama nursing a 4 year old!)

Some night weaning advice:

Truly, I would not even consider pushing weaning till age 2 if this is your only primary complaint. I would focus on night weaning, and getting some sleep, and then, the rest will fall into place.

Please though, do not even consider "Crying It Out", Anything by Gary Ezzo, or ANYTHING by Richard Ferber.



answers from Las Vegas on

Is your child healthy? Is he active? meeting milestones?
If there's a yes to those, then he is JUST fine and PERFECT. I wouldn't worry too much about charts. Most charts dr.s use are the 'formula' charts, so breastfed babies tend to be in the low end of the chart. My daugther has always been ranging in the 25th-5th percentile, and I even got told by WIC that she would be underweight if she didn't gain more weight before she got taller.

I too had thought that by eating more she'd gain more, and she LOVES all foods-and nursing- eats up a storm, and is still a slender child. So sometimes, it's not the eating, but just the child's body type/structure.

Also, most charts used by Dr.s are based on formula fed babies, so they don't accurately reflect the weightgain of breastfed babies.

Nursing is the healthies thing you can do. When your baby's ready, he will eat more solids. Some babies really take to solids early, some don't, but that's nothing to worry about (as long as they're healthy etc..).

And as far as teh night nursing, there's a great article by Dr. Jay Gordon, on how to do that while co-sleeping. It's a thought I've pondered some-rather sleepless- nights when my DD wakes several times. But those nights also correspond, once I look at it, at other changes. IE. teething, or meeting other milestones, great changes in routine, or if she's been separated from me for long periods of time. So it helps to know that the comfort she gets is 'needed' and for a reason, that I am helping her transition and grow, even during those tough nights. THen all of a sudden when I am reaching my end-point it all goes back to "normal" and she only nurses 2-3 times a night.

anyways. here's the link to the article



answers from Omaha on

Dear C.,

I can sympathize completely with your frustration with your son's sleeping issues. At 13 months, my now 20-month-old was nursing 4 times a night as well (at least!). However, I wanted you to know that she is, and always has been in the 95th+ percentile for weight and height. I am still nursing her quite frequently during the day and usually only once during the night, but she is also a very good eater of solid foods.

So I guess I'm saying that I don't have an answer for you, but I would hesitate to wean your son because you think the nursing is causing him problems. Have you talked to your pediatrician about this? Does s/he have any advice? I think with your son in the 10th percentile for weight, it's probably a good thing that you are still nursing. I know when my daughter got sick recently, the only nutrition she would accept at all was my milk, so it's a good thing to keep that option open for the very little ones.

I think the best thing to do is find an pediatrician who is definitely pro-extended-breastfeeding and ask them for advice. I know Dr. Laura Wilwerding in Plattsmouth would fit that definition, although I'm not sure of anyone in Omaha.

Hope this helps!

Mom to Ruby, 20 months



answers from Boise on

Hi C.! I am sure you have a myraid of great advice on this already. My perspective is that the answer to your question lies in several things which I will raise in a minute. I am saying that it isn't necessarily a cut and dry answer of wean completely or not. Personally, I came to this point with my daughter at 14 months when I got pregnant and nursing became painful. I personally decided to wean her completely and started to do so when I realized that she was not ready and it would be detrimental to her to completely stop. But at the same time it was detrimental to me to have her nursing so frequently. 3 months later we have come to very workable compromise. It took some time and loving effort on the part of both myself and my husband but we are good.

There are degrees of weaning and there are things that can be done to encourage and get your child to eat more solids while still giving him your milk. BUT, I think the place to start is for you to answer some questions for yourself. How important is giving your son your milk?Do you feel he is ready for complete weaning emotionally? What is your comfort level with his continued nursing? If the answers lead you to a decision of weaning him completely, there are many tips and ways to approach this successfully and lovingly as I see that you already have experience. If the answers lead you to an decision that weaning is not the answer but maybe cutting out key feedings that you want to replace with solid food (for example), again there are tips and ways to approach this as well. First and foremost, you know your son better than anyone and with thought know in your heart what he needs. For both instances you can get help if you google La Leche League. There are phone numbers for La Leche leaders in your area who take phone calls to help breastfeeding moms. The web page also has links to a variety of moms experiences with different issues related to breastfeeding such as weaning, solid foods, etc.

Good luck! J.



answers from Honolulu on

I am having a similar issue with my 10 month old right now. He is solely breast fed and went from 50th to 90th to now the 10th percentile. My other daughter breastfed (no supplements) for a year. She was always very small, so I never worried about her staying on the smaller end of the scale. My son ,however, seems was not always small and the doctors scolded me a bit during his well baby checkup for not supplementing. I work and he takes bottles when I am gone of breastmilk that I have pumped. I have a freezer full of milk, so he can eat at much as he wants. I nurse him in the morning and the evening and then put him to bed in his own crib at about 8pm. He sleep until about 6am straight through. To me, if he is still sleeping through the night, and he is active and healthy looking, I will nurse as long as it keeps working for him and I. I on the other hand am ready to start weening soon, as work is hard to do when I have to plan my day around pumping. I think 1 year is long enough, and will probably go to supplements after a year for daytime feedings and only nurse in the mornings and evenings for as long as we both want to. Bottom line is for your situation..... You baby seems hungry. He is waking you up many times throughout the night to eat. Unless, he is not hungry and he just wants you pick pick him up and give him the comfort of nursing. My suggestion is to let him cry it out and he will get used to comforting himself. I did this with both of my children and they both slept through the night starting at 10 weeks old. My daughter was 6 weeks premature and my son was 2 weeks early and they still slept through the night that early and continue to do so. When my son starts waking up at night because he is starving (and it isn't just a little growth spurt), I will start supplementing other foods. If the baby knows you will nurse if he doesn't eat, he will refuse to eat. If you don't nurse and he gets hungry enough, he will eat. All babies eat eventually if they are hungry. Good luck.



answers from Portland on

Those charts aren't as smart as you are! If your child has reached a new milestone (cruising/walking) then he may be normally slimming a bit. Do what your heart tells you cause you know best!



answers from Omaha on

Weaning is a personal decision. I would consult a pediatrician about weaning and his eating issues, not to mention his sleep disorders. I would think a pediatrician would have the best advice for your situation.



answers from Provo on

I also have a 13 month old. I had a really hard time getting him to take solids. He prefered table food. His favorites are banana pieces and cheerios. He's been eating cheerios since he was 5 months old. He hated baby food and I would have to trick him to take it. I would get him to open his mouth for the cheerio, shove a spoonful of babyfood in his mouth and then put the cheerio in. It was the only way he would eat it.

As for at night, is he just comfort nursing or is he actually actively nursing. You should be able to tell the difference. My son slept through the night starting at about a month until he got an ear infection at 5 months. He then started waking every 2-3 hours for months after that wanting to nurse. I finally realized that it was just comfort nursing. Since I knew that's why he was waking, I felt comfortable letting him cry without me going in to him. Within about 3 or 4 days he was sleeping through the night again. I know not all moms are comfortable with letting their babies cry to go to sleep. There are other sleep training methods out there.

As for the weight gain, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Doctors worry too much about how much a baby should or should not weigh. I bet your baby has just been a lot more active since his previous appointment. Therefore, he's burning more calories. Just keep offering food through out the day. Maybe cut out one or two nursing sessions and replace it with food. If he refuses the food, don't offer the breast and he should learn to eat the food.

Or it's also possible that he's not eating food because it makes him feel sick. He may have food sensitivities or allergies.

If you want to continue breastfeeding, do so. I'm still breastfeeding my 13 month old (twice a day) and plan on continueing to do so until he self weans or until I get pg.



answers from Eugene on

Obviously weaning is a personal decision but I can say that there any any solid food out there that have better nutrition than breastmilk. There are some that have more fat and could falsely inflate the weight but for optimal nutrition breastmilk is best. The WHO recommends nursing for at least two years because toddler brains are growing and developing so rapidly and they need all the components that breastmilk has to offer. There is a really good book called Good Nights by Dr. Jay Gordon that offers a lot of tips about night weaning, getting baby to sleep without nursing etc. I have seen a lot of toddler like your son and often if the mom stops weaning the baby will switch over to some other form of liquid as main nutrition and doesn't necessarily eat more. I think nursing or not babies naturally need their mommy's to go to sleep. Having older children I can say that doesn't last for ever. I now have a teenaged daughter and would love it if I could grab her and cuddle her on my lap. The time passes so quickly and they grow before you know it. They are only dependent on us for a very short time in the span of their lives.
W. Jones
Breastfeeding Educator

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