Published on 2nd March 2023

How long should breastfeeding continue? As with so many elements of parenting, it’s a question that’s difficult to solve with a direct answer — partly because there’s a large degree of personal choice involved. Pose this question to a group of ten parents, and you’re likely to get ten completely different answers!

Bear in mind that while there are guidelines (such as those from the WHO), there’s no right or wrong way to stop breastfeeding your baby or toddler, and every parent (and baby) is different If you’re feeling unsure about when (or how) to start weaning and make the transition to solid foods, then read on — we’ve got you covered!

Understanding the weaning process

As with so many other chapters in the parenting journey, weaning can be difficult for both you and your baby. Above all, try to remember that it’s normal for this transitionary period to be accompanied by a host of physical and emotional changes, but these will pass. 

Some babies may wean quickly, while others may take longer. Be patient and don't rush the process. Remember that breastfeeding is a natural process and there's no right or wrong way to wean, just the way that works best for you and your baby.

Preparing for weaning is an important step in the process. This can include stocking up on suitable soft foods, and preparing yourself mentally for the changes that will occur. Weaning breastfeeding babies can be tough, so don’t be afraid to talk to your midwife, lactation specialist, partner, or even your baby. Sure, they might not understand exactly what you’re saying just yet, but you’d be surprised at how great of a listener your little one can be!

Weaning equipment checklist

  • High chair: Pick out a seat that stands at the perfect height for your dining table, and allows your baby to get strapped in snugly and securely.

  • Spoons: Softer spoons (usually made from rubber or plastic) are much kinder to your baby’s gums.

  • Plastic bowls: Prevent any extra mess by picking out a bowl with a suction base.

  • Ice cube trays: Perfect for batch cooking or freezing smaller portions.

  • Sip cups: Teaching your baby to sip from an open cup is very important.

  • Bibs: Get plenty of these, because mess is unavoidable!

  • Mess mat: Something to pop underneath the high chair. We will repeat: mess is unavoidable!

When to stop breastfeeding

As your baby grows, you may be wondering if it’s the right time to begin weaning. Of course, it’s up to you to decide when this may be, but you should never wean before your baby is 6 months old.

The conventional recommendation for introducing solid foods during weaning used to be that babies of 4 months or older could safely transition, but these guidelines were revised around a decade ago and are now deemed unsafe. So, what’s the current advice? According to many experts (including The American Academy of Pediatrics), you should wait until your baby reaches 6 months of age before weaning/introducing solid foods.

Remember — there’s no need to supplement your breastfeeding routine with additional infant formulas — breast milk is extremely nutritious. However, recognizing when your baby is ready to wean is crucial. Some signs that your baby may be ready to wean include:

  • Holding a sitting position, and holding their head steady

  • Coordinating their eyes, hands and mouth so they can look at their food, pick it up and put it in their mouth

  • Swallowing food (rather than spitting it back out)

Pay attention to your baby's cues (especially once they reach 6 months of age) and be prepared to respond to them. 

How to wean off breastfeeding

So, you’re ready to stop breastfeeding. Things might feel a little scary at the moment, but just remember that this is completely natural — this is a big milestone for you and your baby! The process of weaning might seem overwhelming at first, but never fear. Explore the three most common tried-and-trusted weaning methods below. 

Remember, all the methods listed below should be combined with regular breast milk feeds. The weaning process continues until breast milk is completely replaced by other foods and drinks. The NHS recommends offering breast milk as your baby’s main source of food from 6-9 months, offering solid food after their main feeds. 

If you find that your baby is filling up on milk and not eating enough soft or solid food, try offering the food before milk, or having separate meal and milk times. Even at 10 months, babies still need around 14 oz of milk daily, so don’t abandon milk altogether.

Traditional weaning method

Traditional weaning involves spoon-feeding soft foods (such as purées) to begin with, before gradually progressing to mashed-up food. Some of the best foods for mashing include:

  • Bananas

  • Avocados

  • Figs

  • Peaches

  • Kiwis

  • Mangos

Once your baby is used to eating mashed-up food, try adding finger foods (food that’s cut up into bite-sized pieces). Get them involved in mealtimes and sit them at the table, either in a high chair or on your lap. Begin by offering them soft chunks of food, rather than feeding it to them. 

Remember to avoid hard foods, like nuts or raw fruit and veg. Stuck for inspiration? Try some of the finger foods below:

  • Soft cooked vegetables such as carrot, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnip, or butternut squash.

  • Fruit (soft, or cooked without adding sugar) such as apple, pear, peach, melon, or banana.

  • Cooked starchy foods such as potato, sweet potato, or pasta.

  • Pulses such as beans and lentils.

  • Fish (without bones).

  • Hard boiled eggs.

  • Cooked meat without bones, such as chicken and lamb

  • For babies 6 months old and over, some dairy products (e.g. pasteurized and plain or unsweetened yogurt) can be introduced. However, full-fat milk is not recommended until your baby is one year old. Avoid products with added sugar. 

It is recommended that allergen-containing foods be given individually, in small portions, one at a time. 

Baby-led weaning method

Baby-led weaning is similar to the traditional weaning method, but the soft, mashed and puréed foods are skipped, and your baby is introduced to finger foods right away. 

Since its introduction around 15 years ago, this approach to weaning has steadily grown in popularity, but why? A major claim is that babies who feed themselves are more likely to become healthy eaters, although the evidence on this is mixed. One study has also shown that babies weaned using this method are less likely to prefer sweets at a later age — maybe baby really does know best after all!

Of course, the major concern for most new parents is that baby-led weaning may lead to choking. However, emerging evidence suggests that while self-feeding may lead to more gagging, there’s no increased likelihood of choking. 

Combination weaning method

As the name implies, the combination weaning method involves a mixture of traditional and baby-led weaning. One meal might involve puréed foods, while another will consist entirely of finger foods and rely on self-feeding. 

The combination method is a great happy medium, allowing your baby some independence and the opportunity to self-feed, while still allowing you to keep a good track of what they’re eating day-to-day. 

Common reasons for stopping breastfeeding

There are a few reasons why you may decide to wean your baby a little earlier than you’d originally planned. These may include:

Medication affecting breast milk

Most medication is completely safe to take while breastfeeding, but it’s always best to let your GP or pharmacist know that you’re breastfeeding, just to be on the safe side. To find out more, head to our guide on breastfeeding while using medication.

Breastfeeding is painful or uncomfortable

Incorrect positioning and attachment can result in sore nipples and painful breasts while breastfeeding — especially in the first few days and weeks. 

If this sounds familiar, it’s best to seek help from a midwife, health visitor, or lactation specialist. It could also be worth using a breast pump (such as the Elvie Pump) to build up a pain-free supply of breast milk. Breast pumps are particularly handy if you’re dealing with a teething baby.

Not enough breast milk

Worrying about how much milk you’re providing is actually a pretty common concern. The good news is that most moms will produce plenty of milk, and should have no trouble meeting their baby’s needs.

If you’re still concerned, though, there are several methods you can try to increase your breast milk supply

Returning to work

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to stop just because you’re heading back to work. Building up a supply of breast milk is relatively simple with an electric or manual breast pump (especially since our breast pumps are wearable and travel-friendly). 

Worried that your workplace might not agree with you expressing? Consider sharing CDC's guidance on breastfeeding while returning to work with them, or contacting your union if you have one.

Going on holiday

Similar to returning to work, going on holiday shouldn’t stop you from providing your baby with that all-important breast milk.

Breastfeeding directly is preferable for traveling by plane as it eliminates restrictions on liquids. Letting your baby latch on during take-off or landing can even help to stabilize the pressure in their ears, preventing any earache!

As we’ve said, there’s no right or wrong time to stop breastfeeding and start weaning your baby, but it’s important to recognize the signs that your little one might be ready to wean. For example, if they’re able to pick up and look at their food (and start chewing it), it might be an indication that it's time to introduce solid foods. But you should only do it when you (and your baby) feel ready, and remember that your baby still needs breastmilk or formula until they’re at least 12 months old.  


How long does it take for breast milk to dry up?

This can vary from parent to parent and depends on several factors such as breastfeeding frequency, how long you breastfed for, the age of the baby, and the mother's hormone levels. Generally, once breastfeeding or pumping has ended, it can take several days to several weeks for the milk production to completely stop. Some people find they can still express milk long after they have stopped breastfeeding.

What is the easiest age to stop breastfeeding?

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to this question. The official WHO guidelines suggest that it’s best to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months (and up to 2 years of age if you can), but weaning can begin from 6 months onwards. In terms of how easy it might be, this can vary from baby to baby, so it’s impossible to say!

Ultimately, the best age to stop breastfeeding is one that works for both mother and baby. It's important to listen to your own body and look out for your baby's cues, and seek the advice of a lactation specialist if needed. 

Is my baby eating too much?

Let’s be clear — it’s impossible to overfeed a breastfed baby. As a very rough guide though, your baby should be fed around 8 times a day during their first few weeks. When you start weaning, aim for 2-3 small meals a day (5-10 teaspoons per meal) and reduce the number of breastfeeds.

Once weaning is well-established (around 10-12 months on average) you can increase portion sizes (4-6 tablespoons) and introduce snacks in between meals. By this point, you should be breastfeeding your baby about 2-3 times a day in addition to giving them solid foods.