It is generally recommended to breastfeed your child completely for 6 months before gradually replacing breast milk with baby food. The 5th month is viewed as the earliest point to start with baby food and the 7th month as the latest.
It is completely your decision as to how long you still wish to continue breastfeeding alongside this. After all, breastfeeding does not only serve to nourish your baby. It may also have become a cosy bedtime ritual to help your baby to sleep, for example. In this case, you can keep it up as long as you wish.
In the interests of you and your child, you should go about weaning gently and carefully. Your baby will initially only eat small spoons of baby food and, depending on how expertly your child manages this, most of the the food will end up outside his/her mouth again.
Slowly increase the amount of baby food and still continue to breastfeed your baby for a while following the meal. This will assist your breasts in adapting more easily to the decreasing milk production.
Later, one breastfeeding session may gradually be replaced entirely by baby food.
Slowly increase the number of baby food meals until your child has switched completely from the breast to the spoon.
Weaning your child from the breast is not always an easy task. Both mother and child have become accustomed to a breastfeeding routine. Ending the breastfeeding period also needs to be worked through at an emotional level. It is best if the transition is smooth and your baby develops a desire for solid food by him or herself.
Even if you go about the weaning process gently, your breasts will initially feel tender and sometimes painful. With a few tricks such as carefully expressing (not pumping!) your milk, using cooling compresses as well as consuming peppermint or sage tea, it is possible to relieve the complaints (see also Breastfeeding problems).
Should you experience worse problems than this, these can be alleviated with medication. In such a case, consult your doctor or lactation counsellor.
Fathers on the front line
Dads can now be more active! During the times when you would normally be breastfeeding your baby, retreat and hand things over to your partner. He can carry the baby around, go walking with him/her or provide other distractions.
With love and comfort, it will be possible for Dad to help your baby overcome the desire to feed at your breast and it will become easier every time for your baby to handle.