If you are a breast-feeding mother, you might have various questions about weaning. How to wean off a baby?When is the right time? Will weaning upset my baby? How can I avoid engorgement? Learn the facts about weaning and how you can make this a smoother & positive transition for you and your baby.
What is weaning?
Weaning is the process by which babies who are fully feeding on milk are slowly introduced to solid foods. It starts with the first solid meal & ends with the last feed of breast milk or formula milk. Introducing solids at the right time and in the right manner is very important to develop healthy eating habits in the babies.
What is the right time to start weaning?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding exclusively until your baby is 6 months old, then serving a combination of solids and breast milk until he/she is 1 year old. Six months is often recommended because babies, at this age, begin to need extra nutrients which are not found in milk, such as iron and zinc. Small amounts of solid food can provide these nutrients. Remember that weaning is ultimately a personal decision and should be based on what is best for your family. For instance, if you are returning to work and need the flexibility of bottle-feeding earlier than 6 months, then you might have to introduce bottle feeding to your baby earlier. Most mothers choose to wean their baby off the breast when she/ he is 4-7 months old. (Home remedy for kids cough?)
Signs that your baby is ready for solids:
- Sits up well
- Good control over the head
- Able to hold food in mouth
- Willing to chew food
- Able to pick up food & put in the mouth
- Looks curious & interested at mealtimes
If you think your baby is showing these signs but is not six months old yet, please consult a paediatrician before starting the solids. (Foods and tips to manage colic in kids?)
How to wean off Baby?
There are two approaches to weaning from breastfeeding namely Traditional approach and Baby Led Weaning approach. In Traditional weaning approach, you feed your baby and gradually introduce solid foods. You will begin with smooth purees before moving to mashed and chopped foods, then finger foods and finally small bites. Advantages of this approach are that it is easier on the baby as chances of choking or gagging are smaller, identifying food allergies becomes easier as only one food is introduced at a time and it gets less messier since you are feeding the baby. Disadvantages of this approach are that you have to prepare separate meals for the baby and if you don’t change from one texture to another at the right time, the baby might get used to one specific texture like purees. In the Baby led weaning approach, babies are encouraged to self-feed from the start. You can introduce solid foods as finger foods and allow your child to explore solids at their own pace. This approach encourages independent eating and reduces the need of cooking separately for the baby. Disadvantages include the risk of choking & gagging, difficulty to identify food allergies as many foods are introduced at once and might create a lot of mess on your baby’s high chair while he/she is trying to feed herself. (How to increase breastmilk?)
How to introduce weaning from breastfeeding at different ages?
0-6 months: Generally, weaning under 6 months old means weaning from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. For every nursing session you drop, you will substitute a bottle feeding. Though it sounds so easy and simple, convincing your baby to accept that bottle may not be so easy, especially if they are more than 3 months old and are used to breastfeeding till now. Infants become quite aware between 3 to 4 months of age and it is not easy to trick them with the change. So, you may encounter more resistance at this point. Lactation consultants recommend introducing a few bottles of breast milk into your feeding schedule early on, at about 6 weeks, so that your baby will be comfortable with both ways of feeding. But if your thirsty baby refuses to take the bottle anyway, the key to success is patience and experimentation. Try having someone else offer the bottle, feeding in a different location, or holding your baby in a new position. And, above all, keep calm and do not stress. (Home remedy for kids cold and flu?)
Tips for weaning from breastfeeding under 6 months of age
Avoid Engorgement: In the first few months, your breasts will be very full. If you are not careful, you can end up with engorgement which means that your breasts will be uncomfortably hard and heavy, maybe even red and hot to the touch. This can lead to plugged ducts, which can lead to mastitis (swelling of breast), so it’s important to treat symptoms early. If you do end up with uncomfortably full breasts, ice them for about five minutes whenever they feel painful. You can also pump for relief, but be sure to limit it to three minutes or so, just enough to feel some comfort. (Is diarrhea a symptom of teething?)
Go slow: When it comes to helping your little one with bottle feeding, the rule of thumb is to go slowly. This will protect your breasts from engorgement and also ease your baby’s anxiety. When introducing your child to a bottle, choose a time when he or she isn’t extremely hungry and might have more patience. Use a bottle nipple with a slow flow at first. If you use a bottle nipple with a fast flow, your child might become accustomed to that and get frustrated with the pacing and different flow rate of milk during breast-feeding. Try to drop only one feeding every three or four days so that it takes about two weeks for the entire process. Drop the least preferred feedings first, which likely means the morning and bedtime feedings will be the last to go. (Facts and tips to manage teething in kids?)
Tips for weaning from breastfeeding after 6 months:
6-12 months: Between 8 to 10 months of age, babies often start losing interest in nursing. It is the time when they are taking in a lot of sensory information and this often leads to babies constantly pulling off the breast to look around. So, this is the best window of time if you are thinking of weaning from breastfeeding. However, if you notice that your baby is really clingy, wait to wean until he/she has weathered this anxiety a little bit. In case the baby is facing teething issues or any other significant changes like learning to walk, starting day-care or moving homes, then it is advisable to postpone the weaning process until things settle down a bit. (Baby foods to be given at 6 months?)
Skip the bottle: If your baby is already 9 months old, it is best to wean straight to a sippy cup and solid food instead of first giving him/ her bottle and letting the child go from one more transition of bottle to sippy cup. It is a good idea to introduce your child to the cup about one month before you start the weaning process, so they have time to get comfortable holding and drinking from it. (Growth and development for kids after 6 months?)
Give extra attention: Weaning also affects moms and babies emotionally as both miss the intimacy that goes with breastfeeding when nursing ends, so be sure to give your little one lots of extra attention during the weaning process. Substitute nursing with something that feels emotionally equivalent, like snuggling together to read or even horseplay on the floor. Also take your partner’s help. Having Daddy put the baby to sleep and wake them up in the morning can give emotional comfort to the baby during these times. (Foods that help to relax and reduce stress?)
Use distractions: For older babies and toddlers, distraction is the key. When your kid starts craving for the breast, lure them into a block-building bonanza, an engrossing game of make-believe, or any of his/her favourite activity. (Foods after kids turn 9 months old?)
Nutrition for babies:
Babies need the extra calories, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals offered by a variety of foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. For a baby’s first solid food, most parents start with 1 teaspoon of single-grain, iron-fortified baby cereal (such as rice cereal) mixed with 4-5 teaspoons of breast milk. Once the baby gets the hang of cereal, you can introduce pureed veggies, fruits, and meats. The AAP recommends trying one new food at a time and waiting at least 2-3 days before starting another to monitor any allergic reactions. Once the baby reaches 9-12 months of age, your baby might enjoy small portions of finely chopped or mashed finger foods such as dry cereal or mashed graham crackers. (What are the nutrition tips for a toddler?)
How long does weaning take?
Weaning could take days, weeks or months. Even after you successfully wean your child from day feedings, you might continue to breast-feed in the morning and before your child’s bedtime to keep up that feeling of closeness. Breast-feeding is an intimate experience. You might have mixed emotions about letting go. But by taking a gradual approach to weaning and offering lots of affection, you can help your child make a smooth transition to a bottle/cup and solids. (Home remedies for allergies in kids?)
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