Weaning is the introduction of other foods other than the mother’s milk to the baby. The process of weaning is usually gradual. Mothers start to wean their babies from the age of 6 months. That is usually the recommended age by the paediatricians to begin weaning.
In this article, we want to discuss the process of weaning: how to, when to, the steps, and the schedule to follow when weaning.
o How to wean
As a parent, you need to understand that there is no universal approach to weaning. But some steps will make the transition smooth for both you and your baby.
Rely on bottles. You will need to start with liquid foods at the beginning as your baby is used to breast milk. You can start with fruit juices, breast milk (put in the bottle), and soups.
In the beginning, you will encounter some resistance from the baby as the teat of the bottle is not the same as that of the breast, so they will not welcome the move very well. But, with time, they will start getting used to it, and they will feed on the bottle so well.
You will need to integrate bottles of breast milk into the feeding schedule so that the baby will be comfortable with both ways of feeding. You will have to move gradually from liquid foods to solid foods like cereals, meats, and vegetables.
If the baby refuses the bottle, then you have to be patient with them. You can try having someone else feed them, feed them in a different location, or hold them in a different position, and lastly be calm. Babies sense your tension, and they pick up that energy from you, which will make them restless during feeding time.
When to wean
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends weaning at 4 to 6 months. There are a few signs that will show you that it’s time for weaning:
o The baby has doubled his or her birth weight, which shows that they need more calorie-dense food than just breast milk to maintain or increase their weight, and most importantly, to be healthy.
o They open their mouth when they see others eating
o He or she wants to drink breast milk or formula often
o The baby puts their hands or toys in the mouth
o They seem interested in solid food that you are eating
o When they can hold their head upright and steady which is an indication that their muscles are strong.
If your baby shows the above signs and your paediatrician says it is okay to start weaning, then you can introduce other foods to the baby’s diet.
Steps to take when weaning
There are a few steps to take when you want to wean your baby:
o You should neither offer nor refuse
Do not provide your child breast milk, but when he or she wants or asks for it, do not refuse to give them. It is not a punishment. Remember you can continue breastfeeding up to 1 year of age. It does not matter the age, when the child wants it, give it to them.
When it is breastfeeding time, start to offer snacks or a supplement. Even when it is not feeding time, and you see the child wanting the breast, offer them a toy to play with or go to another room. With time, they will get disinterested in the breast milk.
o Start to refuse sometimes
You can choose to give some time and deny other times. When you deny them the breast milk, make sure to provide them with formula milk or other foods they might enjoy.
Negotiation is essential since you can not impose what you like on the baby. Understand what they want and work towards that. Most babies don’t enjoy eating vegetables, so you can try mixing the vegetables with other food.
o Talk to them about weaning
Explain to them if they are toddlers about why they will be breastfeeding less to reduce weaning conflict.
o Change your routine
Slightly switch your routine. For example, instead of the morning breastfeeding, play with the child while feeding her breakfast. Soon they will forget about the boob and get accustomed to this new routine.
o Decrease the time spent at the breast
For instance, the child is used to breastfeeding before bedtime, after dinner, you will take them to bed, and since they’ve already fed on food, they’ll spend less time on the boob before falling asleep.
o Take care of your breasts
Avoid breast engorgement. You will find that when you start weaning, you breastfeed less. At first, the milk will be too much since the baby does not breastfeed much. Ensure to express some to get relief. Use ice packs and take pain relievers to reduce swelling and discomfort. Slowly by slowly, your milk supply will dwindle.
o Schedule to follow on weaning
Having a structure around feeding is crucial since it gives your baby a hunger pattern, and they will learn when to expect food or milk feed.
During the 4-8 weeks of weaning which preferably starts at six months, the goal is to get your baby to eat from the spoon or feed from the bottle. At this stage, you will introduce a variety of flavours and textures of food.
Doctors and nutritionists advise that you give single-ingredient meals such as purees which can be so smooth and gradually made thicker as the baby becomes familiar with their new way of feeding.
In the beginning, you will give only about a teaspoonful, so you do not need to prepare a lot since you do not know how the baby will react to it.
Offer the same food 3-4 days later until the baby gets used to it before introducing a different kind of food.
In summary, you can start weaning your baby once he/she is six months and above. The weaning process is gradual and takes time. Be patient with your baby and get to understand what they like, any allergic reactions to certain foods, and so on. Remember, you can breastfeed while weaning since babies can have breastmilk until age 1 so do check out our lactation tea that helps to boosts your milk supply.