Your little one is a ball of wonders! A lot of routine changes are in store for her. If you have already started solids for her, then weaning is something that by now is a relatively easy process that you might or might not have successfully become done and dusted with.
What is weaning?
Weaning is when you start giving baby food other than breast milk. Some parents have a wrong notion that completely stopping breastfeeding is weaning. Weaning is a natural stage in your baby’s development. Many mothers have mixed emotions. It’s normal to feel excited at the new independence you can both enjoy, as well as some sadness as your baby moves to a new stage in her life.
Weaning should be gradual and not done all of a sudden. It͛’s best to continue breastfeeding until your baby is at least six months old. However, you can continue breastfeeding until your baby is 1-year-old as breast milk is very good for your baby.
Weaning your baby
When you and your baby are ready to wean, keep in mind the following things so that the experience is positive for you and your her both.
It͛’s easiest for you and your baby if weaning is gradual – over several weeks, months or even longer. A sudden, abrupt wean is not recommended until absolutely necessary. It will be very hard for both the mother and the baby.
The transition to weaning may be easier if you first introduce your baby to a cup instead of a bottle. Breastfed babies easily learn to drink from a cup as early as six months of age (try expressed breast milk). It͛’s better not to switch over to bottle as it͛’s difficult to wean off the bottle and it causes teething issues.
You can express milk and give it in a cup. It might be difficult initially but slowly your baby will settle. Do not give up. Start off by substituting with one feed.
Grandma’s Tip: Make somebody else feed instead of you. If you give the feed, chances are that your baby will refuse the feed as she expects breast milk from you.
Gradually start substituting more as your baby grows. You could give breast milk in a cup during the day and feed at night. If you are having pain in your breast because of weaning, express milk frequently and store in the refrigerator.
Some mothers choose what is called infant-led weaning͛. This means watching your baby͛s cues and weaning at her pace (that is, never refusing the breast but also not offering the breast when the little one is not interested).
With infant-led weaning, breastfeeding may continue for two to four years. This type of weaning is practised by many non-western cultures.
Baby refusing breast
Sometimes your baby goes on a nursing strike͛ and suddenly refuses to take your feed. This doesn͛’t mean your baby is ready to wean. It can be caused by many different factors, such as teething, an ear infection or other illness, the onset of your period, or a change in your diet, soap, or even deodorant or if you have started formula milk.
Try making feeding time quiet and spend more time cuddling your child. Don͛’t starve͛ her, but instead, try offering the breast when she is sleepy. If you can͛t figure out the reason for the strike, see your doctor.
Remember that a nursing strike does not mean your baby is rejecting you. If this happens, be sure to pump your milk so you don͛’t develop a blocked duct.
Stopping breastfeeding abruptly will be uncomfortable for you and will upset the baby. Sometimes you may have no choice, such as, if you are very sick, if you and your baby have to be separated for a long time, or if you have to take certain drugs, like chemotherapy.
If that͛’s the case, try some of the previously mentioned suggestions. If your breasts get uncomfortable, express your milk to avoid blocked ducts, mastitis or a breast abscess. Babies who are sick should not be abruptly weaned. Make it a gradual process, so that you and your baby, both are happy.
Substitute food to use
Appropriate substitute feedings depend on how old your baby is when you start to wean:
If your baby is under 12 months: iron-fortified infant formula like Similac
12 to 18 months: Follow-up formula or whole milk (3.25%)
18 to 24 months: Whole milk
Two years and over: Whole or 2% milk
After 12 months of age, your baby should not take more than 24 ounces of milk products per day. Otherwise, she͛ will fill up and won͛’t want to eat solid foods.
Also, she may develop iron deficiency anaemia. If your baby has a milk allergy, talk to your doctor about appropriate substitute feedings like soy milk.
Between four and six months, you should start introducing solid foods into your baby͛’s diet. When this happens, your baby will begin to take less breast milk. Introduce solid foods one at a time and in small amounts at the beginning. Some babies get very constipated if they are given too much solid food early on.
Don’t panic if you see hard stools. You can also offer your baby small amounts of water once or twice a day, usually after six months of age. You can give 100% fruit juice, usually diluted with water, but it has no real advantage over water and should not exceed a few ounces per day (two to four ounces). Too much juice can lead to dental cavities, obesity or even poor weight gain and diarrhoea.
Your weaning experience is ultimately up to you and your baby. Try to follow her cues whenever possible. If you͛ are feeling blue or if the baby is not taking what you consider to be enough of other foods or liquids, you should see your doctor. Feed your baby for as long as you feel like. Let weaning be natural. Have a balanced diet and enjoy your time with your little one.