Weaning is the process of transitioning your baby’s diet from breast milk to formula, solid foods and fluids. Weaning is a gradual replacement process that lays the foundation for training your baby on healthy eating options and diets. It just has to feel right without any abrupt endings.
Weaning is usually at the mother’s prerogative except in cases of baby initiated weaning. Most mothers would breastfeed their babies alongside other foods until they are about 1 year. It is at that point that they wean the baby completely of breast milk. In this case, the baby would have been trained on how to get used to new tastes and feels, use a spoon, chew if possible and then swallow.
Some women may worry that weaning might affect the bond they share with their child but this isn’t so. There are lots of ways to maintain intimacy as you nurture your child asides nursing- cuddling, rocking, patting etc. You will have to embrace change as your baby requires a variety of extra nutrients that your breast milk alone cannot provide.
As long as your baby has stopped breastfeeding, the baby is considered weaned as nutrition is now derived from other foods. Weaning can be either mother led or baby led.
For Mother led weaning, this ideally happens when a mother starts being away from the baby for considerably long periods because of work or other engagements. This type of weaning is harder because while the mother feels it’s the right time, the baby may feel that it isn’t. A lot of patience, time and sensitivity is necessary here, as the baby gradually adjusts to the transition. No matter how urgently you want to wean, always consider the baby, as a sudden cessation can be quite traumatic.
Baby led weaning is actually easier. The child begins to lose interest in breast milk on their own, especially when they have gotten a feel of formula or a variety of solid foods.
For some babies, the older they grow, the less inclined they may be to breastfeeding as they have become occupied or are distracted by other activities. Sitting still and nursing may seem like a really huge burden; hence they become fussy and even cry. You might feel bad about this reaction, but this is really all the cue you need to know that your baby has had enough of breast milk and will most likely not miss it.
Here are ways to get started on weaning your baby
Have a plan. You cannot keep speculating, you have to choose a specific date to start. Weaning may typically take about a month to complete.
Remember, it has to be gradual. Even if it’s a baby led weaning, don’t do it abruptly.
Intentionally skip a nursing time or substitute breast milk with a bottle of plain milk or formula. There may be refusals and frustrations but keep trying. With this new system of reduced breastfeeds, your baby will begin to adjust and pick interests in cups, spoons and bottles. That way it’s not sudden for your baby and your breasts are not engorged.
You can also shorten nursing time from what your baby is used to. If your baby would ordinarily nurse at 15 minutes, you may pull out by the 10th minute. This may be harder in bedtime feeding, so, make it the last one to shorten.
Asides skipping, you can also postpone feeding. That way, the baby begins to get the sense that feeding at a particular time is no longer assured. You may distract the baby with another activity until later. This doesn’t mean starving you should starve the baby.
Your baby will not cooperate with your skipping or postponement plan if he or she is very tired or starving. You have to try this on days when you will get cooperation, that way, it is registered.
Do it with love and care. Cuddle and nurture your baby in other ways so that no vacuum is created. Breastfeeding is not the only way to bond. Massage, sing a lullaby and comfort the baby as you get them started on other foods.
You can also nurse the baby only when there is an expression of interest, not when you feel. That way, you aren’t the one initiating it. Almost like an ‘if you don’t ask, I won’t give you’ method. This may not be a quick way to wean but in the end, your baby will stop asking.
In helping your baby’s transition to bottles or spoons, you could put drops of breast milk on the lips first. You may then feed with bottles and spoons thereafter.