What Is Weaning?
Around the age of six months, some infants may show an increasing need for nutrients and energy, besides breast milk. Weaning occurs as an infant’s diet switches from mostly breast milk or formula to other foods and liquids. Parents may decide to wean their children by intertwining solid foods into their baby’s diet. The decision to wean your baby is personal one, based on you and your baby’s needs. No strict time frame dictates how long mothers should breastfeed for. Again, weaning happens gradually and when it is convenient for the mother and baby.
When Should You Stop Breastfeeding?
The age of weaning is different can be different for everyone. Experts in the field have shared a wide range of research about the right time to wean. Today, most sources indicate the average age of weaning worldwide is over 2 years. The World Health Organization states that babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least six months and ... Read more
Mommy blogger Suchada Eickemeyer, shares her expert advice on finding the right time to begin weaning. “I think the most important thing is to make sure you are on the same page…I think that’s the most helpful thing than trying to put it on a schedule or something. I think the relationship needs to drive it more than anything else.”
Some mothers may need to stop breastfeeding early because of health or work related issues. Initiating the weaning process as a mother might not be as simple as when the baby initiates it, although it’s possible with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. Mothers who become pregnant again or return to work can still breastfeed if they desire. By changing the frequency of feeding, using a pump, or substituting some formula, mothers will still be able to engage in this interaction with their baby regardless of other conflicts.
Benefits of Breastfeeding and dangers of early weaning.
Lactation expert Corky Harvey, shares some helpful tips to keep breastfeeding even after a baby around the age of six months old loses interest. “One thing a she [a mother] can do is go to a dark and quiet place and maybe find less distraction,” Corky Harvey shares as a helpful tip to continue breastfeeding when your baby is showing possible signs of early weaning. “Turn the television off, maybe lay down for a nap with your baby in the afternoon. Don’t ignore those times if the baby is willing to nurse well,” she continues.
At this age, infants are experiencing many developmental changes, both physically and mentally. Breastfeeding past the six-month point can be a great way to make sure your baby is well fed and getting the nutrients they need.
How to wean your baby gradually.
At the point when a mother and a baby mutually decide that the period of breastfeeding is over, there are some great tips to begin the process of weaning the baby. Lactation specialist and registered nurse, Wendy Haldeman, explains the steps to follow. “The best way to do that [weaning] is for a mom to simply drop one feeding or one pumping a week. Depending on the age of the baby, that feeding is replaced with formula.”
Cynthia Epps, an infant feeding specialist, also gives great tips on weaning off of the bottle of breast. “When you decide to begin weaning, the key is to go slowly, and to honor the emotional connection between the breast and the bottle. By offering more ounces of milk at the meal, you can begin to shorten the time the child at the breast. Doing this at 7-10 day intervals, and no faster, allows the child to get used to the change, one weaning at a time, without experiencing the anxiety with losing the breast or the bottle as synonymous with losing the mother,” Cynthia Epps shares understandingly.
Research also shows that changing breastfeeding positions or switching to a breast pump during weaning can be a useful tool for you and your baby. Studies also show that infants of heavy drinkers who are weaned earlier have high scores on motor development than infants who are weaned later.
It is important that at first babies are eating soft food, such as fruits and vegetables to minimize any risk of choking. Meals and snacks should not be hurried and water should be offered during these times. Food can be offered with a spoon to help motor development, but finger food is also appropriate.
Baby led weaning.
A child shows signs of weaning when their diet is changing as a result of major developmental changes that are occurring. Child led weaning usually is related to older toddlers who are still nursing but getting a majority of nutrients from meals and snacks. Cynthia Epps explains this as well, “When your child is eating three meals a day, two snacks, and taking milk at those meals and at those snacks; then the bottle feeding and the breastfeeding is available for weaning.” At this point, it is okay to follow your child’s needs and stop nursing.
According to Gill Rapley, PhD, who coined the term baby-led weaning, the ability of a child to self-feed and experience healthy mealtime habits will lead to healthy baby. Babies who are self-fed usually become less picky eaters, develop better hand eye coordination, and avoid foods that they are intolerant too.
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