Weaning and the Lonely Art of Slowly Leaving a Mother’s ̶Ne̶s̶t̶ Breast
When is it time to wean your baby?
Just when you’ve gotten the hang of breastfeeding, there comes an entirely new phase that infants have to go through. At some point, your baby has to start eating solid food to be more familiar with complex diet plans in the future. Of course, this cannot be rushed. It has to undergo a process of gradual transition called weaning.
With conflicting advice from different sources on weaning, we’ve gathered the most useful tips and advice from medical experts to help you out.
But first, what exactly is weaning?
Complementary feeding, or better known as weaning, is a natural stage in your baby’s development. Babies who were previously reliant on breast milk alone undergo a gradual process of being introduced to solid food for the first time. Whether it’s just formula from a bottle or mashed fruits, they all count as weaning when your infant takes food from a different source other than your breast. Overtime, your baby will develop a sense of independence from your breast milk by increasing their intake of other types of solid food.
Types of weaning to try
There are two approaches when it comes to weaning, namely: natural and planned.
Natural weaning is a child-led process where babies are encouraged to feed themselves at the beginning. Usually, mothers introduce small proportions of solid food for their infants to discover and eat at their own pace. This teaches them to become more independent while allowing them to be aware of their food intake capacity. Studies also show that baby-led weaning lets them be more responsive to satiety which makes them less prone to being overweight. With this method, babies stop relying on breast milk altogether when they reach the age of 2 to 4 years old.
On the other hand, planned weaning is led by mothers who are the ones tasked to feed their babies. Using this approach, it’s a lot easier to see the amount of food that your baby has eaten while ensuring less mess on the dinner table. Nevertheless, you might not be able to read your baby’s fullness capacity and end up overfeeding him.
Although there’s just two dichotomous approaches that are acknowledged, some babies require partial weaning. This entails combining solid food and breast milk to make the process of breast milk independence smoother.
When to start weaning
Both the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breast-feeding during the first six months. After that period, mothers may combine breast milk with solid food until the age of 1 or 2, depending on what your baby needs. Usually, they may require a variety of food sources since they need iron, zinc and vitamins B and D, on top of the nutrients that are to be found in breastmilk. It would be best to consult with your child’s pediatrician to make sure they are provided with the needed nourishment.
With that, the question still remains: how will you know if your baby’s ready to start weaning? Typically, they’re ready for other food when they reach six months. If you’re still not sure, some clear indicators of this include:
- Sitting upright with their head steady
- Coordinating their eyes, hands, and mouth to locate, handle and eat food
- Swallowing food without spitting it out
- Seeming more hungry than usual
- Showing interest in food while others are eating
In case your baby takes longer to start weaning, don’t panic just yet. Children, very much like adults, begin or stop doing something only when they’re ready. Don’t rush into it since babies have to develop first to be able to fully cope with eating solid food. You may also opt to continue breastfeeding as long as you think it’s the best option. When to stop doing it is also a choice between you two. Until then, breast milk should still be your baby’s primary source of nutrients.
When to delay weaning
Since babies have different cases, there’s actually no right time to start weaning. First and foremost, if your child is feeling unwell, maybe it’s best to hit pause on this transition. Babies will respond better if they’re in the pink of health. Another cause to delay weaning is allergies. If you or the father has a background of food allergy, chances are, these have been passed on to the child as well. Given that breastmilk is rich in antioxidants, breastfeeding your baby longer might lower his risk of developing these allergies even further. Lastly, if there’s been a major change in the household, it’s also a good reason for you to hold off weaning so that your child could adapt easily and stress-free..
Weaning is a part of all babies’ lives that mothers must be prepared for, both physically and emotionally. You have to wait for proper cues to know when your baby’s truly ready to leave the comfort of your nursing. Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to slowly guide them into properly eating more solid food.
Seeing your baby grow up independent from your help does sound scary but that only proves how well of a mother you are. Consider this as training for you in embracing the future life phases that your child has to undergo. At the end of the day, weaning doesn’t necessarily have to be equated to detachment, but only to a transition that your child has to go through in life.