Breastfeeding is an intimate bonding moment between a child and the mother. However, it’ll come a time for the child to wean off breastfeeding to a bottle and to solid food. There are no right or wrong ways to wean a child and mothers shouldn’t feel bad too if the child weans on his or her own early. To make the process easier, here are several steps to follow.
1. Timing is key
Weaning is easier if the baby is ready to move on. A sign that shows the baby is ready to be weaned is when the child begins to show interest in your food. Babies are more aware of their surroundings at this age too so they may start to turn away from the breast to look around. Another sign that shows the child is ready to let go is when he or she grows impatient or fussy during nursing.
2. Don’t wean when there’s a change coming
Breastfeeding is an intimate bonding time and weaning may cause distress to the child in the early stages. Thus, it is important not to wean when there’s something new coming such as moving houses, going back to work or the baby starts to teeth. Weaning during a change is difficult as the baby may get cranky and fussier.
3. Do it gradually with a plan
Try not to go cold turkey and stop all breastfeeding abruptly. It can cause mothers pain from breast engorgement or infection because the body didn’t get the memo to reduce milk production.
Start by omitting one breastfeeding session a week, the first to go would usually be the most inconvenient feedings for you or the nursing session the baby is least interested in. Try not to drop the morning and bedtime feeding first.
4. Substitute with pumped breast milk or formula
Reducing feedings one at a time over a few weeks gives time for the child to adjust. It is also a good time to substitute breastfeeding with pumped breast milk or formula for the feedings in between during this transitional period. To ease babies to feed with a bottle, try putting a few drops of breast milk on their lips before slipping the bottle’s nipple into the mouth.
5. Gradually introduce pureed food
Depending on the child’s age, it can also be followed up with healthy snacks or pureed food such as unsweetened applesauce. It is advised not to introduce new puree flavours too quickly to the child. Serve the same flavour for three days before introducing a new one to monitor signs of allergies.
6. Don’t forget the hugs and cuddles
To make up for the intimacy lost while weaning, mothers can cuddle their child while reading a book, sing together or play together to continue bonding. Spending time with them also reduces their separation anxiety and shows that you’re still there for them.
7. Let them take the lead
The “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method asks mothers to only nurse when the child expresses interest. The mothers don’t actually initiate the feeding.
8. Involve family members
Sometimes the kids will throw a tantrum with mothers because they’ll try to get their way so get grandma or the husband to hand the bottle to the child while you’re in the other room. They are likelier to accept the bottle from someone else.
9. Feed in a different location
If you can’t get someone else to offer the bottle, feed the child in a different room or hold the child in a different position. It’s best not to cradle them like when you breastfeed.
Feature image from Medical News Today