When To Start Weaning Your Baby-Everything Explained

Breastfeeding goes beyond just nourishing the baby. The intimacy that the mother and the baby experience makes it a wonderful and sentimental process. However, with time, your baby needs to get exposed to other foods and learn to chew and swallow so as to build their food habits for the later days. This transition from breastmilk to other foods is referred to as weaning. Letting go of breastfeeding is easier said than done. To help you make a smooth transition we have explained in detail when to start weaning your baby, the best weaning foods, and how to go about it. Hope, it helps. 

Types Of weaning

Weaning can happen over an extended period of time, in phases, and in different styles. Based on that, it is classified into:

  1. Gradual weaning: in this type of baby weaning, mothers give their babies time to wean. They skip a couple of breastfeeding sessions but do not refuse when the babies ask for it. Over the course of time, the babies get used to being completely off breastmilk. This gradual transition helps mothers to cope well physically, emotionally, and mentally.
  2. Baby-Led Weaning: this type of baby weaning involves recognizing the baby’s disinterest to be fed from the breasts. They may rely more on solid foods, ask for breastmilk less often, and get distracted more during the feeding sessions. However, this usually occurs only after a baby is a year old. Self-weaning before that must be followed up by a consultation with a lactation professional.
  3. Partial weaning: if you want to continue breastfeeding but cannot do it exclusively then, this is a favorable option. You can pump your breastmilk for different meals except one or two during which you can offer your breasts. 

In some cases, due to certain health conditions or medications, lactating mothers have to stop breastfeeding abruptly. That might follow a tough time of adaptation for the mother as well as the baby. Sometimes you might resume breastfeeding after the particular health issue has subsided and sometimes you might not resort to that ever. However, it is best to go with your doctor’s advice.

When To Start weaning Your Baby

Most mothers try to wean their babies at around 6 months by the introduction of solid foods. This doesn’t mean that you will have to keep your baby completely off breast milk. The motive is to combine breast milk with other forms of nourishment to expose the baby’s palate to a wide range of foods. You can slowly cut down on the number of breastfeeding sessions and increase the variety of other foods in your baby's diet. This will take time and might extend from 6months till the time the baby is around two. There is no sharp answer to the question ‘when to start weaning your baby and no specific baby weaning age. It is because breastfeeding is not just physical but also emotional. As long as you and your baby feel the need for it, don’t shy away from doing it.

 

Signs That Your Baby Is Ready To Be Weaned

Since there is no particular baby weaning age, you cannot fix a date on the calendar and wait for the d-day to come. You have to keep looking for signs and infer that your baby is ready to be weaned. 

Development Of Motor Skills

The most common sign of your baby being ready to be weaned is their ability to sit properly with a little support from the back. Another thing you should look out for is their hand-eye coordination. If they can identify food items and put them in their mouths on their own, it shows that they are ready to make the transition. Besides, when you introduce solid food, if they do not push the food out with their tongue and swallow that easily, it should give you a green signal to start weaning.

Attraction Towards Other Foods

If you see your baby eyeing what you eat or grabbing your plates during your meals, then it shows that they are developing an interest in other forms of nourishment. Even if they push out the food they put in their mouth themselves, it still gives a signal that they are ready to be weaned.

Distraction During Breastfeeding

Sometimes, your baby might be eager to have breast milk but your feeding session will be interspersed with a lot of breaks where your baby stops feeding to look around and play. This shows that they have developed an interest in things around them and want to be breastfed primarily for comfort. It can happen also because of the fact that they are too full from other meals to consume breastmilk sufficiently.

What To Feed If Not BreastMilk

You should always start slow. Around 6 months of age, select one meal where you would give your baby food other than breastmilk. It can be iron-fortified cereals or pureed vegetables like broccoli, kale, carrots, etc. you can serve them soft and properly mashed fruits like mangoes and bananas. The idea is to expose them to a variety of flavors. The best weaning foods are the ones without any added sugar and salt. Avoid giving them fruit juices. Try water twice a day at least. During this period, your baby’s nutrient requirements will still be heavily dependent on breast milk.

After 6 months you can play with the texture of the food your baby is eating. The foods can be slightly mashed, having lumps. Whatever they eat, must allow them to chew the food so that they fall into a habit. Make iron an important part of their diet; either through iron-fortified formula or cooked iron-fortified cereals.

When your baby is a year and older, you can introduce whole milk into their diet. Foods can then be firmer and crunchier. This will help them transition into family foods. During the process of weaning, you should try to expose them to foods that might cause allergies, like nuts, eggs, fish, and milk to see how they react to them. If they can digest them well then keep making those a part of their diet.

Tips For Weaning

Though weaning should happen organically and in a way convenient to you and your baby, here are a few weaning tips that might help you deal better with the situation. 

Take It Slow

Wean at your own pace. Skip one breastfeeding session for a few days. When your baby gets used to not getting nursed during that part of the day, move on to skipping another session. Instead of completely stopping to nurse them for a meal, you can try feeding them for a shorter time. Both ways, your breasts will start producing less milk, making the weaning process easy on you. 

Change Your Routine

If you are trying to feed from a bottle and see your baby refusing it, then change the environment around them. Move to another room or change the position in which you are holding them. If you can, then let some other family members like dad or grandparents feed them from the bottle. This will eventually make them anticipate the breastmilk less. 

Distract Them

If you find your baby asking to be nursed at a time you are trying to skip, then try to divert their minds. Take them out or bring their favorite games. Entertain them in some other way till they get engrossed in that activity. With time, they will forget and the desire to be nursed will subside. Sometimes, you can let your baby lead too. Nurse only when they ask for it. If they haven’t shown interest in being fed, then do not offer your breasts. This will help you naturally wean, even though it might take a little loner.

Provide Enough Comfort

One of the most important weaning tips is to make sure that your baby doesn’t feel short of physical intimacy with you. Give enough time to snuggle with them. Cuddle during storytime or while sleeping. Play with them, spend time doing their favorite activities and just be close to them. Not compensating for weaning with the comfort of closeness might render your baby feel abandoned. In such a case they might desire to be nursed more often and will take longer to wean.

Soothe Your Engorged Breasts

When you are trying to wean your baby, your breasts are still not used to not making milk. The lesser you feed, the less milk is produced. However, when the milk already produced is not released, that accumulates in the milk ducts and causes engorgement of the breasts. To alleviate the pain, you can pump the breast milk and use that in your baby’s cereal meal or feed them in a bottle. You can also use ice packs to soothe the pain or any other painkiller recommender by your doctor.

Conclusion

Weaning takes you on an emotional roller coaster. Seeing your baby grow independent and realizing that they do not need you as much is often not easy. Allow yourself to feel sad. Take your own time. There will be resistance from your baby, their tantrums, and innocent desires. It will be overwhelming at times. 

But a little bit of patience will be the most rewarding. Do not confuse yourself with advice from a lot of people. You know the best when to start weaning your baby. Therefore, trust yourself, read your baby’s cues, and walk the path of weaning at your own pace.

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