Congratulations, you have finally arrived to a new checkpoint of caring for your baby. Now that you are probably an expert at breastfeeding, it is time for you to learn how to stop it. Weaning is the first step of introducing your baby to solid foods.
For some, the process may come naturally as their child grow, while to others, they may need to wean their child of breastmilk because of certain health conditions of the mother or child.
What Is Weaning?
Weaning is the process of stopping breastmilk supply to your child while slowly changing their source of nutrition by introducing them to other foods.
Note: Even if you are not breastfeeding your child, you may also need to wean them off of formula milk.
Formula and Cows’ Milk Comparison
Formula milk is made specially for infants where it is tailored to suit all the necessary nutrients needed by an infant. The ingredients inside a formula milk are carefully regulated to make it is safe for an infant to consume.
Cow’s milk is not recommended to babies under 1 years old because they are still unable to digest cow’s milk thoroughly which may lead them to get ill. Regular cow milk sold in the market also lacks a lot of the nutrients required by an infant.
In the other hand, toddlers between 1 to 2 years old are recommended to drink more whole milk to help with their growth and development.
Why Must You Wean?
You must be wondering why do you have to go through the process of weaning. Why can’t you just stop breastfeeding and start giving your child solid food immediately, right?
Well, for one, stopping breastfeeding abruptly can effect you. Especially if you stop it when your baby is about 6 months or younger.
During this time, your milk ducts are still active producing breastmilk. Stopping immediately does not give your body time to adjust their production and may cause your breast to become engorged.
Putting up with engorgement is one way to tell the body that to produce less milk and eventually stop but doing it gradually can help lessen the pain that you have to endure.
Two, study shows that baby who feeds on breastmilk longer, has better immune system and has lesser chance in contracting diseases.
When should you start?
There is no exact time for you to start weaning. It is all up for you to decide. Some may choose to stop breastfeeding early while others later.
According to experts, breastmilk should be your baby’s nourishment for the first 6 months. You can start introducing solid food when your child is older than 6 months but don’t stop with the breastmilk just yet!
In between 6 months to 2 years (depending on how long you want to feed your child breastmilk) you can call this process complementary feeding where you feed your child both solids and breastmilk.
Children who are given breastmilk up to 2 years old are said to have better immunity.
Can I start weaning at 3 months?
If you are playing to wean off breastmilk and switch to formula milk then yes, you can! Introducing your child to solid food however should start at 6 months old.
6 months old are the recommended age for weaning instead of anything earlier because by this time, your baby should be able to handle and swallow food better.
Moreover, your child do not need any solid food in their diet yet. Breastmilk alone is sufficient and gives your child more nutritional benefits for their development.
Signs Your Baby Shows
Your baby will show the signs when they are ready. Look out for these signs to determine that your child would probably need more than just milk.
- Your baby can hold their head up steadily
- Can properly coordinate their eyes, hands, and mouth
- They can sit upright
Take it slow. Be patient. Your baby may need time to adjust to weaning. Eating solid foods is a new thing for them and it is also a new skill for them to learn.
For instance, they would need to learn to control and coordinate their hands to pick up the food. They also need to learn to chew and swallow their food.
So, give your child ample of time to adjust to this new task and do not force or rush them when they are unable to get it right at the get go.
Also check out this checklist for all the things you would need to make the weaning process smoother and easier for you!
What if my child refuse to eat?
Similarly to breastfeeding, your child may have their own appetite and timing. It is not uncommon for your child to eat little-they may just have a small appetite.
Your child may also develop their own tastes and preferences which led them to eat less on certain food and more for others.
Introducing Allergy Food
Weaning is a good time to introduce your child to allergic triggers. Best to only serve them one of the triggers in every feeding session. This makes it easier for you to recognize which food your baby is allergic to.
Note: Make sure the food are thoroughly cooked and is cooled before serving to your child.
Here’s a list of food that are common allergy triggers.
- Cows’ milk
- Gluten food (wheat, barley, rye)
- Peanuts or any type of nuts
Introducing food to your child has its stages and these stages depends on your child’s growth and development. You cannot start immediately giving them hard food when they had not any teeth now can you?
First Stage: 6 months old
You may want to start weaning with soft food: blended, mashed, or pureed. Your baby’s teeth are only beginning to sprout out of their gums so they would be using their gums most of the time to mash on their food.
You can change it up from time to time with food that is cooked until soft like sweet potato, carrots, rather than all blend, mash, and puree. You can also try giving them fruits like bananas, mango, papayas as finger foods.
Did you know that giving your child different texture food help stimulate your child’s brain?
Serve the food with water in a sippy cup. Avoid giving them juices or cows’ milk for drinking. Juices contains sugar that can cause tooth decay and they are still too young to digest cows’ milk.
Second Stage: 7 – 9 months old
Your baby are more familiar with eating their food now. If you have been letting them eat on their own, you can observe that their coordination are better now. You can reduce the amount of blend, mash, and puree food and offer them more different textures.
Food that requires them to chew and bite are also good to be introduced in this stage. Try to give them a variety of food flavours. Allowing them to taste different flavours help broaden their taste so they less likely to become fussy eaters in the near future!
Your child can learn a lot more if they eat together with the whole family.
Third Stage: 10 – 12 months old
In this stage, you can introduce them to chunkier foods. Even better, food that they can easily pick up using utensils or their hand. You would find that they are adjusting to eat more now. You can even add in some soft desserts as a treat from time to time.
Note: Do not add any sugar, salt or any seasoning to your child’s food.
Fourth Stage: 1 years old and above
By this time, your child can already eat food similar to what you and the rest of the family is eating. So you don’t have to prepare baby food as frequent as before. Your little one may also enjoy snacks in between food for extra energy for their daily activities.
Try giving them healthy snacks instead like fruit, yogurt or cheese sticks.
Your baby can now digest cows’ milk safely so you can give it to them as drink. In fact, pediatrics recommends it as they need more energy now and cows’ milk also contains good fat that is good for their brain development.
Reference: National Health Service UK