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If you are a breastfeeding mother, you are very much familiar with the difficulties that come with breastfeeding. But when the time comes to wean your baby off of breast milk, you will learn that it poses a different set of problems of its own.
The breast milk provides your baby nutrition that is second to no other kind of replacement available today. After the 9 months of providing a safe haven and nutrition to your baby, breastfeeding is a way to continue doing so in the world outside.
The breast milk gives your baby all the nutrition he will need in the first six months of his life. Breastfeeding provides your baby a lot of water content to ward off dehydration.
But the time comes when the baby becomes increasingly independent and must be weaned off of breast milk. The choice of when to wean her baby lies solely on the mother.
Some mothers stop feeding their babies as early as 3 to 4 months of age. Others wean as soon as the baby is 6 months old. Some other mothers go ahead and breastfeed long into the first or the second year.
The way a mother should approach breastfeeding differs from age to age. The approach used to wean a 6-month-old will not necessarily work on a toddler.
Today, we shall learn more about weaning your baby. We shall take a look at the various ways to wean a baby, depending upon the baby's age. Read on to know more.
When Should You Start Weaning?
Ideally, one should not attempt to wean until the baby is at least one year of age. Six months of exclusive feeding and another six months of breastfeeding in combination with semi solids is recommended by the WHO and the UNICEF.
What are the instances when you shouldn't start the process of weaning?
If There Is Any Chance Of An Allergy
If there is a history of allergy like asthma or eczema in the family, you might want to breastfeed your baby for a longer period of time.
Allergy caused due to cow's milk can be avoided if you do so. It is also proven that an extended period of breast milk feeding reduces the chances of development of allergy in the baby.
If Your Baby Is Ill
Weaning is better postponed if your baby is ill. It is also advisable to push it back if you are sick too. Weaning is a huge transition period for both you and your baby. You will both be able to handle it better if you wait till you are in better health.
If There Has Been A Big Change At Home
Babies show distress and the need to be comforted when faced with a major change. The change may be a move, death or other tumultuous incident. You may need to wait for things to be back to normal before you start the process of weaning.
How To Approach Weaning?
Slow And Steady Is The Way To Go
Know that it is not going to be easy to wean your baby off of breast milk. Try to not make them stop breastfeeding all of a sudden. A slow but steady approach will be the best. Drop the feedings during the daytime first, as they are less likely to miss it. They will be more attached to the first feed and the last feed the most; and it might be the last to be dropped. Try a few different methods and see what suits you and your baby the best.
Give The Baby More Attention
Once the baby receives nutrition from other sources of food, it is likely that they will want to breastfeed for reasons other than filling up their tummy.
The bonding and the comfort they receive from breastfeeding will become their primary concern. In such cases, you must make it a point to shower them with a lot of attention and care when you withdraw the comfort of breastfeeding.
Learn What Is Comfortable For Your Baby
You may receive a lot of fighting for your baby if you try to wean her before she is ready. Observe your baby with watchful eyes to determine if your baby is ready for weaning. Refusal to sit for long periods of time to breastfeed and self-feeding solids is a good intimation to start weaning.
How To Wean At Each Age
Weaning At 0 To 6 Months
Ideally, one should not try to wean the baby off of breast milk till she is 6 months old. But there are circumstances that may warrant weaning during this age. The reasons may be medical or the mother may have to go back to work after her maternal leave is over. Whatever the case may be, weaning during this time takes a huge toll on both the mother and baby.
Replace A Feed With A Bottle
Try to replace every feeding with a bottle of milk, as you start the weaning process. If at all possible, use pumped breast milk. If not, formula milk is recommended.
Ask For Help
The baby may not take to the bottled milk easily. Especially if you are the one feeding. Ask your spouse, the baby's grandparents or other care-givers to feed the baby. If the baby can't feel you and know that breast milk is available, she may accept the bottle milk more readily.
Change Of Location
If you do not have help, try a location that your baby is not used to bottle feed. If you usually breastfeed your baby in the bedroom, use the living room couch to bottle feed.
Try To Be Calm
The babies will pick up on your tenseness and react accordingly.
Find Other Ways To Bond
Try cuddling, playing together and other such activities to supplement your bond and affection.
Weaning At 6 To 12 Months
Weaning Might Be Easier Now Than Any Other Period
The senses of the baby are opening up to a whole new world for her. She will be more interested in exploring her surroundings than sitting down calmly for a hearty breastfeeding. This time might be the easiest period for you to wean your baby.
At around 9 months, your baby may be hit with separation anxiety. It is advisable to either wean your baby before this period or wait till your baby is a little older.
Go Slow On Weaning
You can gradually wean your baby by dropping a feed at a time. If you go cold turkey, you risk your baby becoming clingier and can also have to face problems like painful lumpy breasts and fever.
Weaning After 12 Months: Weaning A Toddler
It Is Harder To Wean A Toddler
A toddler is used to the idea of breastfeeding. The toddler can now not only demand to be breastfed, she can actually grab it if the need be.
If you are weaning a toddler, you will need to use a lot of distraction methods. Whenever your child asks you for a feed, distract him/her with toys, games or even a healthy and tasty treat.
Try Not To Remind Your Baby About Breastfeeding
It is important to make your baby not think about the breastfeeding. Wear clothes that hide your breasts and cleavage. Do not sit or play in the feeding areas during the daytime.
Give Your Baby A Lot Of Loving Attention
Your baby is more likely to ask for breastfeeding if she misses all the attention you gave her before. Shower your baby with a lot of pampering and physical attention. This will make her crave breastfeeding less.