For a newborn baby, mother’s milk is all the nourishment they need to flourish for the first few months of their life. As a nursing mother, your milk contains the perfect mix of proteins, fat, and vitamins that provides overall nourishment to your child. Also, the antibodies present in breast milk will protect your baby from viruses and bacteria as his immune system takes time to develop. Additionally, breastfeeding is about much more than providing nourishment as it helps in forming a connection with your little one. The exclusive time you spend with your child while nursing has physical, mental and emotional implications that will outlast his childhood.
While your baby can get all the nourishment from breast milk, this phase eventually makes way for weaning. Weaning is the time in a child’s life when his diet switches from breast milk to include a variety of solid foods and fluids. It is a natural way of introducing new flavours and ingredients
Weaning your child - Deciding to introduce new foods to your baby
As every baby is unique, so will his weaning readiness be. Some babies may show signs of leaving the breast as early as 6 months, while others may continue nursing till they attain 2 years of age. You can turn to other mothers for helpful weaning suggestions but remember that the ideal time and way to wean can only be decided by you and your child.
You can start by introducing a mixture that contains semi-solid food of different tastes and textures in your baby’s diet. Do not be discouraged if he doesn’t like certain flavours in the first attempt; you can try incorporating it in a different format a later time. Make the most of the weaning phase by including a wide range of veggies and fruits as it can lay the foundation for his healthy eating habits in the long run.
Baby weaning signs to watch out for in your infant
For a baby, weaning signifies that his digestive system has become strong enough to incorporate natural foods. But weaning your baby off the breast is a gradual process that takes time and effort. As your baby grows more and more active, his need for nourishment and attachment can be met through direct interaction with the surroundings. Showing signs of age-appropriate independence is the baby’s way of letting you know that he is ready to be introduced to different foods and tastes.
Some of the ways that weaning can be initiated are:
Baby-led weaning - I wanna Gobble All I Find!
After your baby attains a certain age, you may notice that he seems less interested in nursing and it may be increasingly difficult to keep him still long enough to feed. While it is a completely normal phase, it indicates that your baby is growing active and is slowly transitioning into weaning. His interest in his surroundings is growing, and he is developing a sense of curiosity about everything around him including his food. Some other tell-tale signs are when your child begins to take an interest in your food during meals, puts random things in his mouth, and swallows some food when offered. These signs are usually seen as a combination after 6 months and reflect age-appropriate independence.
Mother-led weaning - Let’s have more than Mama’s Milk!
As a mother, you may need to initiate weaning for reasons pertaining to health, professional commitments or simply because you feel the time is right. Although your child may resist at first, doing it slowly and replacing his feeding with other alternatives may hold the key to weaning. Start by gradually dropping a feeding session and replacing it with solid foods (for babies between 6-12 months). It is natural for your baby to feel withdrawn when you forego feeding him, so utilize this time to strengthen your connection by playing with him or singing nursery rhymes together.
Partial weaning - Mama’s love in a bottle!
Many working women who become mothers may have to resume work soon after giving birth. Parting with your young one may prove to be a difficult task in itself but as such, providing timely feeding can also become a challenge. But rest assured, as many working mothers face the same dilemma.
If your baby is six months or younger, you can pump your breasts and ensure that he is bottle fed by family members. Although you will miss your baby at work, you can make up for the time apart by breastfeeding him right before leaving for work and after returning home in the evening. Even though it might seem convenient to initiate rapid weaning at such times, it is highly discouraged due to the reasons mentioned below.
Rapid Weaning - A strict No-No
Weaning is one of the many milestones in a child’s life which is best achieved when you understand your baby’s needs and gradually work towards it. Rapidly weaning your baby may disrupt his routine which can be confusing and frustrating to the child, causing him to turn cranky and irritable in return.
Doctors recommend that mothers introduce weaning slowly and discourage rapid weaning as it affects the mother’s health as well. This is because after giving birth, your body is signalled to produce milk to actively nurse the baby. In the case of rapid weaning, when the baby is not feeding, the milk gets stored in the breast with no outlet and can lead to breast engorgement. As a result, the breasts get swollen with milk, and it can lead to conditions like mastitis. Therefore, it is recommended that you wean slowly so that along with the baby, your body also gets time to adjust to the absence of nursing.
Tips on how to stop breastfeeding - Leading your infant towards the next Milestone
Like anything else in life, the key to baby weaning is a gradual transition rather than an abrupt one. Ideally, you can replace your infant’s diet with solid foods after they have completed 1 year of age. You can start by slowly reducing the frequency of nursing and skipping a feeding session. Although your baby might resist at first, you need to be insistent and distract his mind from feeding.
If your baby is nursing 3 times a day, try to wean him off once a day during his least favourite feeding and substitute it with healthy mashed vegetables or fruits. Continue following this routine for a week so that he is nursing only 2 times a day. Like grown-ups, babies too respond well to change with a little encouragement and patience. Therefore, give your baby enough time to feel comfortable with the new routine. When your baby seems accustomed to it, you can continue reducing the frequency
Mama and baby’s special time together during weaning
The positive impact of breastfeeding is far more outreaching as apart from providing nutritional benefits it also helps you form an intangible bond with your child. Your exclusive time together while nursing is a special time that both of you cherish. Even after having weaned your baby, you can find other ways of communicating and interacting with him. Also, towards the end of nursing, you have more free time available to tend to your child’s other needs patiently.
As the child begins to grow and connect more with the external world, his needs for connection can be met through ways other than breastfeeding. As a mother, you can find alternatives of establishing the same intimate bond formed while nursing by engaging with him in different and more sociable ways. Reading a book to your child, singing nursery rhymes together, and playing with him can help you re-establish that connection with your baby.
What are some of the best weaning food for my baby?
Your rich milk provides all the nutrition for your baby till he completes 6 months of age. However, beyond that, the body needs more nutrients, especially iron, and his digestive and immune systems are developed enough to take in solid foods. You can include a variety of tastes and textures in your child’s diet, thus making way for healthy eating habits. Interacting with your child while teaching him to swallow and eventually chew is a magnificent way of extending the bond formed while nursing.
Mothers love to go that extra mile to ensure that their little ones are getting the right nutrition. As such, a weaning chart can help you with a detailed food plan for your growing infant. Research has shown that by introducing different veggies from a young age, you can help set your child’s preference to those vegetables in the future. Some healthy weaning foods include cooled-off purée or a mashed up version of cooked vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, etc. You can also offer him purées of healthy fruits like mangoes, apples, pear, papaya, and bananas. Your infant will even respond well to baby rice or other cereals mixed with milk which can also provide the required nutrients.
Babies go through many transitions in life starting from birth, and as parents, we need to celebrate each milestone as their rite of passage into becoming healthy individuals. Although weaning brings an end to your baby’s need for milk, it is a significant milestone which can lay the foundation for a beautiful and loving mother-child relationship.
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