Weaning from Breastfeeding

weaning from breastfeeding, baby and parents

If you're a new mother or a mother-to-be, you would, no doubt, have heard of weaning and the controversies surrounding it. Weaning from breastfeeding is the process of feeding a baby anything other than a mother's milk. 

Nursing your baby is more than just an act of feeding. It allows you to form a unique bond with your offspring.

To learn more about the tricky process of weaning from breastfeeding, please read these articles first: 

Is Breast Milk Important?

First Let’s look at why breastfeeding is so important from your child's perspective:

  • Breast milk is packed with essential nutrients and provides all the nourishment your baby needs.
  • It strengthens your child's immune system
  • It is easily digestible, and it prevents digestive problems
  • Your child will identify you as her provider and caregiver. There is a sense of comfort that she will find every time you nurse.
  • Studies have shown that babies that are breastfed have a higher IQ than their formula-fed peers. 

And, now from a mother's perspective: 

  • Breastfeeding is convenient; you don't have to run to the store to buy baby formula. Moreover, it's completely free.
  • It brings you closer to your baby and helps you two form a lifelong bond.
  • A mother’s health is affected when she does not breastfeed.

Now that we've established why breastfeeding is so important to both you and your child let’s look at weaning.

When Should I Start Weaning from Breastfeeding?

  • After the age of 6 months, your baby may start showing signs that he/she needs a more substantial source of food. Although some mothers have breastfed their babies exclusively, up to the age of two, without any form of supplementation or solid foods. All babies are different. Know that you are not forced to start solids at 6 months.
  • Your baby may also start preferring other food sources as a part of natural weaning.
  • As a mother, there may be other influencing factors that stop you from continuing to breastfeed your child.
  • The whole process can sometimes take up to a few months, depending on the baby's willingness to accept the new and, to her, strange food.
  • If you're looking to wean your baby entirely off breastmilk by the time she's 12 months old, start introducing other foods in the form of snacks from the 9th month; this is a general guide as the timeframe for every baby will vary
  • You should be sensitive to your child's requirements. Sometimes it may take up to the 18th month until your baby is ready to forgo your nursing altogether.

How Should I Go About Weaning?

  • Babies are overly attached to the first and last feeding every day. Thus, you could start by replacing an afternoon feeding session.
  • Try to offer a thinly sliced fruit or another solid food as an alternative.
  • A useful tip would be to express breastmilk and offer it to the baby in a cup or a bottle.
  • After the initial phase, gradually replace every breastfeeding session with bottled breast milk or solid food depending on your baby’s requirements. Follow this until your baby is completely accustomed to other food.

Why Should I Wean Gradually?

    For your baby, nursing is more than just a source of nourishment. Breastfeeding establishes you, the mother, as a caregiver in your baby's eyes. Suckling provides comfort and security. Suddenly denying her that will make your baby feel insecure. 

If you quit breastfeeding your baby all at once, it's called abrupt weaning; this means a direct switch to milk (bottled breast milk or formula if your baby is younger than a year) and solid foods without giving your child enough time to adjust; this can be quite risky for both you and your baby. 

What are the risks of Abrupt Weaning? 

Your breasts become accustomed to producing a certain amount of milk each day. If you wean gradually, your breasts have time to adjust and produce less milk. If you stop breastfeeding all at once, you may cause your breasts to swell, and this may lead to complications such as: 

What If I Can't Breastfeed Anymore?

Sometimes, there are medical reasons that may force you to abandon breastfeeding temporarily. For example, a drug that has been prescribed for you may be incompatible with breastfeeding. During this time, don't panic and start feeding your child solid foods and whole milk straight away. Use a breast pump and a bottle to keep your baby on breast milk and gradually move back to suckling once the prescribed drug is stopped.

Things to Remember

As a mother, it is important to remember that you are more than just a source of food. Even though you may feel that your role as a caregiver diminishes slightly, this is far from the truth. A child forms a bond with her mother over the first few months that is hard to find anywhere else. Besides, once a baby is weaned off breast milk, there are other facets where your care and nurturing skills will come to the fore. 

Abruptly weaning your baby should be avoided at all costs. It can cause physical and mental distress to both you and your child. Plan how and when you would like your baby to move to other foods; this will ensure you both stay healthy and happy.

Author Bio

Aradhana is a writer from India. Her areas of knowledge include parenting, children with special needs, health and lifestyle. She has a particular interest in parenting and shares her experiences through her other passion, writing. She writes to share her knowledge so that it may help others. Her posts on these subjects have been published on more than 200+ various reputed sites like the Huffington post, sheknows, www.Momjunction.com and many more. more of her breastfeeding articles here. Aradhana writes to inspire and motivate people to adopt healthy habits and live a stress-free lifestyle.

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