There is no right way and no right time to wean your baby. The most important point is that the journey is smooth and stress free for both of you, taking one step at a time. Do not worry that the maternal bond may be disrupted if the baby stops breast feeding because there are many other ways to stay close to your baby. Here are some tips to get you ready for the transition.
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When should I start weaning my child?
The UK Department of Health recommends that the babies should not be weaned until they are 6 months old while the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least a year. However, more and more health professionals now agree that introduction of foods other than milk can begin from the age of 17 weeks as the baby’s digestive system is fully matured by then.
How should I wean my child?
There is no right or wrong way to wean a child. You can choose the method to wean when you feel that the time is right to do so. It normally feels quite natural; you will know it.
Baby-led weaning is the easiest way because your child begins to lose interest in breastfeeding which can start from 6 months onwards. By 12 months, most babies may show preference to solid foods. In fact, the more active they are, the faster they wean off breast milk. These are the signs that your baby is ready for solids:
- Baby is curious and looking at you
- Baby is interested in what you are eating
- Baby can hold up the head
- Baby is drooling
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Mother-led weaning is usually due to mother returning to a busy schedule such as work or other house chores: In this case, it is recommended that you can wean the baby off the breast gradually introducing a combination of bottle feeding breast milk, formula milk and solid food. It takes time and patience to see how your baby adjust to the change.
It is best to go slow and go in stages. For example, try by skipping a feed and see what happens. You can substitute the feed using pumped breast milk, formula milk or solid foods. Cow’s milk should only be given if your child is at least 1 year old.
Reducing feedings one at a time over a period of weeks gives your child time to adjust. Your milk supply also diminishes gradually this way, without leaving your breasts engorged or causing mastitis. Shorten nursing time and start by limiting how long your child is on the breast. If your child usually nurses for ten minutes, try five minutes.
What should be the first foods?
There should NOT be any added sugar, salt, nuts or honey for the first 12 months of life. Start with single flavour food puree such as baby rice, vegetables (such as squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and yam) or fruits (such as apples and pears) for a stretch of 3-4 days. After 4-6 weeks, you can mix these flavours together.