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Weaning made easier

Weaning made easier

  • August 16, 2019

The bond between a mother and child is established in variety of ways, right from the time of conception. Breastfeeding is one such attributes. The touch and feel of the mother during mealtimes is the first connection that the infant experiences after being born. Add on to the fact that it provides a sense of security. Breastfeeding is also important to ensure that the child receives the necessary nutrients and antibodies from the mother that help in growth and build a robust immune system. According to the World Health Organization, babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months following which weaning can be initiated.

Weaning refers to gradual introduction of solid foods/adult diet while withdrawing breastfeeding. The WHO recommends that breastfeeding should be continued for at least 12 months after introduction of solids. This is because the benefits of breast milk have a lasting impact on the well being of the child.

As your child grows, his/her nutrient requirements change as well. Thus, he/she may require additional sources of food to keep up with the growing demands of the body. However, there is no specific age when the baby is ready to be weaned completely. Breastfeeding can be a natural comforter to your child, thus abrupt withdrawal may not be a wise move. Some babies may be ready to be weaned completely around 18 months of age, while others may take up to 3 or 4 years. There is nothing to fret about regarding this wide age range and it has no particular bearing on the relationship between the mother and child. To quote an article on this subject-‘The word “wean” means a passage from one relationship to another – not a loss or detachment from a relationship.’

It takes some time for the baby to adjust to the changes in feeding patterns. You may notice that your child is crankier than before. Relax! All this is normal. Planning a smooth transition from exclusive breastfeeding to weaning is possible with little effort on part of both the mother and the baby. Are you aware? Sudden weaning from breastfeeding raises the risk of engorgement, and may also block ducts in the breast or mastitis. Moreover, it can take a toll on the digestive and the immune system of your little one, which will be difficult to deal with. Thus, it may also be emotionally challenging for both, the baby and mother.

Here are some tips that will help in a smoother transition:

  • Allow the baby to get used to the change in feeding habits. You may start by reducing one feed per day, and gradually further decrease as your baby gets habituated to the pattern.
  • Allow the baby to breastfeed if he/she rejects foods. It will take some time for the baby to develop trust (and taste!).
  • Feed smaller portions, which can be gradually increased over subsequent days/weeks. Introduce one type of food at a time.
  • Feed lighter foods. Avoid fried items or heavy to digest carbohydrates. Your baby’s digestive system is still developing and he/she may not be able to tolerate heavy food items.
  • Provide alternatives to each food type. Do not force your baby to eat an item he/she does not like. This does not mean that you can give sweets and junk foods. Be creative in the choice of healthy foods.
  • Bond with your child over weaning. Your baby will understand what you wish to convey. Talk to your baby and praise if he/she finishes a meal. Positive words will encourage the child to be more responsive during subsequent meals.
  • Distracting your baby during breastfeeding times may also be helpful (during the feed you plan to cancel). Take your baby out for a stroll or simply hold him/her and rock, or play for a while. When this is made routine, the baby will begin to understand the change in pattern.
  • Slowly decrease the duration of each feed.

Always remember, whenever and however you plan to wean your child, be gentle. It is a big shift physically, emotionally and hormone-wise for both, so do it with thought and care.

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