Arguably one of the most challenging aspects of motherhood has to be the most dreaded process of weaning the baby. Not only do they bring emotional distress in that you deny a child his meals, the tantrums the child displays can make one mad. And the slight feeling of rejection that slips into your mind when your child has completely lost interest in breast milk.
So what does it mean to wean a child? When do you attempt to wean a child? What factors are to be considered? How do you wean a child? And how long does it take?
No worries, all these common questions about this sensitive and important topic would be addressed.
What is weaning?
Weaning means for the first time introducing meals other than breastfeeding to a toddler, a significant transition for the child and parenting. It takes a lot of patience, gentleness, and care. And it is also essential to be sensitive to the baby’s feelings, as experts call BLW. Baby-led Weaning.
Typically a transition from a liquid to semi-liquid to solid. The weaning process begins when the baby consumes food from any source other than breast milk. It is important to note that Weaning is mainly a “passage,” “transition” from one relationship to another. Not complete refusal, rejection, detachment from a relationship.
Weaning does not actually make motherhood easier per se; instead, it is an occasion, a happy one, though the child is finally becoming developed and adequately equipped for the next stage of development.
How long does it take to wean a baby?
Typically it takes about 5 days to 1 month to wean a child. This depends on factors like how well he is responding and the mother’s approach to it.
When to start weaning a baby?
Funny enough, it is not that straightforward like we said earlier. Weaning is a gradual process, and you can’t expect that you would stop breastfeeding at a particular age, and that is it. When to finally start to wean is a critical decision that can be influenced by several factors like AGE, PERSONAL REASONS and OCCUPATION, and BODY PHYSIOLOGY
Recommended Age to Wean
WHO recommends that the child be given exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and can gradually be introduced to other liquid and semi-solid products until at least two years. Research has shown that most women attempt weaning earlier than this. But the most suitable age range is between 4- 6 months of life.
“After 6 months, your baby begins to require a higher level of certain nutrients such as Iron, Zinc, Vitamin B and D. That she might not be able to get from your breast milk or her reserves alone, but they would complement her diet. Breast milk remains her primary source of nutrition for many months to come, ” A childcare expert commented. It is also important to note that cow milk should not be taken until at least 12 months.
Generally, most accept that breastfeeding can continue till any age as long as it is comfortable for the mother and child. Recent studies by anthropologists estimate the natural age for humans to stop breastfeeding is higher than 2; some believed our ancestors might have been breastfeeding till the age of six or seven!
However, many may choose to initiate the weaning process at 1st year, and some decide to do exclusive breastfeeding for longer than a year.
WHO advises that mothers breastfeed their children for the first two years of life, though that practice is not common.
1. The age of weaning a child
Age is important as to how he would come with the sudden lack of breast milk, and studies show children that are weaned later in life (Over 1 year old) tend to be harder to deal with and moody when weaned.
In simpler terms, a 2-year-old to only eat milk for that long may become more resistant, attached, and throw more tantrums than a 12-month-old baby. So take it gradually and patiently and tend to avoid a sudden all-or-nothing approach.
2. Personal reasons
This deals mainly with what you want as a parent, but it’s important to consider the child’s feelings. Starting from 6 months old, you plan to start weaning, it’s okay, but if your child resists it greatly, you can adjust. Also, there are times you might want to continue breastfeeding. But your child seems uninterested; this is a massive sign he is ready to be weaned, though some mothers might get emotional, accept that it is part of the development process, and is now a big boy. You could bond with him in other significant ways.
A mother’s Occupation is a factor that decides when to attempt Weaning. If the mother has a serious, time-consuming job, Weaning might start immediately when he is 6 months old or younger. Most mothers’ best approach is to feed their other foods in the morning and afternoon and Breastfeed at night. If she is a stay-at-home mom or her work is not that engaging, she can take her time to fully experience the joy of breastfeeding and the bond it creates.
4. Body Physiology
The body of the woman is also an essential factor to take note of. This is basically how well she lactates or whether breastfeeding is a little bit painful. If she’s the type that doesn’t lactate well and does not like breast pumps, substitutes can start coming in as early as 5 months old. Also, for a child with a huge appetite, breast milk only might not work when he reaches 12 months of age. After that, you can start to introduce other semi-solid foods to him.
How to wean a baby?
Let’s look at some basic, easy techniques that can be employed when weaning a child.
- A simple approach is to get rid of one feeding session a week until he takes his meals from a bottle or cup. It could even be your breast milk that is contained in the cup. Weaning is much simpler when your child is taking milk from another source, so try normalizing the bottle to him. It makes Weaning easier, and the child could be left with family Or the caregiver without expecting intense drama or tantrums from lack of breastfeeding for a long time.
- Beware when your child starts to wean on his own. Some children can be content with breastfeeding as long as you allow them; however, it would already signal that they are ready for Weaning. Small signals and signs like this include the child expressing interest in what you are eating, being somewhat fussy and irritated during breastfeeding, playing around during breastfeeding, active sucking reflex disappearing.
- Providing other means of comfort. One of the perks of breastfeeding is the closeness and bonds it brings for a mother and child. Hence, an excellent way to start weaning is to find other things that bond you and your child other than breastfeeding—may be going out to play, rocking them on a chair, giving him attention to what he is doing. Anything that can make them emotionally filled.
- Keep your little one busy; nothing stimulates the need to breastfeed and nursing like boredom. Read picture books, Watch tv together with him, Go out.
- Make yourself less available. Never be in one place where he can have access to you always. This does not make you a bad parent; instead, you are allowing him to explore the world around him on his own. Even possibly his dad or a nanny can take charge. And sometime later, you come and give him a slight “refuel.”
- Use the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” method. Don’t try to remind your little one; it’s time to breastfeed. Although if the child persists if he is super touchy, he still really needs the milk. Observe very well.
- Be firm. Although you might seem harsh, it is essential to set limits in the weaning process, like deciding not to breastfeed in the morning, maybe only at night. Try to stick to that routine, although there can be exceptions. time limit, maybe on your smartphone, to get him used to the idea that breastfeeding stops when the timer goes off. And as time goes on, you can reduce the time and be flexible.