A universal approach to weaning does not exist, but there are ways a mother can make the transition from breast to a bottle (or a cup) a smoother process. There are times when a mother is not sure how to wean a baby. The information below can help the weaning process move along more smoothly for mom and baby.
The First Step Is Introducing Complementary Foods
The first step in the weaning process is introducing the baby to complementary foods. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mothers begin this process once their baby turns 6 months old. Mothers who want to follow the recommendations from the WHO should introduce complementary foods to their baby at 6 months, but continue to breastfeed until the baby is at least 2 years of age.
What Is Baby Led Weaning?
Baby led weaning refers to a mother starting this process by following her baby’s cues. Recognizing the signals that a baby is ready to stop breastfeeding can make the process easier for mom and baby.
Baby signals include:
- Sitting up (with support).
- Holding his or her head upright.
- Being more interested in the food mom is eating.
- Losing the tongue-thrust reflex.
- Acting cranky or indifferent while breastfeeding.
The “Don’t Offer and Don’t Refuse” Method
This is another baby-led weaning method. When the baby expresses interest in nursing, mom breastfeeds; however, mom never actually initiates a nursing session.
Although the “don’t offer and don’t refuse” method is not the quickest strategy, it does make sure that the baby receives exactly what he or she needs during the weaning process.
How to Wean a Baby Using a Weaning Schedule
Moms need to allow themselves at least a month to complete the weaning process.
One of the most important aspects of the weaning process is allowing both mom and baby to adjust to the changes taking place. For example, eliminate one breastfeeding session a week. Start the weaning process with the omission of a session that is the most problematic (e.g., baby seems uninterested, timing is highly inconvenient).
Mothers should continue dropping nursing sessions until the baby is only receiving his or her fluids via a bottle. Nonetheless, babies who are 9 months or older should bypass the bottle and head directly to a cup, eliminating the need to wean the baby off a bottle in the coming months.
Using a weaning schedule is beneficial to both mom and baby. The baby’s experience is more pleasant because he or she can progressively adjust to drinking out of a bottle or a cup more frequently than nursing. A mother who embraces a slower weaning process is more comfortable because her milk production slows to match the needs of her baby. Thus, decreasing the likelihood that her breasts will become engorged.
The weaning process needs to continue until the baby’s daily food and beverage intake completely replaces mom’s breast milk.
Reasons to Postpone the Weaning Process
Breast milk provides a baby with vital nutrients, and it also supplies the baby with a significant amount of energy. Therefore, if a baby is ill, the mother should postpone the weaning process until the illness passes.
Weaning should also be postponed during major life changes. Attempting to wean a baby during these times just adds more stress to an already challenging life event (e.g., baby is about to attend daycare, he or she is teething).
Close Contact During the Weaning Process Is Vital
Babies who are breastfed enjoy the close contact that they have with their mothers. Therefore, while moving through the weaning process, it is important for a mom to provide her baby comfort in other ways. She should consider holding her baby close while singing a lullaby or grabbing the baby’s favorite book and cuddle while reading.
At Parker Pediatrics in Parker, Colorado, moms can find an experienced lactation consultant to assist them with the weaning process. If you would like to learn more, or to schedule an appointment, please call 303-841-2905 today.