When to wean: How to know if it's time to stop breastfeeding

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Are you considering beginning the process of weaning your little one? Here's some important information to help you determine when and how to do it

During the first months of life, breastmilk provides all the nutrients your baby needs. Through breastfeeding, babies get the necessary nourishment for their growth and development. It's packed with ingredients that help build their immune system and shield them from common childhood illnesses. Midway through their first year, at 6 months, the World Health Organization recommends that solid foods be gradually included to their diet, while they are still breastfed until they reach the age of 2 or above.

How can you know you and your baby are ready to begin the weaning process?

It's entirely up to you, mommy!

As they start to get used to solid foods, babies begin to decrease the number of times they breastfeed. It's also interesting to note that, during this time, they experience "tastes" but are only able to swallow and digest foods at about nine to 12 months.

If you decide to wean your baby before their first birthday, make sure to give them infant formula. Consulting a pediatrician or OB-Gyne nurse to guide you would also help.

Moms who decide to stop breastfeeding early do so because of a variety of reasons, like going back to work full time or poor milk supply. Some moms who feel they have no choice often struggle with feelings of inadequacy or loneliness. It's important to seek help, if you ever find yourself in this situation. Reach out to fellow mom friends or lactation experts.

Weaning tool: cup or bottle?

It depends on how old your baby is and their need for sucking. But if you do decide to begin by using a bottle, know that your baby will eventually be weaned from that as she grows. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests weaning babies off the bottle before 18 months of age.

Helpful hints to know if your baby is ready for solids are:

  • They are able to sit on their own without support
  • They seem to be interested when others are eating
  • They begin gesturing to be fed
  • They no longer push food away when brought near their mouths

Remember to reduce the number of feedings gradually to prevent problems such as mastitis and to protect your baby from the risk bacterial and viral diseases, which increases throughout weaning.

It's helpful to start shortening nursing time from the breast your baby seems least interested in. then, you can reduce further every other day or weekly. Take your cue from your little one's willingness to be weaned.

What if your baby doesn't want to be weaned?

There are many reasons why babies don't seem to want to wean. Have they been sick? Or have they become too dependent on nursing as a source of comfort?

If your child seems resistant to the weaning process, you must deal with it in a way that's appropriate to their age or stage of development. For instance, toddlers who can communicate already can be told about the need of stopping breastfeeding, in order to fully enjoy yummy food.

Lactation consultant Jan Barger suggests being loving but firm. There may be tears, but consistency is key, so it won't make it difficult for you in the future. Barger's advice is to say something like: "You're a big boy (or girl) now, and we aren't going to nurse anymore. We can snuggle together, and I'm always here for hugs, but we won't be breastfeeding anymore."

Don't forget to frequently cuddle your little one and to shower them with attention, so as to compensate for the reduced feeding time, fulfilling their emotional needs as you see to the physical ones.

How about extended breastfeeding?

Any amount of breastfeeding is good for your baby, but prolonged nursing offers a wealth of benefits. Some moms and babies fall into the rhythm of breastfeeding that they don't seem to want to stop. Don't be pressured and go about it at your own pace. Kids as old as 4 years old have been known to breastfeed.

Let us know about your weaning journey in the comments below!

READ: 8 Foods to kick-start your baby led weaning process!

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