Weaning your child from breastfeeding? Here are a few things new moms need to know and will experience when you start weaning your little one.
New Delhi: For a mother, the relationship that blossoms from breastfeeding her baby is the most special. It is also an emotional bond that goes beyond nutritional and other health benefits. Hence, the transition from breastfeeding to weaning may seem challenging for some mothers. Weaning is the process of gradually introducing other foods to your baby than breastmilk. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies should entirely be fed on breast milk for the first six months of life and continue having mother’s milk alongside other foods until at least the age of two.
As a new mother, it is common and normal to question every decision involving the baby, as you want the best for him/her. This is true for weaning as well. While suggestions are plenty, one must keep in mind that no one knows it better than your baby and you. Ms Khyati Choudhary, Child Birth Educator cum BPNI certified Lactation Consultant and Member of Medela India LC Club, tells us a few things you need to know and will experience when you start weaning your little one.
- Hormonal changes: It is likely that your body would undergo a significant hormonal change once you reduce the frequency of breastfeeding. The body will gradually stop producing the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, which will leave you feeling overwhelmed and tired. Other symptoms include attachment issues, increased sex drive, anger, heart palpitations, irregular periods, and migraines. These mood swings, however, will vanish as quickly as they appeared.
- Old habits die hard: It is easy to give in to breastfeeding than to refuse your wailing and screaming baby. Since they have been feeding on mother’s milk since birth, it is not easy to let go. When you attempt to wean them before they’re ready, they can face separation anxiety, become clingier, throw more tantrums, and sleep less at night. Introducing solids and reducing breastfeeds is best done when the baby shows signs of readiness. The transition will be easy and void of trauma for the whole family.
- Baby-led weaning: Letting them go at their own pace is one of the easiest ways to gradually wean your baby. Most children self-wean when they are older than a year. If the baby is consuming more of solids and nursing only for comfort, then you should start shortening the breastfeeding session, one feed at a time. Increase their intake of external nutrients and gradually stop offering breast milk.
- Let go gradually: Reducing breastfeeding suddenly can have an adverse effect on both you and your baby. It can put you at risk of engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis along with an abrupt change in your baby’s digestive and immune system. When at work, you can use express breastmilk for your baby or if you are travelling, you could express breastmilk and send it home to maintain regularity.
- Feeling more tired than ever: The weaning phase is as exhausting as the pregnancy time. One can experience nausea, dizziness, headaches, hot flashes and clumsiness. It is therefore advisable to drop only one feed per week, to begin with. Read – Parenting tips: How to cure common cold in children – 5 home remedies to prevent and cure winter infections
- Health benefits: There are certain nutrients that breastmilk cannot provide such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B, iron and zinc. It is important for the baby to get these additional nutrients from solid foods and milk for its development. Introduce one food at a time to the baby and gradually increase their diet to include all the food groups. Sugar and salt should be avoided until children turn 2. If a baby is still drinking mother’s milk, cow’s milk is not required. Infant formulas are also not required.
- New tastes and experiences: Weaning gives your baby a chance to try new flavors and textures. It is claimed that breastfed babies tend to like all foods and tend to be more balanced and healthy eaters. They have become accustomed to the taste of foods from the mother’s milk.
- Shared responsibility: When you initiate weaning, it opens the window for your partner to develop a closer connection with the baby during feeding time. It is a relief for the mother especially because night time feeds tend to reduce by 8 or 9 months.
- Time for yourself: Once your baby is eating solids you will find that you can gradually return to the routine and life that you had before.
- Mental health benefits: Weaning allows for the family to sit together and enjoy their time. It gives a feeling of togetherness and room for the baby to increase their mental awareness around feeding and exploration of new foods. The idea is to involve the baby at the dinner table as opposed to time apart from the family.
It’s natural to feel sad and guilty about losing on the proximity that breastfeeding offers. Sadness also brings with it feeling of liberation and that is the dichotomy of motherhood. The highs and lows will always coexist. Weaning will probably be first of the many difficult decisions you will take as a parent. It brings with it the realisation that your baby is growing up and becoming independent.
If you enjoy breastfeeding, then you may keep doing it. Many mothers continue for 3 to 4 years.