Weaning Baby from Breastfeeding
From 0 to 6 Months
Mothers, in general, go through a difficult internal struggle when they see their children striving for independence. A part of you wants your child to do his best and aim for the goal. But deep inside, a more “sinister” part doesn’t want him to do well because it’s a sign that he is starting to let go of his need for you.
Of course, your baby still has a long way to go before he moves out to college. And yet, the in his first 6 months of life, so many milestones would’ve been made – his first smile, being able to recognize people, rolling over and sitting up, being able to grasp objects and many more.
At this stage, weaning may refer to two things – switching your baby from breast bottle and starting on solid food. Our article will focus on the first type of weaning – which is switching your baby to formula.
Weaning from breastfeeding to bottle feeding
If you are going to introduce the bottle to your baby, the most important thing to keep in mind is to do it gradually. For several reasons – first, your baby will need to learn and to get used to getting milk from a bottle. Second, gradually lessening feedings will allow your body to slowly reduce its milk production. This means reducing the possibility of breast engorgement and catching an infection (mastitis).
Start weaning baby from breastfeeding by cutting out one feeding at a time and substituting with a bottle. Some infants do not like drinking from a bottle when they can sense your presence. This is because they are used to breastfeeding when you are around. If this is the case with your baby, get someone else to feed your baby so that she’ll begin getting used to drinking from a bottle.
Another reason why baby may not take to the bottle immediately is because sucking from the breast is different from sucking from a bottle. Your baby will have to learn how it’s done. This can be source of frustration for your baby, especially if she is really hungry when you offer her the bottle.
To avoid this, it is best to introduce the bottle before she becomes really hungry. If she has settled on a breastfeeding schedule and is feeding every 3 hours, offer the bottle 2 hours after your last breastfeed. This will give her time to become familiar with drinking from a bottle.
If your breasts get engorged when you miss a feeding, you can relieve the pain and the swelling by expressing some of the milk out of your breasts. You can choose to express by hand or to use a breast pump. If you want to dry up your milk supply, express only what you need in order for you to be comfortable. However, if you plan to continue your baby on breast milk even if you cannot be present to feed her all the time, empty your breasts when you express milk. This will send a signal to your body to keep on producing milk.
When you do plan on weaning baby from breastfeeding, you need to consult with your pediatrician to find out how best to feed your baby to make sure that her nutritional needs are met. Unlike breastmilk which is always in perfect condition for your baby, she may need a special type of formula if she is lactose intolerant or if she is allergic to components of cow’s milk.
From 6 to 12 Months
From 6 to 12 months, a baby achieves several milestones in her development. She begins to stand up, to walk, to eat solid food and join family meals, to understand the concept of object permanence and many more.
At around 8 to 10 months, there are times when babies seem to lose interest in the breast. Said to be a normal developmental stage, this is because they are more curious and more open to exploring the world around them. They are just learning how to use their sensory faculties. For most moms, to wean a breastfed baby at this stage is easier than expected.
While breastfeeding is still highly recommended (until the age of 2 and beyond), there are times when weaning is inevitable. If the mother is pregnant again or has been diagnosed with a severe medical condition and taking medication for example, then breastfeeding is discouraged. She may also have practical reasons for weaning from breastfeeding such as going back to work, caring for other family members, etc.
Whatever the reason, mothers should make sure to consider the following when encouraging weaning a breastfed baby who is 6 to 12 months old:
- Wean gradually to allow baby to adjust to the change.
- Explore the possibility of expressing milk instead of stopping breastfeeding completely. This will allow your baby to continue to receive the benefits of breast milk.
Wean Breastfed Baby Gradually.
If you must wean, then do it gradually. This will give your baby – and your body – time to adjust to the change. Eliminate one feeding at a time. Instead of a mid-morning breastfeed, offer milk in a bottle or a sippy cup. Once baby has gotten the hang of drinking from a bottle or a sippy cup, take out another breastfeeding session and substitute with a bottle. The last feedings to go are usually the early morning and the bedtime feeding.
Initially, your baby may seem to refuse the bottle or the sippy cup. Drinking from a bottle or a cup requires a different way of taking in liquids that your baby is not used to. Be patient until your baby masters this new way of drinking.
In some cases, your baby may refuse drinking milk from the bottle when you offer it because she knows she can get milk from you by breastfeeding. This is called nipple confusion. Why drink from a bottle when she can have the real thing direct from the source, right? To eliminate nipple confusion, have your partner or someone else give the bottle to your baby.
If you choose to wean your baby from the breast and to a bottle or a sippy cup, you need to check your baby’s weight regularly just to be sure that your baby’s health is not suffering from the change. If she continues to gain weight, that’s a good sign that your baby is taking to her new diet.
Many women who cannot be with their baby all the time are still able to give their baby breast milk by expressing milk and letting the baby’s caregiver give milk in a bottle. If this is an option for you, I highly encourage it since breast milk really is the best source of nutrition for babies.
If you are expressing milk and you are thinking of stopping, you should also do it gradually. This will allow your body to decrease its milk production and lessen the chances of you having painful engorged breasts and infections resulting from clogged milk ducts.
One technique to do this is to gradually extend the time in between your pumping sessions. If you are pumping milk every 4 hours, make it every 6 hours. Add a couple of hours every 7 to 10 days or as soon as you feel that your body has adjusted to the new schedule.
Another way to do it is to cut out pumping sessions from your schedule. Skip one session and when you feel that your body has adjusted, take out another one.
Is Natural Weaning Possible at this Age?
Natural weaning or child-led weaning happens when the baby gives you clues that she is ready to wean from breastfeeding. This is usually applicable to older babies and toddlers. If your breastfed baby is refusing to feed and she is 6 to 12 months old, it could be a sign that something is not right with your baby.
Losing interest in the breast may be caused by factors like teething, an ear infection, soap or deodorant you are using (the smell may be new to the baby), or even the onset of your period. If he simply refuses your milk, try to offer the breast when he is about to fall asleep. But if he still doesn’t want to nurse, see a doctor to rule out any possible medical reasons like illnesses and the like.
If he goes on a “nursing strike”, be sure to express some of your milk to avoid developing mastitis (breast inflammation) or an abscess. Nursing strikes are more common at this stage as your baby is very curious and she tends to get distracted easily by new sounds, smells and sights.
What to Feed You Baby
Follow-up formula milk can be given at this time (but preferably when she reaches the 12-month mark). On the 12th month, she should be given no more than 24 ounces of milk per day on top of her solid food intake.
Solid food may be introduced around the 6 month mark. Initially you want to start with 1 to 2 teaspoons of ultra smooth pureed baby rice once a day, and gradually increase the serving and the frequency of your meals. Juice can be given, but not more than 2 to 4 ounces a day as too much may lead to early dental problems like cavities, and possibly poor weight gain and diarrhea.
As said earlier, breastfeeding is still best for babies. If you still have milk, try to give it to your child in any way you can – either by direct feeding or pumping. Breast milk has a lot of nutrients that your child won’t get from formula milk. But if weaning is necessary, then try to wean your breastfed baby gradually. This will make the transition easier and less painful for both of you.