Breastfeeding for at least two years helps a child grow strong and healthy. In addition, children who start complementary feeding at six months grow well.
Weaning is when a the baby switches from breast milk to other sources of food. Weaning the baby is essential from a nutritional point of view, because breast milk and formula do not contain enough nutrients for the growing needs of your baby. There are two basic methods of weaning: the traditional method and the baby-directed method.
How do we know it’s time to wean a baby?
Some mothers breastfeed for more than a year and this is called prolonged breastfeeding. Prolonged breastfeeding is a healthy and reasonable option for mothers and children who are not ready to wean. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mothers breastfeed for the first 2 years of a child’s life. Some women choose to wean during the day and nurse at night, depending on their work schedule and lifestyle.
What are the signs to start weaning a baby?
Parents should consult a pediatrician to find out when to start weaning. You may be watching for these readiness signs closer to their corrected age of 6 months, rather than their chronological age of 6 months. The following signs indicate that it is time to wean a baby:
*The baby often drinks superior food and wants to nurse. They breastfeed progressively less frequently and for shorter periods.
*They begin to skip feedings and show less interest in breastfeeding.
*The baby’s birth weight has doubled.
*The baby seems interested in solid foods when he sees someone eating.
* The baby often clogs his hands and toys.
*The baby opens his mouth when he sees others eating.
*Baby is able to sit up without any support.
* The baby is able to hold his head straight and stable, which shows that the swallowing muscles are strong.
*Baby can coordinate their eyes, hands and mouth, so they can look at food, pick it up and put it in their mouth.
*Babe can swallow food. If they are not ready, the food will be pushed back with their tongue.
The behaviors below can be mistaken for signs that you are ready for withdrawal:
* gnawing fists
*want extra feedings of milk
* waking up at night and it’s more than usual
These are normal baby behaviors and not necessarily a sign of hunger or being ready to start solid foods. Starting to eat solid foods won’t make them more likely to sleep through the night. Sometimes a little extra milk will help until they are ready to eat.
What is the benefit of baby weaning?
Weaning offers many benefits for families and babies:
* Weaning saves time and money
* Babies experience valuable social interactions.
*They are exposed to different foods and explore the taste, texture, aroma and color of a variety of foods.
*It develops healthy eating habits.
*Weaning promotes the development of hand-eye coordination, chewing skills and dexterity.
* It helps sharpen important developmental skills such as fine motor and oral motor skills.
*It also gives babies the opportunity to explore the taste, texture, aroma and color of a variety of foods.
The pediatric association recommends feeding infants only breast milk for the first 6 months after birth. After 6 months, they recommend a combination of solid foods and breast milk until the infant is at least 1 year old. The academy advises against giving cow’s milk to children under 1 year old. Depending on the baby’s signs of interest, parents can start weaning their baby.
(The author is lactation consultant, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru, Bellandur)