Women's Health, Infant and Children | October 14, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Every breastfed child will be weaned at some point, be it after a few weeks or a few years. In some cases it can be an easy transition. However, for some mums and babies it can take a little getting used to. Luckily there are some tried and tested techniques to make the change as smooth as possible.
There is no right or wrong time to wean. It depends on the mother’s individual circumstances.
Some women choose not to continue breastfeeding due to latching problems, inadequate milk supply or because they are returning to work. In these instances, breastfeeding is still possible if the correct advice and support is obtained from a qualified healthcare professional.
The World Health Organisation recommends that a baby be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their life. They also state that even when solids are introduced that breastmilk is still an important component of a child’s diet up until 12 months of age. After 12 months food should make up the majority of their diet but breastmilk can still be consumed to provide further nutrition and health benefits.
Some babies will tell you when they have had enough. For some mothers who are looking forward too many more months of breastfeeding it can bring up feelings of rejection or disappointment. In these cases, it is recommended that you still offer a child feeds as usual. It may be they have gone off food temporarily because they are unwell, teething or being fussy. Baby led weaning can be a natural progression as the child is enjoying solids and other fluids.
This form of weaning is initiated by the mother. It may mean you have simply had enough of breastfeeding, fallen pregnant again (or plan to) or have been advised to for medical reasons.
Whatever the situation, there are ways in which you can do it gradually to make the experience as smooth as possible.
A gradual weaning process involves slowly dropping the number of feeds per day. The ideal amount would be one breastfeed every few days or week—whatever is most comfortable for you. The Australian Breastfeeding Association recommends dropping the feed that the baby is least interested in. This process allows milk supply to reduce slowly, avoiding engorged breasts which can lead to mastitis and blocked milk ducts. It can also be less upsetting for both mum and baby, allowing time to adjust to the changes.
Depending on your child’s age the breastfeed can be replaced with a bottle or cup.
For children under the age of 6 months a bottle with formula is the recommended substitution. For children over six months water, food and formula can be introduced instead. Over the age of 12 months water, cow’s milk or a suitable milk alternative can introduced instead. Some families choose to implement a follow-on toddler milk and although it is not necessary, it may provide nutrients if the diet is lacking.
Here are some further tips for weaning a child, especially if you are experiencing some difficulties.
If your child is a bit older, here are some tips that might assist with weaning in this age group.
If your breasts are engorged and uncomfortable you can express a little milk either by hand or with a breast pump.
Avoid fully emptying the breast if you’re not planning on keeping the milk for feeds. Be on the lookout for signs of infection such as breast pain, swelling, warmth, fever and chills. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
If you are weaning your child from breastfeeding and still wish for them to have breastmilk it is possible for you to express all their meals and feed from a bottle or cup. This is ideal for women who still want their child to experience the benefits of breastmilk but no longer wish to feed off the breast. Women who no longer enjoy the process or are returning to work may find themselves in this situation.
Solids should be introduced at six months of age but not before 4 months. Watch for signs of readiness such as sitting upright, grabbing for food and being able to push their tongue back in their mouth. First foods to introduce include pureed fruit and veg and rice cereals. As your child gets older they will begin to consume a larger amount and a wider variety of foods.
No matter how and why you decide to wean your child from breastfeeding, doing it gradually is what’s recommended. If you need further guidance, there are many people and organisations that can assist such as Tresillian Click Here for link, Australian Breastfeeding Association Click Here for link and community nurses.