Weaning Your Precious Baby: Common Questions And Answers

Learn everything you need to know about this developmental stage

Your baby is considered weaned when he stops nursing and gets all her nutrition from sources other than breastmilk. Babies are also weaned from the bottle, but the term ‘weaning’ usually refers to when a baby stops breastfeeding.

Weaning doesn't necessarily indicate the end of the intimate bond you and your child created through nursing. It just means you're nourishing and nurturing her in new ways.

When should you start weaning?

You're the best judge of when it's time to wean, and you don't have to set a deadline until you and your child are ready. Doctors recommend that mothers breastfeed for at least a year – and encourages women to breastfeed even longer if both you and your baby want to.

Baby-led weaning: Weaning is easiest when your child begins to lose interest in nursing, and that can happen any time after she starts eating solids (around 4 to 6 months). Some babies are more interested in solid food than breast milk by 12 months, after they've tried a variety of foods and can drink from a cup.

Mother-led weaning: You may decide to start weaning because you're returning to work. Or maybe it just feels like the right time. If you're ready but your child isn't showing signs she wants to stop nursing, you can wean her off the breast gradually.

How do you wean your baby?

It will not be easy, and you may expect to see signs of frustration from your baby at first. You can ease the transition by using these approaches:

Skip a feeding. See what happens if you offer a bottle or cup of milk instead of nursing. You can substitute pumped breast milk, formula, or whole cow's milk (if your child is at least a year old).

Reducing feedings one at a time over a period of weeks gives your child time to adjust. Your milk supply also diminishes gradually this way, without leaving your breasts engorged or causing mastitis.

Shorten nursing time. Start by limiting how long your child is on the breast. If she usually nurses for ten minutes, try five. Depending on her age, follow the feeding with a healthy snack, such as unsweetened applesauce or a cup of milk or formula. Solid food is complementary to breast milk until your baby is a year old.

Postpone and distract. Try postponing feedings if you're only nursing a couple of times a day.

This method works well if you have an older child you can reason with. If your child asks to nurse, reassure her that you will soon and distract her with a different activity. If she wants to nurse in the early evening, explain that she has to wait until bedtime.

To ease your baby's transition to a bottle, try putting a few drops of breast milk on her lips or tongue before slipping the bottle's nipple into her mouth. You can also try giving her a small amount of breast milk in a bottle a couple of hours after breastfeeding but before she's so hungry that she's impatient and frustrated.

How will this affect your baby’s poo?

You’ll probably notice a few changes in your baby’s poo when she starts to eat solid foods at six months. Changing from an all-milk diet to a diet that includes food means his digestive system has some adapting to do. His poo will change colour and smell, and she may poo more often or less often than before. 

When your baby starts solids, his poo becomes thicker, darker, and a lot smellier. It won’t always look the same and will probably be different after she’s had different foods. Some high-fibre foods, such as raisins, may even pass through your baby's system virtually unchanged and reappear in his nappy later on.

Why won’t your baby eat off a spoon?

There may be many reasons why your baby is reluctant to take food from a spoon. It may be to do with your baby’s age. If you introduce solid foods too early, she may not be ready to start. If she’s younger than six months, she may not have developed the coordination she needs to eat from a spoon. 

By six months, your baby can use her upper lip to take food from the spoon rather than sucking at it. She’ll also be able to move food to the back of her mouth and swallow. If your baby pushes her food out and ends up with more food on her face than in her mouth, it may be a sign that she isn’t ready. 

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