Weaning is one of the many natural stages that babies and toddlers go through in their young lives, with the introduction of solid foods and intake of formula milk. This elating new period should ideally begin around the baby’s 6th month, but may commence as early as the 4th month, depending on the baby’s level of adaptability. Studies have indicated that a good percent of babies continue breast feeding up to 12 months and some cases beyond.
Remember babies have personalities too, and they all vary. Studies have indicated the transition from exclusive breast feeding to weaning will occur at a time that you feel is right and when least expected. During this sensitive phase, use all the natural maternal instincts of encouragement to promote your child to gradually give up nursing and at the same time reinforce the bond you have with your child. My suggestions on getting through this phase are:
- Don’t offer , Don’t refuse
This learning curve in your child’s life is going to be hard; therefore it is essential that the child is not left to go “cold turkey”. That’s why this method is one widely used by mothers and suggested by child nurturing experts for starters
- Initially, mothers should start by reducing the breast feeding sessions, and try to facilitate a “weaning time” within the babies daily routine. This will help the baby to gain an appetite to eat.
- Keep the child occupied at a usual breast feeding interlude with games or an activity of sort.
- Avoid sitting on the spot where the child is usually breast fed, as he/she may be reminded of a missed nursing period.
Despite these efforts, should the toddler insist on being nursed and breast fed, Don’t Refuse. All successful transitions are gradual.
- Not losing the window
As babies continue to develop and grow within the 1st year, so does their appetite. Increased activity and small stomachs mean that toddlers tend to get hungry more often than adults do.
Understanding your child’s needs and metabolism will assist in ensuring that requirements are met and are met on time.
Establishing acceptable sleeping and feeding patterns will come in handy with the entire weaning process in whole.
- Weaning Entertainment and Comfort
There is nothing like soothing music or a sing along session to calm the nerves and wish away the tension filled environment of feeding. Play your child’s favored music, so that he/she may begin to have an association with it and feeding time.
Most babies prefer to be nestled on a lap whilst feeding, and that’s acceptable. The high chair regulations do not need to be imposed until you are certain he/she is ready for it and has an inclination towards it at an early age
It is ironic that the best foods to begin the weaning process are the ones that Parents are likely to struggle with until children reach adolescents. Obviously that is Fruits and Vegetables.
Babies do not come with an inbuilt receptiveness to all foods and more often than not mothers should be weary of allergic reactions and that makes selecting the ideal “first foods” an essential exercise.
Commonly used Root Vegetables such as Sweet Potato’s Carrots and Parsnips, not only contain that starchy sweetness that your child is sure to adapt to but is also easily digested due to the fine texture pureed.
Apples, bananas, pears and even season fruits such as papayas and mangoes are palatable and perfect to begin with, when ripe.
Whatever foods you may decide to begin with, it is sensible to take note of your child’s likes and dislikes early on and taste the food prior to the child eating it.
How soon to wean
Health authorities in most Western countries, recommend exclusive breast feeding until the age of 6 months. However, as mentioned above, babies are unique in their habits and traits and this extends to weaning as well.
The onus is purely on parents to watch for the tell tale signs that the baby is ready for the weaning process to begin and these signs are not hard to notice.
When the time comes, your baby’s milk feed requirements will change and increase rapidly. The increased frequency will be associated with staggered sleeping patterns, where the baby will be waking up more frequently for feeds. Curiosity towards other eats and the ability to support his/her head when sitting are other signs that weaning can begin in earnest.
Parents should not hold back weaning past the 6th month as breast milk will no longer be enough to support the growing baby. Plus, the later the solids are offered, the risk of refusing feeds will go higher. It could lead to undernourishment and feeding problems due to the baby’s habits.
To avoid frustration while feeding, choose a time that both mother and baby are relaxed and in a good mood.
- If your baby is too hungry, it would be a good idea to offer a half feed of milk. Hungry babies are not cooperative and might refuse solids.
- Make the feeding time fun by playing a feeding game. Hide and seek with the spoon full, the crane or even a good picture book can be a great help.
- Never forcefeed a child. Remember that you can always offer your child the food in a different time or incase you are introducing a NEW food, reoffer in a couple of days.
- Make every bite count by preparing a highly nutritious food.
- Know when to stop! A frustrated angry baby will always refuse to eat.
Armineh AKA arminliya is a 35 year old Mum of 2 boys 5 and 17 month olds.
She started sharing her knowledge of weaning and baby toddler recipes since 2008 and her advices has helped friends and family members deal with their fussy eaters. Having graduated in the field of Hotel and Restaurant management has further assisted with her insight into food and its nutritional benefits. Her recipes have been published in well known parenthood magazines accross UAE.