The World of Pregnancy

How To Wean A Baby From Breastfeeding?

How to wean a baby from breastfeeding? This is a question that bothers most newly mothers, and because it`s a necessary step in the child`s development, more information are needed on this matter.

How To Wean A Baby From Breastfeeding

Child weaning is an essential moment for both the mother and the child. Certain women manage to overcome this stage without too much hassle, but other ones get overwhelmed by the all process. At what age is this recommended? How should it take place: suddenly or gradually? What options are for weaning a child over 2 years old?

Milk is the basic food for a newborn. During the first 6 months of life, this keeps him away from hunger and thirst, being the only thing his organism needs. The emphasis on how essential the milk really is has been made a lot of times by specialists all over the world. World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding and feeding the child with baby formula in the first 2 years of life or even over this age.

A Glimpse in the History of Weaning

Just as breastfeeding should take place in natural and stress-free conditions to make your comfortable, it`s the same thing with weaning your baby. Gone are the times when our mothers were advised “by the people” to go away from home for 2 nights for the baby to get used with a lack of breast. It was been heard of more barbaric procedures than this, in which mother anointed their nipples with garlic or other spices to “banish” their baby from the breasts. Such methods were put into practice until the child was 1 year old, at the society`s pressure that criticized a child still clinging to the mothers breast. Another pressure for mothers was the short duration of postnatal leave of up to 4 months, the length of which forced the woman to wean the baby.

Fortunately, along with the new WHO and UNICEF recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and feeding the baby with solid food in parallel for 2 years, and even over, the weaning process is no longer such a big concern. Of course, there are social and cultural pressures today as always, but we notice an increasing relaxation in mothers who choose the option of natural weaning.

Breastfeeding & Weaning Should Be Personal Decisions

Both breastfeeding and weaning are personal decisions of the mother which can be based on many reasons. Lena Rusti, a well known psychologist says: “The decision of breastfeeding is related to the person`s choice. When breastfeeding is possible, but the mother refuses, she always has her reasons. Understanding those reasons and discussing them may lead to the change of the mother`s decision.”

But for a lot of mothers, the process of breastfeeding is tedious, especially at the beginning: “Unfortunately, at this time it`s harder to convince the mothers to breastfeed the newborn again than to convince them that after the age of 2, breast milk isn`t beneficial anymore. Only 2 in 10 mothers choose to give birth naturally, or it`s known that after a C-section, lactation triggers with a certain delay, and the postoperative scar often prevents mothers to keep their baby in their arms and breastfeeding him,” says Lena Rusti.

Additionally, breastfeeding can be aggravated even since maternity. “Generally, in some maternities newborns don`t stay in the same salon with the mothers, the breastfeeding program is at schedule, the average number of nursing staff is insufficient and all this lead to situation in which most babies are fed with the bottle,” adds Lena Rusti.

How to Wean a Baby from Breastfeeding?

Weaning is a process and starts when the child starts to diversify. During the first half of his first year, breastfeeding is exclusive, after which it will be continued in parallel with diversification, the mother`s milk remaining the basic food during the first year until the child has met his needs. Just as the age is different with the first tooth, when he starts walking or going to the toilet, the same is with the natural weaning as well. Some children can be weaned before the age of 2, others later. There are many reasons for which this happens: one may have a more intense need of sucking, another may have allergies, and another may feel the need for physical contact more. When these needs disappear, weaning allows antibodies from break milk (the immune factor) to grow gradually (as a response to the production`s decrease), so the baby will still take advantage from a little more protection against infections.

Most experts agree that the weaning process starts along with diversification, and it actually represents the gradually replacement of breast milk with solid food or other food methods (baby formula). All children reach a moment when they are ready to give up the breast. For some this happens sooner, until 6 months or 1 year, for others it happens around the age of 18 months, while others won`t be ready even around the ages of 2 or 3 years old.

How Long Does It Take to Wean a Child?

It might just take a couple of weeks to stop the breastfeeding process, especially if the baby gets bored. Or it might take anywhere between 1 and 6 months. It`s a different process from one child to another, and it all depends on how well and how fast the child adjusts. Weaning might take a longer period of time if you start your attempts before the baby feels ready.

What Is Meant by Weaning Food?

Weaning starts the first time the baby consumes food from a different source than the mother`s breast, regardless if it`s a mashed banana from your hand or milk formula from the bottle. The weaning process is nothing more than the child`s gradual replacement of your breast milk with other solid foods or ways of feeding himself. – Read more!

Stopping Breastfeeding – Side Effects

You may need to stop the breastfeeding process suddenly if, for instance, you become seriously ill or you need to leave the city for an emergency. The decision in this case belongs to your physician. In these cases, the manual expression of the breast should be avoided. It`s true that it temporarily removes the local sensation of discomfort, but will stimulate the breasts to continue and producing milk. You may resort to applying ice bags to the breasts or exercising local pressure. This kind of procedure isn`t very comfortable, but the doctor might prescribe the proper medication for relieving pain.

Specific dairy-stopping medications don`t offer the expected results and should be stopped. They aren`t cheap, offer various side effects and also often offer a paradoxical effect by emphasizing the feeling of breast pressure.

If the Baby Refuses the Bottle

An infant with the age of 4 months or older, who hasn`t been offered the bottle regularly, may resist to its introduction. Try for 1 week to offer him the bottle once or twice per day, before breastfeeding or eating solid foods. Don`t try to force him and don`t annoy him with it. Give up offering him the bottle if the baby refuses it and give it a rest with his meal, including breastfeeding. It may be possible within a couple of days to reconsider and accept the bottle.

If the baby stays firm on his refusal, get over the breastfeeding session in the afternoon completely and see if this makes him become hungry enough to try the bottle. If you still cannot convince him, you may need to offer him the breast to avoid any discomfort. Still, continue to get over the breastfeeding session in the afternoon for a few days. Your attempt may be successful in one of the following days.

The next step is to try and get over each of the second sucking within 24 hours, while reducing the amount of solid foods or even completely stopping their administration, so the child can be hungry enough to accept the bottle.

You may resort to manual expression or use a breast milk pump only to remove the local tension and sensation of discomfort.

Some experts believe that weaning would only be required if the mother needs medical treatment immediately, which isn`t compatible with breastfeeding, but most of the time, mothers who want to continue the process of breastfeeding will ask for a compatible treatment. Weaning is a process in which the option of the 2 is important; if the mother considers it`s necessary to wean her baby, then she`ll do it.

A lot of women ask themselves which is the right moment to wean your baby or if there is any? Should I wean him when I`ll start working again, meaning when he`ll be 1 or 2 years old? Should I do it when my pediatrician tells me to? Or when people around me suggest it?

Image courtesy of CloudMom.com
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