How To Wean Your Child The Right Way
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How To Wean Your Child The Right Way
Are you daunted by the thought of weaning your baby? It can be hard to shift your little one from breastfeeding to liquid or semi-solid foods. Yet, it's an important and necessary change that marks a new stage of their life and development. And since nutrition is crucial to a baby's healthy growth, it's important to take it seriously. Check out this guide on weaning your bundle of joy.
The first year of a baby’s growth is a critical time in their life – and yours. As you move from raising a cooing baby to an infant, you will cross several key milestones. Of course, nothing is closer to the heart than weaning. Getting it right isn’t always easy, and you’ll encounter multiple viewpoints regarding the ins and outs of weaning. This can be anything from when to start, how to do it, and what foods to try. And while there is no universal answer to what’s perfect for your child, there are certain things you can do to make sure it runs smoothly. Not sure where to start? Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
1. Don’t Wean Too Soon
You shouldn’t try and start your baby on solid foods too soon. Until the baby is six months old, stick to breast milk or quality infant formula milk. The first six months is the optimal time for healthy development and growth, earning the 6-month recommendation by the WHO. Rushing into early weaning may actually be counterproductive.1 If you wean a three- to five-month-old, they are likely to fall ill more often due to increased chance of allergies and infections.2
2. Don’t Think Nursing Strike Means Your Baby Wants To Wean
Sometimes, a baby may reject nursing. This could be due to various reasons such as an illness or teething. If you feel that your child is in good health, try shifting to a quieter room with lower lighting. This might be what the baby needs to take to the breast again. Additionally, think about whether you have changed your diet, perfume, soap, or anything else that the baby may be sensitive to.3
3. Don’t Rush Into Weaning Overnight
Breast milk production works on supply and demand. The more your baby suckles, the more milk your body produces. Make an effort to ease gently into weaning, one step at a time. Otherwise, you might run the risk of developing painfully engorged breasts, possible infection, or mastitis. One trick is to replace a breastfeeding session with a formulate alternative. Next, slowly increase the frequency of these swap outs – especially if the child is under one year.4 Blocked ducts or tenderness that may need medical attention is also likely to happen if you make the transition too fast.5
4. Do Keep A Close Watch On The Baby’s Weight
Startling research on malnutrition reveals that infants and young children are especially vulnerable between six months (when weaning begins) to 18-24 months.6 Even if you’re doing a partial wean and haven’t introduced solids, you should keep a close watch on the baby’s weight. This is key for ensuring that weight gain and other developmental indicators stay on track.
5. Do Choose A Cup Over A Bottle
As strange as it may seem, using a cup instead of a bottle might make weaning easier. As one Paediatric Child Health report points out, breastfed babies can easily learn how to sip from a cup at just six months. Try feeding your baby some breast milk in a cup before you move on to other liquids.7
6. Do Stop Solids If Your Baby Tries To Expel Food
When a baby is too young to eat and is given solid food, reflexes will kick in. They’ll stick out their tongue to prevent food from coming in. And even if you manage to push in a mouthful, the baby will use their tongue to shove it out and prevent choking. Take this as a clear signal that your little one isn’t ready for solids.8
7. Do Make Sure Complementary Food Is Given Correctly
When you start introducing new foods, you’ll need to ensure the right mix of complementary foods is provided in adequate quantities. The WHO recommends giving complementary food two to three times a day when a baby is six to eight months old. By nine months, this frequency should increase to three to four times a day. Children aged one to two years will also need a couple of snacks between those three to four meals.9
8. Do Watch For Signs That Your Baby Is Ready
Not all babies will be ready for solids at the same time. However, one important thing to look out for is your little one’s ability to sit up. Check that they are able to chew – you’ll notice they try and gnaw at their toys and other objects. If they can reach out and grab something properly, that’s another sign you can wean your baby. Yet, even if your child shows these signs before six months, don’t try feeding them solids under any circumstances. Your best bet is to wait until the child is at least five months old.10
9. Do Explore Natural Weaning Foods
Ayurveda also suggests weaning a child between 6 and 12 months of age. They can be given cow or goat milk and a light diet once their teeth sprout.11 Traditional weaning foods include godhuma (wheat), old dried fried shali (rice), yuva (barley), and ragi (finger millet). They are typically soaked overnight in water, dehusked, dried in the sun, then roasted and powdered. The powdered mix is an excellent alternative to store-bought baby food, and only needs to be cooked with milk and ghee. It can be seasoned with jaggery or salt if needed. Cereal and fruits can be added for a boost of essential nutrients.
Food should be warm and semi-solid with added ghee or salt. Ideally, the meal should be made fresh. Pre-made cereal mixes should be stored in airtight containers. Preenanamodaka or sweetened balls with ingredients like rice and honey are also nutritious options for the fussy eater with a sweet tooth. Whatever food you choose, begin with a spoonful or two. Slowly build up to one cup over the course of the day, split across two meals.12
One caveat is that modern medicine discourages the use of honey in children under a year old. It also advises against salt intake greater than one gram. As a result, you’ll need to moderate intake or substitute with other sweeteners like fruit. It never hurts to be extra careful.13
10. Do Decide What Works For You
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is to monitor your child’s progress with care. If the combination of breastfeeding and complementary foods is encouraging normal health and development, you could breastfeed to two years (or more.) However, each baby is different. Most will turn away from breastfeeding around a year old. Moreover, the hustle and bustle of toddler life is another deterrent to nursing. If you want to opt for mother-led weaning, set the process in motion using the tips on this list.14
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||The World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation. WHO.|
|2, 10.||↑||Weaning. UNICEF.|
|3.||↑||Grueger, Barbara. “Weaning from the breast.” Paediatrics & child health 18, no. 4 (2013): 1.|
|4, 8.||↑||Baby care – weaning. Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|5, 7.||↑||BABY, HOWDOIWM. “Weaning your child from breastfeeding.” Paediatric Child Health. 2004 Apr. 9(4): 254–255.|
|6, 9.||↑||Complementary feeding. WHO.|
|11.||↑||Singh, Karam, and Bhavna Verma. “Breast Feeding-An Ayurveda Perspective.” Journal of Homeopathy & Ayurvedic Medicine 2012 (2013).|
|12.||↑||Mallanavar,Vijayalaxmi,Shailaja,U., and Ashwin Kumar Bharat. “REVIEW ON COMPLEMENTARY FEEDS:A STEP TOWARDS INFANT NUTRITION.”International Journal of Research in Ayurveda and Pharmacy 2014.|
|13.||↑||Complementary feeding (weaning). BDA – The Association of UK Dieticians.|
|14.||↑||Weaning Your Baby. American Academy of Pediatrics.|
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.