**Today I am sharing a Q&A with Wendi Blaire, author of Hello Milk, Bye Bye Milk: An Expert Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding and Weaning**
Let’s start with the basics, what is weaning?
Weaning is the process of switching a baby from milk to solid foods. It is ideally a slow process. Weaning cold turkey is harmful to the baby and to the mother. Unable to understand why he is suddenly deprived of milk, the infant may end up with baby colic. The mother may suffer from breast engorgement and maternal duress from the baby’s incessant crying. It can also be emotionally difficult for both mom and baby to wean suddenly.
When is the best time for mom to wean baby?
Each baby develops at a different rate. The growth rate depends on a host of environmental and hereditary factors. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that weaning is ideally done when the baby reaches six months of age. The age of six months is the period when the baby’s digestive system has fully matured enough to process solid foods. Thus, six-month old babies must already be in their weaning stage. (This does not mean stopping breastfeeding, but rather beginning to introduce some solid foods and gradually reduce the number of daily nursing sessions overtime)
As soon as your baby is six months of age, you may begin to offer him first foods. If your baby does not like the solid foods that you give him, then offer breastfeeding. Abrupt weaning must be avoided at all costs, because it results in emotional stress for you and the baby. In addition, you will also likely suffer from the symptoms of breast engorgement if you do not wean slowly.
How should mom go about initiating weaning?
Wean naturally. Many parents wean without even realizing that they are already giving solid foods to babies. The moment you let your baby take his first bite of solid food, you start the weaning process. Rely on common sense and what you intuit is the most spontaneous option. Never attempt to force-feed. Never abruptly withhold breastfeeding either. Moreover, never delay weaning because your baby needs certain nutrients during his critical stage of growth. Those nutrients are present in solid foods.
Should moms spoon-feed or allow baby to self-feed?
A Scientific American blog post in February, 2012 reported that baby-led weaning (or allowing your baby to reach out and self-feed) produces leaner kids. The British Medical Journal published the results of the study that supported that premise. The babies who were previously granted more control over their food intake or were left alone to self-feed when they were being weaned off of breast milk or formula are more likely to grow up to have healthier and leaner body weights. The rationale was that the spoon-fed babies eat a variety of foods but they seem to like sweet ones. Later in life, the spoon-fed kids maintained their habits of eating sweets. So, they end up with a higher probability of becoming overweight later in life compared to their counterparts who are only allowed to eat finger foods.
Are you nursing a toddler and ready to gently nudge the weaning process? This post from positive parenting connection has great ideas on how to gently wean toddlers.
Wendi Blaire is the author of “Hello Milk, Bye-Bye Milk: An Expert Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding and Weaning.” To learn more about weaning, go to http://www.weaningbreastfeeding.com/ To check out Wendi Blaire’s book, visit http://www.byebyebreastfeeding.com