For the first few months of life, breastfeeding, sleep and loving cuddles is about all your baby needs. But by the time they’re around six months old, your baby is ready to widen their culinary horizon and begin the process of weaning.
That doesn’t mean you should immediately stop breastfeeding. Breastmilk still provides your baby with essential nutrients, protects them from getting sick and may help them digest their first solid foods. Your baby needs breastmilk (or formula) as their main drink until they’re 12 months old and the World Health Organization recommends that mothers breastfeed even longer. In other words, don’t feel pressured to stop breastfeeding just because your baby is weaning. It’s up to you and your baby to decide when it’s time to stop breastfeeding.
Baby weaning tips
There’s no right or wrong way to wean a baby but these tips might help both of you get used to the new routines:
• Don’t go cold turkey – wean off your baby gradually to prevent breastfeeding problems like engorged breasts and mastitis. • Cook a batch of baby food and freeze it in ice cube trays. That way you always have homemade baby food ready when you’re on the go. • Let your baby touch and hold the food and don’t be discouraged if they don’t eat it some things the first time you try. It may take the baby a while to get used to the new flavors and textures, so just keep offering a variety of foods. • Try to eat together as a family as often as possible – the baby will learn by watching you. • Pay attention to your baby’s cues and never force them to eat more than they want
Be prepared that weaning might rock the delicate balance between supply and demand of breastmilk. If you worry that you’re not producing enough milk during weaning, increasing your intake of fluids may help.
An increasingly popular way to wean off babies is so called baby-led weaning. During baby-led weaning, the mother typically breastfeeds for six months and then skips straight to offering finger foods to the baby, without introducing spoon feeding, which is the traditional method of introducing solid foods.
Rather than purées, the baby gets “graspable” pieces of the same solid food that the family eats, for example fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, well-cooked eggs, bread, pasta, and most fish. The baby decides for themselves what and how much to eat and eats at their own pace and the mother offers the breast until the baby loses interest in breastfeeding.
Many parents believe that baby-led weaning is a healthier way to wean off the baby and introduce solid foods, since it teaches the baby to regulate their own intake of food. No matter how you choose to wean off your baby, always try to be tuned into your baby’s needs – following your gut can go a long way towards successful weaning!