Weaning is the process of introducing to your baby foods other than milk. It is a slow and gradual process during which the baby discovers various tastes and learns the art of chewing and eating.
It is a milestone in your baby’s life, a major learning process for the infant, and an emotional state for the mother. Mothers often feel anxious when it comes to introducing solids. They have so many doubts and questions in mind, along with a general misconception that weaning is a very complicated process. But the fact is that weaning is not as complicated as you may have been expected.
Babies wean off naturally after a certain age. Once they begin to enjoy the different tastes of food, their inclination for milk gradually reduces. They may still require the occasional comfort of breast or bottle for a while though, before they wean off completely.
Why should you wean?
As your baby grows, you will begin to notice that even after a full breast or bottle-feed, your little one still seems hungry; the baby may demand for extra feeds during the day. This is an indication that his/her growing body now needs extra nourishment. Milk alone is not sufficient for proper growth and development after a certain age. Infants as they grow require other nutrients, which may not be available through milk.
Your baby’s growing body demands proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals in larger amounts than before. Protein is a body builder, carbohydrates are required for energy, calcium helps in building bones, teeth and muscles, Iron prevents Anemia, and vitamins help in maintaining the normal body metabolism. By introducing solid foods, you not only fulfill the growing body’s requirements but also teach your child the right eating habits.
When should you wean?
When to wean the baby is a personal choice that should be based on your baby’s requirements and your own constraints to breast-feeding. Doctors always recommend exclusive breast-feeding till the baby is at least 6 months old. During the first 6 months, your baby’s digestive system is not mature enough to digest anything other than milk. After 6 months, you can gradually introduce other types of food.
Whenever you decide to wean your baby, remember the transition has to be slow; take one step at a time. Don’t hurry up or come under pressure from others. You are the best judge to tell what your baby needs and when. If your baby shows interest in the food on the plate while somebody is eating and attempts to grab it, it is an indication that he or she is possibly ready for solids.
How to wean your baby?
Remember that your baby has so far been only on liquids and has no idea on how to receive anything other than milk. His/her body also needs time to adapt to the new diet. The entire process has to be gradual. Don’t wean off abruptly; it can create problems for you and your baby
Hence for the first few weeks, you are only introducing the idea of eating from spoon to your baby. Solids will not yet be the main source of nourishment. Milk will continue to be the major part of diet, till your baby’s system gets used to solid food.
Begin with introducing solid food at one time during the day, preceded and followed by a milk feed and gradually decrease the milk feed while increasing the solid food over the next few days. Eventually, you can drop the milk feed completely. Do this for a few days, before you introduce another solid meal during the daytime. Follow the same process till your baby is completely weaned off, with three solid meals a day. You can continue to give one breast or bottle-feed in the night before your baby goes to bed.