Whether you want to wean baby off breast onto the bottle or to start solids it can come with some difficulty as well as be emotionally trying for both mommy and baby. Many mothers choose to let their baby self-wean however there may be many reasons why you want your baby off the breast and it is up to each mother to decide what is ideal for herself and her baby.
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How Long Should You Breastfeed For?
You can breastfeed for as long or as short as you like, it really is a personal choice that you as a mother need to make. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to formula feed your baby or wean your baby at a time that you choose, the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby are incredible.
There is no denying that the longer you breastfeed your baby for the greater the benefits.
The World Health Organization recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives, and thereafter be introduced to solids and breastfed up until the age of 2 years old or more.
The Benefits Of Extended Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding beyond the age of 1 year is considered extended breastfeeding and this comes with many benefits for your baby including:
- Stronger immune system
- Grow into healthier adults – lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, less likely to be obese or suffer from diabetes 2
- More independence in toddlers
- Many toddlers wean themselves when they are ready
Signs It Is Time To Start Weaning
If you are keen to wean your baby off your breast but you are not sure whether your baby is ready to be weaned you can look for signs of readiness for weaning off breast and starting solids:
- Your baby’s has doubled his weight since birth
- Your baby seems interested in the food that you are eating
- Your baby opens his mouth when he sees other people eating
- Your baby can sit without support
- Your baby can hold his head up and steady
Keep in mind that babies should only start solids from 6 months of age and if you wean your baby off the breast before the age of a year your baby will need to drink infant formula until the age of one year.
Cow’s milk should not be introduced to your baby until after a year old.
Tips to Wean Baby Off Breast
Before you start weaning your baby it is best to research the different ways that you can start weaning your baby and decide on the approach that you feel would best suit you and your baby. ‘
You can choose to take medication that dries up your milk within a few days, however this approach can be brutal for your baby since your baby must not nurse after you have taken the medication. If you do this method it is best to do it when you have some support from your partner or another friend or family member so that they can take over when your baby wants to nurse.
When my son was 13 months old I chose to take pills to dry up my milk as my health was suffering and I needed to stop nursing as quickly as possible. My husband and son spent the weekend at his father while my milk dried up. While this method worked for me under my circumstances I would not recommend it unless you feel you have to do it.
The approach that is recommended is slowly dropping feeds while introducing more solid foods and formula if your baby is under a year.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Depending on the age of your baby make sure to give your child a heads up so that he is not caught completely unawares of what is happening. It is important that your child understands and has a chance to get used to the idea of weaning.
- Drop one breastfeeding session at a time, waiting a few days before dropping another. This is important not only for your child, but also so that you don’t get engorged breasts which can result in mastitis.
- Drop day time breastfeeding times first, since these are going to be easier to drop as night time feeds are the ones that usually offer the most comfort to your baby.
- Introduce limits such as not breastfeeding while out or only feeding at a certain time during the day.
- Avoid getting dressed in front of your baby and wear clothing that makes accessing your breasts difficult.
- Plan activities for times that you would normally breastfeed, or make sure that at those times your baby is with someone else like your husband or parents so that your baby is more likely to be distracted.
- Get your partner or another friend or family member to help settle your baby when he wakes up at night.
How To Get Your Breastfeeding Baby To Take A Bottle
Many breastfeeding moms struggle to get their baby to start drinking from a bottle and this is going to be an important step if your baby still needs formula milk until he is a year old.
Here are some tips to get your breastfeeding baby to drink from a bottle:
- Offer a bottle after you have nursed your baby. It is not about getting your baby to take to the bottle immediately, it is more introducing the concept to your baby when he is happy and content. Try dipping the teat in breast milk to encourage your baby to latch onto the teat.
- Make sure to choose a bottle that most resembles breastfeeding, such as this award winning Nanobebe Breastfeeding Bottle, to give your baby the best possible chance of accepting the bottle.
- Get someone else to offer the bottle. Chances are high that your baby will more easily accept a bottle from anyone else than from you.
- Make sure to offer your baby the bottle before he gets starving. Watch out for signs that your baby is hungry and be ready to offer the bottle.
- Keep on trying. Your baby may be resistant at first but make sure to keep on offering the bottle and switch things up to see what works. You can change the position you are holding your baby when offering the bottle and you can also try changing the temperature of the milk. While your baby is used to getting warm milk straight from the breast you may find that room temperature milk or even cold milk is preferred by your baby. My daughter loved her formula milk cold right out of the fridge.