- Babies tend to get used to routines, so it is necessary to modify them smoothly.
- Including your partner will help to create a new bond between them.
- Wean gradually, respecting your baby’s times and substituting interaction with other activities.
“Breast milk is an important source of energy and nutrients for children from 6 to 23 months. It can provide more than half of the child’s energy needs between 6 and 12 months, and a third between 12 and 24 months. Breast milk is also an essential source of energy and nutrients during illness and reduces mortality in malnourished children.”1
Weaning is a natural process in which your baby will stop drinking breast milk and you can replace it with another type of milk or food, says Dr. Martha Sandoval García, pediatrician and breastfeeding advisor at ABC Medical Center. We give you some advice that will help you not to suffer during this process, or consider it painful.
1. Don’t fool your baby
Babies are individuals who get used to routines and, when interrupting them abruptly, they will not understand the reason for this to happen, which could mean that they interpret that you are simply denying them the breast and you do not want to feed them, which could be a negative incentive for the baby. It is advisable to wean gradually, respecting the times of each baby and seeking to replace the attachment to breastfeeding with other activities or foods.
2. Do not offer the breast, but do not deny it either
During the weaning process, we recommend that you do not offer the breast conveniently, this means that you do not use it to avoid situations where you want them to stop making noises, you want to distract them, etc. You should only offer the breast at times when you really have to feed the baby.
3. Gradual removal of feedings
Eliminate one feeding every week, looking for this to be gradual, and every third or fourth-day maximum. In this way, your baby will begin to create a new type of routine where they will understand that you will no longer offer the breast, but some other activity, facilitating the weaning process for both.
4. Anticipate the feeding time
As a mother, you will be able to identify your baby’s needs and it is good that you anticipate the feeding. Many times your baby will ask you to feed them, but it will also happen that what they are looking for is to have contact with you, receive some kind of comfort, or even perform some recreational activity.
You must identify your baby’s needs to find how to replace this request with either solid or liquid food or even other types of activities that your baby can adapt to their new life routine.
5. Set limits
Setting limits works with children around 18-24 months who already understand concepts such as: “mom is home”, “it’s time to eat”, etc.
At this age, you can already limit the circumstances or situations where you will offer the breast to the baby and will also understand when the situation does not allow it. This is a respectful way of setting limits for the little ones.
6. Change pre-breastfeeding routines
Something very important is that the little ones get used to routines, which is why, when removing a feed, you must establish new routines so that the baby adapts to this interaction.
An example can be no longer sitting in the chair you used for breastfeeding when you will not feed them. Small actions that modify the baby’s routine will help establish new practices that will allow them to adapt to this change.
7. Include your partner
Including your partner in the baby’s feeding will allow the process not to be so complicated. Take advantage of this moment to create a new strong bond between your partner and your baby, who will feel safe thanks to the fact that another person can be in charge of them and meet their needs, not only nutritional but also emotional and affectionate.
8. Decreases breastfeeding time
In case you feel that you are having a hard time removing a feed from your baby since they are very attached to you, begin to reduce sucking times gradually.
This means that if your baby took 15 minutes to feed and fall asleep, you could tell them that now it will be less time for food and more time for them to fall asleep. In this way, your baby will learn that they will only use suction for the nutritional part and the process of falling asleep will be by your side, but without having to suck the mother’s breast.
9. The night feeding is the last to go
It is mistakenly believed that, during the weaning process, the night feed is the first to be removed. The reality is that this intake is the most difficult to remove and, therefore, it should be the last.
The reason for this is that, if you apply the aforementioned advice, you will already have accustomed your baby to sucking faster, to not needing to suck to fall asleep, to feeling comfortable being fed by your partner and, in case of waking up at midnight, they will feel safe to see your partner, reinforcing the bond between them.
10. The bottle is just an option
Sometimes your baby can have a hard time taking the bottle, you should consider that there are different options for feeding them, such as with a sippy cup.
Many times we get attached to the idea that the baby should drink milk from a bottle, but we don’t realize that our baby has also evolved throughout the weaning process and wants to feel like a bigger baby, therefore, a sippy cup can help.
After having completed these steps, the important thing is that you continue with the new routine, which may consist of giving the baby dinner, continuing with a relaxing bath, telling them a story, and laying them down on your partner’s chest to fall asleep, or any other activity that you consider necessary.
The important thing is to know that it is a natural process that allows you to connect with your baby and identify their needs. It must also be considered that each baby has its own process to achieve weaning, but this will be achieved harmoniously as long as you breathe, relax, and do it lovingly.
At ABC Medical Center’s Obstetrics Center, we can provide you with specialized care. Contact us!
Dra. Martha Sandoval García – Pediatrician and breastfeeding advisor at ABC Medical Center.