Breastmilk is the best food for your baby. For the first six months, the WHO recommends that babies are fed only mother’s milk. Supplementary foods along with breastmilk can be introduced in the second half of the first year. Technically, this is when the process of weaning begins.
Remember that your baby is a creature of habit and will resist change. Any human being will. We get so accustomed to our regular patterns that we resist change. Hence, the first challenge that moms face while weaning is resistance. Suddenly a new feeding method is introduced, new textures, new flavors and this naturally makes the baby reject and resist. Some babies are pros and adapt very easily, some take time.
It is a good idea to avoid absolute liquids. The baby now has a reduced tongue thrust reflex and will be able to take some textures. If you start the baby on liquids first then you may face the next challenge which would be refusal to take any form of textures.
Worry is the third challenge. Most mothers worry that their baby is not eating enough, is not getting the right nutrition and then there are some mothers who worry that their baby is now not going to need them anymore. Remember that if you are still breastfeeding, the baby will be able to compensate nutrition requirements from breastmilk and will not be relying on solids alone.
Lack of teeth and refusal to chew also tends to be a cause of concern. Some babies may actually cut the first tooth as late as seventeen months. This does not reduce their ability to gum and swallow their food. Of course, you need to supervise the baby and ensure that they do not take in something that is a choking hazard but most nine month olds will be able to do justice to a soft roti or some soft vegetables and soft fruits.
Moms also worry about the right time to wean. The WHO recommends continuing breastfeeding till two years of age if suitable to mom and baby but moms believe that the baby will become too dependant and demanding and then it would be difficult to finally wean off. This fear gets them to stop the breastfeeding process much earlier than needed.
Remember if you are looking at finally weaning off then you need to be firm and not feed. If you keep giving in every time the baby cries then your baby will learn that it’s a great idea to throw a tantrum. Most one year olds can easily manipulate their moms with their tantrums.
At times it’s actually the mom who is unwilling to let go. The baby is old enough, is eating solids, sleeping through the night but the mother feels unwilling to stop. This is an emotional aspect and mom will have to work through it. Take your time, find other ways to engage with the baby. After all, breastfeeding is not the only way that you can connect and bond with your child.
Your body is amazing and it knows exactly what it needs to do. It means that it produces as much milk as your baby needs. So naturally, when you start the weaning process your body needs some time to learn that the requirement has now reduced.
The most common physical challenge that moms face is engorgement. Especially if your baby has learnt to sleep through the night, you may find yourself heavy and uncomfortable in the morning. Or if you have skipped a feed and replaced it with some solid then you may find yourself heavy and engorged. Don’t worry, this is a temporary phase and the body will soon learn that it needs to slow down at that hour.
How can you handle it?
It is necessary to deal with it though as you may be feeling uncomfortable and also find yourself leaking. At this time, you can express just a little milk to make yourself comfortable and then place a cool pack on your breasts to reduce the swelling.
If you find yourself leaking then you can use breast pads and you can also try pressing your arms against your chest wall to help slow the let down.
It is important to remember that once your body adapts then it will more or less stop producing milk at that time. Hence, it is important to stick to a schedule. Try not to be erratic at this time and feed your baby at scheduled times, especially solid meals.
Wear comfortable and supportive undergarments at this time as this will ensure that you are able to contain the breasts and they do not fill up too much to the point of discomfort.
It is advisable to not stop abruptly as this can lead to severe engorgement. Wean off one feed at a time and go slow.
If you need to wean abruptly for medical reasons then please consult with your doctor for medication which can help slow down your milk supply and switch off your let down. This will ensure that you are comfortable and the process is not physically challenging for you.
Abrupt weaning can be traumatic for the baby and the mother as it is very sudden. The baby is unable to understand what is happening and the mother undergoes a major shift in hormones which can make it an emotional roller coaster. Do check with your doctor if there are alternatives and if you could do the process more gradually.