There was a lot of sensitization last week on “Exclusive breastfeeding”, As a matter of fact, On Sunday in church, A group of women came from the Ministry of Health, Rivers State to talk about “The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the child”. I listened carefully to the teachings of the women and even made notes and just when I read through my note, I realized that there is little or no emphasis on the weaning of a child. Perhaps, it is believed to be a very smooth journey which is the exact opposite.
Breastfeeding is very vital for the growth of the child. It is a journey indeed and yes, it can be challenging, demanding, and messy yet provides all the nutrients needed for the growth of the baby and also creates a strong mother-child bond necessary for the social development of the child. World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recommend that a child should be breastfed within the first one hour after birth and exclusively breastfed till 6 months after birth. Though some women breastfeed for up to 8 months or more. Whether 4 months, 6 months, 8 months, or even 1 year, breastfeeding will eventually come to an end hence the importance of weaning.
Just for Clarification, Weaning, according to WHO is the process by which a baby slowly gets used to eating family or adult foods and relies less and less on breast milk. I prefer to describe weaning as a slow and gradual break of a strong bond created from breastfeeding. This definition explains why weaning can be difficult, especially for first-time mothers.
Below are 10 useful tips to wean a baby off breastfeeding.
Know when to wean.
Mothers need to recognize some signs that show the baby is ready to stop breastfeeding. For instance, A child that expresses a strong interest in what the mother is eating. Also, some children start to show cranky behavior during breastfeeding.
Set a time for weaning.
Here, the mother should pick an appropriate time for weaning, 6 months is the recommended time by WHO. Setting a schedule helps to psychologically prepare the mother.
Provide Adequate Nutrition
After setting a weaning schedule, the next is to ensure adequate nutrition by providing baby formula and foods in that category.
Weaning should be introduced slowly as it gives both the mother and child time to adjust. A mother can reduce the number of daily breastfeeding from 8-12 times to 4-6 times a day.
Night Weaning/Day weaning
Though this depends on the mother, you can choose to wean at night and breastfeed during the day or vice versa.
Provide emotional support
Body contact between mother and child enhances breastfeeding. Body contact should be reduced and substituted with emotional support like massaging their back while in bed, and playing with them when they are sitting.
Provide complementary food early.
A child who has been adequately fed with complimentary food will most likely not “crave” breast milk for a while.
Manage Breast engorgement
Breast engorgement occurs when excess milk accumulates in the breast. It can be managed by applying a cold compress or having a warm bath.
Distractions such as toys, cartoons, and snacks can help enhance the weaning process.
Know the risk associated with weaning
Two major risks associated with weaning are infections of the breast and malnutrition in the baby. A mother should be aware of these risks to try to prevent them.
In summary, Weaning can be very tasking and demanding but the knowledge of these 10 tips can go a long way in making the journey easier. Please note that different things work for different children, so it's advisable to figure out what works best for you and your child.
I hope this article was beneficial to you.
Thank you so much for sticking to the end.
Please feel free to drop your thoughts on this topic and also share any other tips that were not mentioned. I would appreciate that.