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To wean or not to wean?

When the beautiful bundle of joy comes into our life, as parents, we only have the thought of holding them close and providing them with all the best things in life. As mothers, we nourish them right from the beginning through the best feeding a baby can get – breastfeeding. Just as the mother has got the hang of breastfeeding, comes the time to wean the baby. Yet, most children will want to hold on to their mothers for that extra love and care for some more time.

So, when is the right time for weaning a baby? And how does one make the weaning process smoother for mother and the baby? Are you ready to wean your child?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) strongly recommends that every mother exclusively breastfeed her child up to the age of six months. Post six months, the baby can be introduced to solid foods in combination with breastfeeding or formula feeding. However, as per the WHO, a mother can continue breastfeeding her child up to two years or as long as she wishes.

Having stated that, as a mother if you are unsure about the weaning process, what the best time is or if your child is ready yet, read on: (This is addressed to mothers of babies older than 9 months to 1 year of age)

It is your decision
Continuing breastfeeding your child or stopping breastfeeding is completely a mother’s personal decision and her comfort level. There might be social pressure from family members to the end breastfeeding process, but remember it’s you who calls the shots.

Check your child’s comfort level
Is your baby showing signs of self-weaning? Is she taking more interest in solid foods? Has she started to take the bottle easily or does she easily sip from the cup? It is often easiest to begin weaning when your baby starts the process.

Is breastfeeding a habitual need or an emotional need?
Some toddlers demand more comfort and reassurance from mothers in the form of breastfeeding. Identify if this is the case, or if it is merely a habitual need. If it is the latter, distracting your toddler or disrupting the routine of breastfeeding may help.

Take it slow
Once you have decided to begin with the process of weaning, remember that it may take time and may account for a lot of your patience. Hence, take it slow. If you breastfeed your baby round the clock, initially start a session of feeding during the day. This way, easing into a weaning routine allows you and your baby to adjust more smoothly to the change. A drastic stop or rapid weaning may affect your milk ducts and may cause engorgement.

Let your little one lead
You can let your little one lead the weaning process by the tried-and-true “don’t offer – don’t refuse” method. Which means, you nurse your child when your child expresses interest, but you don’t actually initiate it. Perhaps this is not the quickest strategy to wean your child, but ensures your child’s needs are met.

Resist comparison
Last but not the least, do not compare your weaning timelines with other children and their mothers. Every child has a different need and will eventually address it. So stay focussed on your child’s needs and your own.

Remember, every mother has gone through this process, and will go through this process. Post successful weaning, it is even natural to feel pangs of nostalgia about your baby getting older. But, remember, stopping breastfeeding shall not diminish that special bond with your baby, but in fact it is just another beginning to strengthen the bond with your baby.

Mom to a toddler, Gauri Kamath is an avid reader, writer and pens her thoughts on her blog Survival of the Optimist. Though she holds a Masters degree in Marketing, her true passion is writing and has co-authored a book on short stories – 6 Degrees. She is based in Mumbai.