For the first 6 months of life, babies can get all the nourishment they need from breast milk or formula.
The weaning process begins when your baby has any food other than breast milk or formula, and ends when they no longer have breast milk or infant formula.
Breast Milk/Formula Replacement
The age of the baby will help you decide whether to replace with another formula or cows milk. Babies under 12 months of age should not be offered cows milk so they need to be weaned onto formula. Babies under the age of 12 months cannot digest the proteins in cows milk and soy milk as their gut is too immature; the milk does not contain all the nutrients they require and the minerals in cows/soy milk can damage their kidneys.
Most paediatricians will advise that a toddler over 12 months of age needs to be weaned onto full cream, whole milk, as it provides the necessary fats that growing toddlers need. A child under 2 should not be drinking or eating anything that is ‘low fat’.
The easiest way to introduce whole milk to your baby is by combining it with their breast milk/formula. For example, first offer your baby a sippy cup or bottle with 3/4 breast/formula milk and 1/4 whole milk for 5-7 days, then offer a half and half mix for another week, then a 3/4 whole milk 1/4 breast milk/formula mix for a final few days.
Warm the Milk
Your baby is used to perfectly warmed breast milk or formula, so you can expect they may be a little put off by cold milk. Warm it slightly before giving to your baby, and save yourself another hurdle!
Make it Special
Emphasise the importance of transition with the purchase of a ‘special’ cup or bottle and making a big deal about moving onto ‘big girl/boy’ things, but don’t draw any attention to the milk.
Tips to Help
- Grab a dummy for extra sucking
- Give your baby formula before a breast feed
- Offer only one breast for a minimal time and then other drinks, such as water or formula
- Feed your baby to a fixed routine.
Types of Weaning
There are a couple of different methods to adopt when you start to wean your baby.
- Mutual Weaning – The natural adoption of anything other than breast milk or formula, including water, juice, solid foods and other milks.
- Baby Led Weaning – When your baby decides for themselves that they have had enough of breastfeeding, it can leave you feeling a bit rejected. But take this opportunity to embrace your babies choice and give new things a go.
- Mother Led Weaning – Mums can decide to wean for a number of reasons, including a return to work, reduction in milk quantity, community pressure, sickness, another pregnancy, troubles with biting/sucking, medical reasons or simply a feeling that they have had enough.
Take It Slowly
It is highly beneficial to both you and bub that you start the weaning process slowly. This protects your babies immune system, decreases the chances of intolerance and the risk of blocked ducts and mastitis in Mum. It is also considered kinder to both your own body and babies routine and diet.
Dependant on your child’s age, you can wean to a cup or bottle. There are thousands of different products on the market and you may find it takes a while to find the right one for your baby.
If you stop breastfeeding quickly, your breasts may become engorged and susceptible to mastitis and blocked ducts. Express just enough to feel comfortable, if you express too much you will stimulate supply.
For more information on weaning consult the NHMRC guidelines http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n56b_infant_feeding_guideline_summary.pdf, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association or speak to your baby health nurse.