Weaning is a term used to describe the gradual process of permanently changing your baby’s diet from breast milk to solid food. Toddlers are weaned off breast milk at different stages of their development. Some are physically and emotionally ready to be weaned off as early as 18 months old, while others may require a longer adjustment period. Do not be concerned if your child is still not ready at the ages of two or three. Use your judgement, in consultation with your paediatrician.
Medically speaking though, the nutritional content of breast milk, particularly the antibodies, is no longer critical to toddlers older than 12 months. However, a child may be dependent on the intimacy and emotional bond with the mother long after that. There is no hard and fast rule here, although social stigma may prove to be psychologically damaging if the child continues to be breast fed after beginning pre-school.
Starting the weaning process
Start the weaning process by introducing an alternative source of food to your child. This should typically be done based on their regular feeding schedule. However, please ensure that you are well-prepared for the transition. Don’t start running around to find food only when the child is hungry.
Get a set of weaning pots to help you prepare suitable replacement food. There are a variety of weaning pots available in the market, so spend some time to choose the one most suitable to your needs. Depending on the age of your child, look for pots that can handle runny or solid food. Pay attention to the size of the pot as you will need to store them inside the fridge or in your handbag when on the move.
Prepare different types of food for your child. Remember, he or she is used to only one flavour of food thus far. As such, the child may demonstrate dislike for certain tastes. Fruits such as bananas, apples and pears are great choices for their first meal, whether in puree or runny form, while soups with carrots, sweet potato and celery as base will be sweet enough to appeal to any taste bud.
Keep some baby plates and bowls handy so you can scoop food out of the pots. Use a fresh and clean spoon so you can return the pots back to the fridge. You can even try mixing and matching different types of food on the baby plates to narrow down your child’s preferred taste. Chances are though, your kid will love everything after getting used to the consistency and texture.
Weaning is not a straight forward process. Babies can suddenly fall off the wagon and reject their new food after a period of time and demand breast milk once again. Don’t say no or create a confrontation, but neither should you encourage it. Try to attract your child’s attention to other types of food that they can pick up. The pleasure of independence, and the taste of good food, such as finger-sized soft fruits (avocado, water melon, etc.), can get your child back on the wagon.