IN THIS ARTICLE
Promoting Healthy Growth and Development
It's important not only for you to give your baby nutritious foods and drinks but also for you and your baby to interact with each other during mealtimes. These things help your baby's mind and body grow. Breast milk (with supplements) and formula give babies all the calories and nutrients they need until they are 6 months old. After that, babies need other nutrients and energy from solid foods. You can wean gradually or abruptly in order to get your baby what he or she needs for growth. When you make choices about weaning, always think of your baby's emotional needs, age, and readiness as well as your own needs.
The weaning process
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breast-fed for at least a year and as long after a year as mother and child desire.1
When you have decided that you and your child are ready to give up breast- or bottle-feeding, develop a plan for what you will do. Talk with other family members and get their help.
In general, you can start giving your baby solid foods at 4 to 6 months of age. Feed your baby at the table with the rest of the family. Follow your doctor's advice on when and what to feed your baby. 1 Usually, the more solid foods a baby eats, the less breast milk or formula he or she needs, and the easier it is for your baby to switch from the breast or bottle. Be sure your child gets the recommended vitamin and minerals for children.
Weaning from breast- or bottle-feeding can be done gradually or abruptly. Watch for signs that your baby is ready to wean. To gradually stop breast- or bottle-feeding while you offer cup-feeding and/or solid foods, give up the least important feeding first, which is usually the midday one. Then stop the late afternoon and morning feedings. Stop the most important feeding (the one that provides the baby the greatest emotional comfort) last: this is usually the first or last feeding of the day. Whether you are weaning or not, the last feeding should gradually be moved up so that by 4 months it is no longer at bedtime and other soothing rituals can be established. Pay attention to whether your baby is sucking for comfort or hunger. If your baby uses a pacifier, think about replacing it with a blanket or a stuffed toy for comfort.
Tips for using a cup
Getting your baby to use a cup may not be easy. These tips may make it easier:
A gradual weaning slowly reduces the number of breast- or bottle-feedings. One feeding is eliminated every 5 to 7 days, giving the mother and baby time to adjust. Gradual weaning helps maintain emotional attachment, prevents breast engorgement for mothers who are breast-feeding, and allows the baby to learn other ways of eating. Gradual weaning is generally planned to suit both the mother's and child's needs.
Gradual weaning is best for both you and your baby. It is recommended for babies unless the mother has a medical condition that does not allow it.
Abrupt weaning is a sudden end to breast- or bottle-feeding and can be hard for both the mother and the child. The breast-feeding mother may experience painful breast engorgement and has an increased risk for a breast infection (mastitis). Both the mother and the child may miss the emotional attachment and closeness of breast- or bottle-feeding.
Your child may respond to abrupt weaning by:
Times you may not want to wean
You may not want to wean your baby:
Weaning a toddler
Gradual or abrupt weaning may work for 1- to 2-year-olds.
You may find the following suggestions helpful as you switch to other types of feeding:
As your baby learns to feed himself or herself, keep in mind that your job is to provide a variety of nutritious foods but your baby will decide how much to eat. This is sometimes called the division of responsibility.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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