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Helping Your Baby To Adjust to Solids


The nuts and bolts of any weaning regime involves shortening the feedings you want to drop and gradually reducing the numbers of feedings per day. You can do this casually or by the book—whatever works best for you. Too sudden a transition can lead to breast engorgement. “ ‘Don’t offer, don’t refuse’ is the best way to find out which feedings are most important to the child,” Vickers says. “Usually it’s those late at night or first thing in the morning.”

Some Tips To Ease The Transition

  • Enlist the help of your partner. Successful breastfeeding involves the support of your family and friends. Weaning requires the same kind of help, and perhaps more of it. For example, a friend could step in and organize a play date during a time usually set aside for nursing, and your spouse could take over time-for-bed rituals to relieve you from having to say no.
  • Distract your baby. Try doing an unusual activity with your baby to substitute for a feeding you’re dropping, or have someone else care for her during that time.
  • Substitute something for the breast. Introduce a bottle or a cup as a replacement feeding. “If the child is around eight or nine months old, you might want to try breast milk in a cup,” says Vickers.  “If you introduce a bottle at that point, you’ll have a second weaning to deal with [getting rid of the bottle] down the road.”
  • Avoid giving “breastfeeding” cues. Go out of your way to avoid giving your baby the usual signs that a feeding is about to happen, such as sitting in a particular chair or making yourself a cup of tea.
  • Avoid too much change at once. Don’t initiate weaning, if at all possible, when other life changes are taking place, such as a move, a divorce, or a change in routine like the baby or a sibling starting a new day care or school.
  • Be flexible. It’s okay to backtrack in your weaning schedule as long as you’re doing it for a good reason. If your child is sick, for example, you may choose to give him back a feeding or two for the solace it provides as well as for the nourishment, particularly if he has lost his appetite.
  • Be patient with new habits. Your child may react to the change by picking up a new habit. She might grow attached to a blanket, stuffed animal, or other “lovey”; become clingy; or start sucking her thumb. This may be a sign that you’re going a bit too fast for her, so be patient. If the new habit starts looking like a problem, talk to your pediatrician or think about consulting with a lactation specialist.
  • Don’t mistake a “nursing strike” for weaning. “Sometimes a child suddenly refuses to nurse if something troublesome has come up, like the onset of teething, or if something traumatic happened when the child was last feeding,” says Vickers.  “Many can be coaxed back to nursing once the situation has been de-stressed.”

Can’t Make the Break? You Can Have It Both Ways

It’s not uncommon for women to start the weaning process and then find themselves unwilling to make the break in the final stages, opting instead to keep just a few feedings for an extended period of time. This situation, sometimes called partial weaning, is a flexible option that allows you and your baby to reap the emotional and medical benefits of breastfeeding without having it dominate the course of a day. And that’s okay. Says Vickers, “Breastfeeding meets so many needs: comfort, security—even just checkin’ in with Mom.” Just remember that the relationship you’ve built with your baby will continue even after you've stopped breastfeeding.

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