Although breastfeeding is an essential aspect of motherhood, eventually, you will need to wean your baby off breast milk and onto other sources of nutrition.
While making this transition can be exciting and nerve-wracking, it is crucial to ensure your baby is getting the proper nutrients for healthy growth and development. Here are five things to be aware of regarding what happens after breastfeeding:
The Introduction of Solid Foods
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises introducing your baby to solid foods when he/she is around six months old. However, your baby might display readiness earlier or later, such as sitting up unaided or displaying interest in what you’re eating.
Start with pureed fruits and vegetables when introducing solid foods, and gradually introduce more textures and variety.
Selecting a Suitable Formula
You may need to select a formula that satisfies your baby’s nutritional needs if you aren’t breastfeeding. Powder, ready-to-use, and concentrated liquid are just a few of the formula’s different delivery methods. Some formulas, like lactose-free, soy-based, or Holle goat milk formula, are created to meet particular dietary requirements.
It’s important to carefully read the labels on your chosen formula and discuss your baby’s needs with your pediatrician.
Weaning from Breastfeeding
Weaning should be done gradually and gently to give your baby time to adjust to the change at their own pace. You can begin by substituting one breastfeeding session with a bottle or cup and gradually reduce the number of breastfeeding sessions over time.
Be patient and aware of your baby’s needs as they adjust to this change, and don’t be afraid to ask a lactation consultant or a pediatrician for assistance if you need it.
Selecting the Appropriate Bottle
The right bottle can significantly impact your baby’s comfort and feeding experience if you are weaning your baby from breastfeeding to a bottle. Look for bottles that mimic breastfeeding. Choosing the appropriate bottle and nipple for your baby’s age and needs is crucial.
For babies that are around 12 months of age, the AAP advises introducing cow’s milk as a primary beverage. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and other crucial nutrients for your developing baby.
However, it’s important to note that cow’s milk is not a substitute for breast milk or formula before this age. Introduce cow’s milk gradually by beginning with small amounts mixed with breast milk or formula and progressively increasing the amount over time.
Some Difficulties Following Breastfeeding
- Weaning Can Occur Gradually or Suddenly
Some mothers prefer a gradual approach to weaning their babies, while others prefer a quick approach. While some infants may be more amenable to a sudden transition, others might need a more gradual change.
- You Can Still Bond With Your Baby After Weaning
Many mothers are concerned that weaning will harm their bond with their infant. But it’s important to keep in mind that breastfeeding is just one method of developing a close relationship with your child. Other means of communication with your child include playing, cuddling, and skin-to-skin contact.
- Physical Changes after Weaning
Your body will undergo physical changes after weaning as it gets used to producing less milk. Engorgement, soreness, swelling, and discomfort could happen to you when your breasts are filled with milk.
During this time, it’s crucial to take good care of your breasts. For relief, apply a cold compress or use cabbage leaves. Wear a supportive bra to prevent sagging and discomfort.
Emotional Changes and Coping strategies for end of Breastfeeding
Experiencing Emotional Distress
The mother and infant may experience emotional distress as the breastfeeding journey ends. Giving up the close relationship and a sense of purpose that breastfeeding can foster for the mother can be difficult.
There are hormonal shifts associated with weaning. Oxytocin levels usually increase during breastfeeding and drop after weaning. Due to the feel-good properties of this hormone, many mothers may miss the positive effects of oxytocin and may experience a stronger sense of loss and sadness.
Weaning can be a big change for the baby, especially if they are used to breastfeeding as a comfort or as their main source of nutrition. You must find alternative comforting and connecting methods for the baby. It is also important to be patient and gentle.
Dealing with Emotional Loss
To prevent feeling overwhelmed or depressed, it is crucial to recognize and deal with these emotions. Speaking with other mothers who have experienced the same thing can be beneficial, as can contacting a therapist or counselor who can offer support and coping mechanisms.
Weaning can be challenging and emotional for both the mother and the child. Weaning is a normal stage of growth and development, it’s essential to keep that in mind. After weaning, there are many ways to strengthen your relationship with your baby. Throughout this transition, practice patience and kindness toward both you and your infant.