We are trying to wean our 13 month old son – I decided it was time when we discovered he hadn’t gained any weight between his 9 and 12 month checkups (this is normal for breastfed babies). We have encountered some challenges, so hopefully our experience will make weaning easier for you.
To those first time mothers who are getting ready to wean – it takes time for babies to get used to real food. My son hardly ate anything the first few days because he didn’t want what I was giving him. He just wasn’t used to it! I worried and freaked out, as is my nature, but didn’t negate my efforts by going back to nursing him. I figured he would eat as soon as he was good and hungry.
If you’re getting ready to wean, here are some helpful ideas:
- Eliminate one breast-feeding at a time. Substitute solid food for the breast at the same time each day for several days to give your body time to get used to the decreased demand for milk and to avoid pain.
- Give baby plenty of time to eat. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes for a baby to decide he’ll eat what you’re trying to give him. Try to be patient and not get frustrated and just wait it out.
- Feed baby the same food for several days in a row to get him used to it. My son takes a few days to warm up to new foods. I have to give him the same food several times before he’ll eat it.
- If baby isn’t eating, try giving him water. Sometimes they are thirsty and don’t want anything more to eat until they get a drink.
- My doctor said it takes 4-6 weeks for babies to get used to cow’s milk. Give baby cow’s milk in a sippy cup (babies should mostly be off a bottle by 12 months) at every meal. Just one sip at each meal will eventually get them used to it so that by the time you’re ready to stop breastfeeding completely, the transition should go more smoothly.
- Baby might refuse to drink cow’s milk from a sippy cup at times when he was previously nursed – before nap times and bedtime, for example. Use a bottle if you have to because the ultimate goal is to get them drinking cow’s milk instead of nursing. You can wean from the bottle later. Be sure not to let him fall asleep with the bottle/milk in his mouth to prevent tooth decay.
- If baby hates cow’s milk, try putting a little bit of sugar in it. This is not ideal, but if it gets him drinking milk, it’s worth a try. Breast milk is sweet, so that is what he is used to. Vanilla soymilk is also another option, but does not contain as much fat or vitamins as cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is preferable if baby will drink it.
- Baby needs 20 ounces of dairy each day. Yogurt is a great source of dairy and is equivalent to the same amount of milk. Cheese is a good source of protein and fat but isn’t equivalent to milk as a dairy product. Ice cream is another good dairy choice.
- If baby is refusing to eat the food you’re giving him, try to get a little bit of the food on his lips so he can taste it. My son will not want to eat at first, but as soon as he tastes it, he devours it.
- Continue feeding him rice cereal as a source of iron.
- Table food contains many more nutrients and calories than baby food, so feed baby table food as soon as he has enough teeth to chew it.
- Make smoothies or fruit popsicles to make sure baby gets enough fruit.
- Feed baby from a “big boy” spoon. Sometimes my son will eat food from a grownup spoon that he won’t eat from his baby spoon. Just be careful that he doesn’t bite down on it.
Some of my son’s favorite foods include the following:
- cheese tortilla
- blueberry muffin
- wheat bread with butter
- spaghetti with homemade Alfredo sauce – this is a great source of dairy also because of the milk and cream
- goldfish crackers
- fruity granola bars
- ramen noodles
- mashed potatoes
- green beans
- macaroni and cheese
Be creative and patient. Your baby will not starve – he’ll eat when he’s hungry. Offer him food and eventually he’ll take it. Weaning means your baby is becoming more independent and is growing up – it’s sad but inevitable so enjoy the freedom that you will have because of it!