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What is weaning? When should I do it?

What is weaning?  When should I do it?

by Wendy Wright

A month ago


Weaning is the process of introducing other feeds to a young baby other than breast milk.

Currently, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, then introduction of other feeds alongside breast milk until age two, when the baby can completely stop breastfeeding. There is a common assumption that teeth make it impossible for some infants to breastfeed.

This is not true, and while a teething infant can bite her mother’s nipple, most breastfed infants quickly learn not to bite.

Some mothers believe that beyond a certain age, a child should not be breastfeeding. This is not correct. Unless a mother is expectant, it is appropriate to try and breastfeed your child up to at least two years.

Weaning slowly is the ideal situation as it protects your baby during the weaning period. As you reduce the number of breastfeeds, your milk supply will slowly decrease. The key is to offer a variety of foods to ensure your baby receives all necessary vitamins and minerals.

Weaning must be stepwise, initially you may start with water, then fresh fruit juice (especially the less acidic variety eg water melon, pawpaw, carrot, beetroot, avocado.

Then gradually move to porridge, cerelac, cow milk, etc. Do not introduce two new foods at the same time, because if the baby reacts to them, you may not tell which food he has reacted to.

Some foods are allergenic, so introducing single food types helps you understand the possible source of allergic reaction.

If there is a family history of eczema, hay fever or asthma, it is best to try to breastfeed exclusively for six months and delay the introduction of solids. Babies who suffer from bad cases of eczema are more likely to develop a food allergy.

Women with a wide-ranging spectrum of postpartum complaints (e.g exhaustion, depression, marital conflict, sibling jealousy, illness in the mother, and even a painful episiotomy) have been incorrectly advised to wean.

It is wrong to view weaning as a cure-all for the common ailments and discouragements of new parenthood.

Post by Dr Ombeva Malande, a paediatrics and child health expert

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