There is no hard and fast rule up to when a baby can be breast or bottle-fed but a good rule of thumb is to wean the child around one year of age. Remember however, each baby and mother is different and you should only wean because one of you wants to or needs to and not because friends or family members think you should.

Sometimes a baby gradually loses interest in the breast. This is a signal to initiate weaning. This should not however, be confused with temporary milk refusals which are sudden and abrupt, and often due to outside factors like a cold or a change in the taste of the mother’s milk.

Mostly, it is the mother who initiates weaning. This kind of weaning requires planning and preparation.

  • Don’t start weaning if the baby is teething or ill or there is any major change in the normal family routine.
  • Don’t quit abruptly. Eliminate one feed at a time. Try eliminating the least loved feed first.
  • Wait a few days before eliminating the next feeding. Allow 3-4 weeks for full weaning.
  • If you feel any discomfort, express the milk.

Don’t get upset if the stools change colour from yellow-green to brown.
They will also begin to smell and appear more firm. This is normal.

  • f diarrhoea or severe vomiting develops, call the paediatrician and consider cutting back on the weaning process for a few days. I

As the weaning process continues not only will milk production gradually stop, you may also experience some feelings of sadness and loss. This is caused both by changes in hormone level and because of emotional adjustments needed as an important phase of babyhood is left behind.

What to wean to – bottle or cup?

  • If the child is below six months you can wean her to a bottle or a katori. In general a bottle should be discouraged as it can cause infection, is an important cause of tooth decay, and is habit forming .
  • Between 6-12 months weaning should preferably be to a cup.
    What kind of milk should be introduced – cow’s milk or formula milk?
    Before six months, it may be preferable to wean to formula milk because it is more hygienic and there are fewer chances of allergic infections.
    After about six months cow’s milk can be introduced.

Regardless of the type of milk used, unnecessary water should not be added as this will reduce the strength of the milk

Do not store left over milk in the fridge for use in the next feed. Use up excess milk by putting it in an adult’s tea.

The time to start weaning to a cup is around one year when the toddler is more flexible.
– Bottle drinkers send to consume unnecessarily large quantities of milk and juice. At a time when toddlers normally start eating less, this could create havoc for her appetite.
– Bottle induced tooth decay is a very real problem at this stage. This occurs when milk, juice or other sweet liquids are allowed to pool in a child’s mouth. This normally happens when sucking from a bottle but not when sipping from a cup. The sugars in the fluid are broken down by bacteria in the mouth releasing an acid which attacks tooth enamel.

Tips on weaning

  • If you toddler is easy going and smoothly accepts transitions then pick a day when nothing else major is happening and you have time for him. Announce that he is now a big boy (with lots of fanfare & applause) and like all other adults (give examples) he can now drink from a cup.
  • Let him choose his own cup style and colours. Let him play with it and become familiar with it.
  • If he wants his bottle back give water in it (which won’t harm his teeth), but make it clear that milk or juice will now be available only from the cup.
  • Withdraw the bottle gradually. starting with the least liked bottle first and the best loved one last
  • Make drinking from the bottle less appealing by putting him in a chair and preventing him from playing with it. Don’t let him hold it or take it to bed to help him sleep.
  • Simultaneously make drinking from the cup a happy time, with small treats and lots of cuddling.
  • Keep him busy and occupied so he has less time to miss the bottle.
  • Give extra love and attention to your child at this time.
  • Always offer the glass first but don’t put excessive pressure on the child to accept. A slightly casual approach will work best.
  • Serve a liquid she is not accustomed to drinking from the bottle. Once drinking from the cup becomes a habit, introduce milk from the cup.
  • Don’t make weaning dependant upon acceptance of the cup. If you cut out the bottle gradually, soon the child will accept the cup if only out of thirst / hunger. Let the child make a mess. If you get angry at sloppy cup sipping your child will have another reason to hate the cup.
  • Make sure during this time extra attention is given to fulfilling calcium needs through yoghurt etc.
  • The biggest fear of parents weaning their baby from the bottle is that the intake of milk will go down. However
  • Once the child has started eating proper food he is getting calcium from many other sources.
  • Because of overemphasis on milk the child often suffers from iron-deficiency anaemia.
  • According to experts the ratio should be about 80% food and 20% milk for proper nutrition.

Related Links

Breast feeding
Food facts
Dental Hygiene

Activities for toddlers
Starting solids
Semi solid recipes

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