Starting Solids – Baby-led weaning

This is my last post in the series of starting solids. For those of you who have been following along the way I hope that my posts have been insightful and also helped make weaning your baby a fun and stress free time. Lottie turns 1 on Sunday. I can’t believe she has gone from this:

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to this:

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ALREADY!!!!!!!!

Breast-feeding was not straight forward with either Freddie or Lottie to start with as both babies had tongue ties and struggled to feed initially, in addition Lottie was very colicky for the first 4 months. However I managed to establish breast-feeding and fed on-demand exclusively for a year. This would not have been possible without amazing support from my husband, midwives and also the Newtown Breastfeeding Centre, a not for profit community based centre who’s volunteers are wonderful. I have loved breast-feeding and I am so pleased I stuck with it through the initial 6 weeks of ups and downs. So many mums, for a multitude of reasons, want to but are not able to breastfeed I feel very lucky to have been able to.

I found with both Freddie and now Lottie that around 10 – 11 months they became noticeably less interested in their milk feeds, cutting down the time they fed for and looking for other forms of comfort when they hurt themselves or were tired or sick. With Freddie I began to fret that he wasn’t getting enough milk and would start night-waking again, this didn’t happen. They had both established solids by this stage, eating a balanced diet and were growing and developing normally and it became very obvious that by 1 they could be fully weaned if that’s what I wanted to do.

I had three main questions/concerns around stopping breastfeeding:

1. Did I need to replace the bedtime feed with a bottle of cows milk or formula?
2. How would stopping the bedtime feed impact on their bedtime routine and sleep?
3. How to prevent getting engorged or mastitis (AGAIN!)?

So here are my solutions! If your baby is not meeting their milestones or growing and developing as expected the answers to these questions might be different for you. I hope though they will help you make fully weaning your baby straightforward and a happy relaxed process. You will know when you and your baby are ready to fully wean and it might be sooner or later than 1, some babies transition into toddlerhood without the remotest sign of wanting to fully wean or as the mother you might also be ready before your baby is 1 (if this is the case then your baby will need formula rather than cows milk).

1. Did I need to replace the bedtime feed with a bottle of cow’s milk or formula?

In short no! As long as your baby is enjoying a healthy and varied diet you can congratulate yourself that they are ready to be fully weaned. You do not need to wean them onto either formula or cow’s milk if your baby is getting between 700-800 mg of calcium per day through their diet. Babies under 1 will need formula as they are not ready for cow’s milk as a drink until they are 1 and they still need milk feeds.

Milk is a great source of nutrients and energy if offered as part of a balanced diet. If you do decide to give your baby a bottle or beakers of milk instead of a breastfeed you should be aware that for two reasons this could lead to nutrient deficiency if you give your toddler too much. Milk is very energy dense and will fill up your toddler’s tummy quickly not leaving room for other foods, as a result leading to nutrient deficiency. This could explain why some toddlers are fussy eaters if they are drinking lots of milk through the day. In addition too much calcium in their diet can interfere iron absorption.

2. How would stopping the bedtime feed impact on their bedtime routine?

A good night’s sleep is I’m sure a priority for all parents with young children. As stopping the bedtime feed changes the bedtime routine it has the potential to result in night-waking. This didn’t happen with Freddie (I’ll let you know on facebook how it goes with Lottie over the weekend!)

The key I found was to change the routine for about a week or so before stopping the breastfeed. So instead of just stopping the feed I brought it slightly early and ended the bedtime routine with stories after the feed with the lights on. Then for the first three nights of dropping the bedtime feed my husband put Freddie to bed and I made myself scarce. Needless to say I missed the feed more than he did and he went straight to sleep after bedtime stories with his Daddy!

3. How to prevent getting engorged or mastitis (AGAIN!)?

Having suffered from mastitis I want to make sure that I don’t get it again when I fully wean Lottie. To try and make sure that doesn’t happen I have gradually reduced the amount of milk she has been having over the past month. At 11 months she was having 2 full feeds – 1 morning and 1 bedtime. I have dropped half a feed at a time over the past month, a week at a time, so now in the week leading up to fully weaning her I am offering her just 1 breast at bedtime alternating sides each night.

I hope these hints and tips help. Breast feeding or not breast feeding can be such an emotional and controversial topic. Every mother has to do what is right for their baby, family and themselves. For me, my family and babies that was to breastfeed and it has been a wonderful way to bond, comfort and enjoy time with both my babies. I’m going to miss my nighttime snuggles with Lottie. Happy Birthday beautiful girl!

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