Many parents have a number of questions when it comes to stopping breastfeeding. Tommee Tippee have a helpful guide that can point you in the right direction - including three different stages of weaning your baby.
How long should I breastfeed for?
It is currently recommended that you breastfeed your baby exclusively (with no other food or drink) for the first six months of their life. After this six month period, there is more flexibility and it is up to you and your baby how long you breastfeed for, as long as you supplement your baby’s feeds with other foods.
Many mums follow guidelines that state you should breastfeed alongside other forms of food for the second six months of baby’s life, even up to when baby is two years old. For other mums, a natural stopping point for stopping breastfeeding is returning to work. This is understandable, but it is possible to continue breastfeeding while at work.
One thing that is certain is that you will garner a lot of different opinions on this matter. Remember, excluding qualified health professionals, the only opinion that matters is your own. If breastfeeding is not going well and is making you unhappy, then this will not be beneficial to baby. On the other end of the scale, if you are happy to breastfeed for 2 years or even longer, extended breastfeeding will not harm you or your baby in any way.
How do I stop breastfeeding?
A common mistake when stopping breastfeeding is to do it quickly. It is much better to take things slowly, both for your sake and your baby’s. Stopping breastfeeding too quickly can cause you to suffer from engorged breasts and even mastitis, while your baby will not appreciate a sudden and serious change to his feeding routine.
A common approach to tackling these problems is to change one feed at a time. i.e. replace one of your easier daily feeds with a bottle, then a second, then a third, and so on until baby has adjusted. You might want to take a similar approach using solid foods instead of a bottle if your baby is old enough.
Here are the three stages of weaning that Tommee Tippee suggest.
Weaning is a gradual process, so be sure to go at your baby’s own pace. Some babies take to weaning quicker than others. At this stage, baby will need to get used to taking food from a spoon as well as working out what to do with it when it is in their mouth. This is not easy for baby so don’t be disappointed if they don’t accept much food. Baby will still receive most of their nutritional needs from breast milk, with a daily requirement of at least 5-6 breastfeeds or 500-600mls of formula.
- Aim to give solid food at just one meal to start with. Decide which daytime feed is most relaxed, for example at lunchtime when other siblings maybe at school.
- Give your baby about half the normal amount of milk to quench his thirst and satisfy some of his hunger. Then offer a very small amount of pureed food, about a teaspoonful.
- Prepare your own weaning foods from fresh ingredients. It’s easy and more nutritious. Blended vegetables or some baby rice mixed with breast or formula milk is ideal. Do not add any seasoning.
- You can make up a batch of puree and freeze in individual feed quantities. Ice cube trays or baby food pots are ideal for this.
- Do not worry if your baby appears to spit the food straight out. This is a completely new experience for baby. Just be patient and prepared for some mess - it will take some time for your baby to get used to this new and very different way of eating!
- Allow baby to play with the food and wait for them to open their mouths (don’t force the food on them). Baby should feel in control and comfortable. If they show no interest at all, simply try again at a later date.
Foods to consider
The following table offers some suggestions regarding which foods to try and which to avoid.
Foods to Try
- Pureed bananas
- Pureed pears
- Pureed mangos
- Pureed potato, turnip or swede
- Pureed carrots
- Pureed broccoli
- Pureed cauliflower
- Stewed fruit purees with baby rice
- Porridge made with rice and breast or formula milk
Foods to avoid
- Salt and spices
- Sugar and honey
- Bread, cereal and pasta
- Cows’ milk
- Blue cheeses
- Spicy foods
- Sugary soft drinks
After a few weeks getting the hang of solid food, baby may be ready to move on to stage two weaning. At this stage, it is important to introduce new flavours to help avoid baby becoming a fussy eater! It is even more important to introduce lumpier textures to encourage chewing. Here are a few pointers to bring your baby safely in to the second stage of the weaning process.
- Gradually increase the amount of solid food from one to two then three feeds a day.
- As baby starts to move on to solid foods it is a good idea to start introducing a cup of water to accompany each meal.
- Remember that milk still plays an important part in your baby’s diet and he should still be having at least 500ml of formula or 5-6 good breastfeeds a day.
- Try and include your baby when the rest of the family are eating, so that mealtimes become a social occasion.
- Don’t worry if your baby has no teeth as babies will chew with their gums if required.
Foods to consider
New foods to consider at this stage include the following:
- Mashed up lean meat or poultry
- Mashed lentils or chick peas
- Full fat milk products, such as fromage frais, yoghurt or cheese sauce
- Mashed up white (e.g. cod) or oily (e.g. fresh salmon) fish
- Well-cooked egg
Continue to avoid foods with sugars and salt, but food with gluten is acceptable for babies over six months old. While baby may not be too keen on many of these new foods, variety is important. Avoiding bitter foods now will only make introducing them later even harder.
Between 9 and 12 months old, your baby may be ready for stage three weaning - starting to eat the same food as the rest of the family, either mashed or sieved. In this stage, baby will be getting used to holding a spoon and learning to feed himself. He will also start to pick up pieces of food and put them in his mouth – it can be an exciting, and messy, time. Independent feeding can be a proud yet sometimes sad moment for parents. Here are a few pointers to help you with stage three weaning.
- Remember not to add any salt, sugar or honey. He will still need his milk (either breast milk or formula) - up to 600ml a day until 12 months old.
- Once your baby has mastered the art of chewing food, you can start to introduce finger foods and encourage them to start feeding themselves. It can be a very messy stage but this is how babies learn.
- Aim to have three good healthy meals a day at this stage and remember that although your child is becoming more independent you should never leave him alone while he is eating.
- Introduce your baby to combinations of flavours. More complex recipes such as spaghetti bolognese and mixed fruits are ideal.
Foods to consider
New foods to consider at this stage include:
- Wheat based foods e.g. bread, pasta and cereals
- Citrus fruits
- Eggs (ensure they are well cooked)
- Finger foods e.g. carrot sticks, peeled apple slices, breadsticks, fingers of buttered toast
Remember, just like adults, many babies tastes will change regularly. Be sure to give them lots of variety as they continue to grow up in order to encourage healthy eating habits in the future.
Find out more about Tommee Tippee here