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Breast milk is the most nourishing food for your baby during the first one year of her life. Most doctors recommend exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months of a baby’s life. Breast milk contains all the nutrition an infant needs for healthy growth and development. Once babies start consuming liquids other than breast milk and eating solids, they automatically start reducing their breast milk intake. Read on to know more about ‘self-weaning.’
What is Self-Weaning?
Self-weaning is when a baby, over a year old, gradually reduces her intake of breast milk and finally stops nursing altogether. This happens because the baby starts getting more nutrition from foods other than breast milk, once she starts solids. This means she will nurse less regularly and eventually stop nursing.
However, sometimes babies below one year of age may go through a phase where they temporarily reduce their breast milk intake. This is not a sign of self-weaning, although it may appear to be so. This could be due to her interest in exploring the surrounding environment or even frustration due to a decrease in your breast milk supply. In such a case, see a specialist to determine why your baby is not feeding properly, and how to remedy this.
What Are the Signs of a Baby Self- weaning?
Here are some signs of a baby self-weaning from breastfeeding:
1. Disinterested in Nursing
If a baby over one year of age is becoming more and more disinterested in nursing and reduces the number of feeds she has despite minimal distractions, it means she is self-weaning. If your milk supply is normal but the baby still refuses feedings, it indicates that she is trying to self-wean.
2. Eats Solids Regularly
If your baby eats solid foods regularly and gets nourishment from a variety of other foods, she will ease off nursing slowly. This is another sign of self-weaning.
3. Not Teething
A baby who is teething may temporarily reduce breastfeeding due to discomfort and pain. However, if the baby is becoming disinterested in feeding despite not teething, it could be a sign of self-weaning.
Is This the Best Time to Wean Your Baby?
The ideal self-weaning age for babies is one year and above. Babies usually do not self-wean before age one. If the baby seems disinterested in feeding before age one, it could be due to various other issues, such as low breast milk supply, teething, distractions, and new interests. If you decide to wean your child before the age of one, you should consult your doctor to find out about alternative nutrition options.
Tips to Stop Premature Weaning
If your baby seems disinterested in nursing before she turns one, it is known as premature weaning. Here are some tips you can use to stop premature weaning of your baby:
- Minimise distractions during feeding time. Make sure the feeding room is quiet, and there are no toys within the reach of your baby when she is nursing. These may cause her to get distracted from breastfeeding, and she will want to explore her surroundings.
- Make sure that your milk supply is not reducing. If you think you are not making enough breast milk, see your doctor or a lactation consultant who will suggest ways to increase your milk production.
- Continue to offer her your breast often. Do not wait until she demands to be fed.
- Breastfeed your baby before giving her any other food. If she is hungry, she will nurse adequately.
- If your baby is feeding less because of teething discomfort, try giving her a baby teether that can be frozen. This will soothe her discomfort. Give her some time, and once the pain and discomfort lessens, your baby will start nursing again.
- Ensure that you give your baby supplements like baby formula when she is not feeding properly. Speak to your doctor for advice on this. Be patient and keep in mind that a temporary gap in nursing is a normal developmental process that many babies go through. Soon enough, your baby will start nursing again.
When babies over one year of age get proper nutrition from other sources of food, they gradually reduce their intake of breast milk in the process called self-weaning. If your baby reduces feedings for no identifiable reason and she is below one year of age, consult your doctor for advice on how to stop the baby from self-weaning prematurely.