Weaning a baby can be traumatic for both mother and baby if done without regard to the needs and readiness of either mother, child or both. Usually, weaning can come naturally as the baby matures and is ready for more experiences and ready for more than milk alone.
The first stage of weaning a baby is timing. Every baby matures differently and in readiness for weaning. Starting to wean a baby before the baby is ready will make the precess more difficult. When breastfeeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first year of the baby's life.
When the baby is between six to eight months, you can start introducing soft foods. At this stage, you can purée foods that fit on a spoon. Make sure whatever you introduce does not contain lumps or anything that requires teeth to chew.
Yoghurt without added sugar makes a good first food. Yoghurt is easy to assimilate and healthy for the baby to digest, and doesn't need prior preparation. Purée vegetables into a soft, smooth mix. Baby rice and mashed potatoes can also be fed at this stage.
Often, when foods are first introduced, it is more to get the baby used to new textures and tastes than to provide nutrition. Whether breastfeeding or feeding the baby formula, breastfeeding or formula is not decreased in the food introduction stage. However, from eight to 10 months, weaning a baby includes adding more and different foods, as well as allowing foods introduced to have more texture. At this stage, the baby may be able to handle eggs, fish, cereals and finger food.
With the introduction of foods, especially if allergies run in the family, watch for negative reactions to any foods introduced. Eliminate any foods that produce negative reactions, other than spitting out. At this stage, the baby will cut back on breast milk or formula.
Introducing a Cup
From 10 months to a year, the weaning baby may be ready for the introduction of milk from a cup. Breastfeeding may decrease in the next few months to just a few times a day or morning and evening. If possible, don't force the baby to stop breastfeeding completely until the baby feels secure without that special bonding time. Weaning from breastfeeding needs to be done with lots of cuddling so the baby won't feel insecure.
The final stage of weaning is to completely stop breastfeeding or bottle feeding as the baby adjusts to drinking from a cup. At this stage, much food can have adult textures, though it still must be soft enough to eat and in chunks easily handled, eaten and digested.