Weaning your baby is one of the most exciting and simultaneously exhausting experiences of your baby's development. Exciting, because your baby is moving onto solids, your poor, tired boobs will get a bit of a reprieve, and it's one step in their exciting journey of growing up. How can something so fun be just as exhausting? Because you, the mama, have to do all of the research, planning, and executing. It can be more than a little bit overwhelming. More than that, there are red flags that can appear while weaning that can indicate that they are not ready that you might miss if you're only looking for signs that your baby is ready to wean.
Red flags that your baby is not ready to wean can be as harmless as being attached to breastfeeding and as severe as weight loss. They can help you reconsider if now is the right "weaning window" that you've been looking for. On the flip, moms know the common signs that baby is weaning-ready. Things like increased interest in solid foods, sitting without assistance, proper head control are all cues moms should look out for when deciding if baby is ready to fly from the boob nest.
If it all seems a little bit overwhelming, that's ok. Weaning, like most aspects of raising a baby, is a process that should be taken slowly, and differs for every mom and baby. If you're paying attention to your baby's needs, and keeping an eye out for these red flags, you can't go wrong.
1You're Not Emotionally Ready
Although you may never be fully prepared to wean your baby, Breastfeeding USA noted that some moms are "surprised at the intense emotions that can accompany this change." With weaning comes physical, hormonal, and emotional changes that you might not be ready to face yet. And if you're not ready, guess what? You shouldn't feel any pressure to wean until your baby and you are both ready.
2Your Baby Doesn't Show Interest In Solids
One of the telltale signs of readiness to wean is an intense interest in solid foods. However, some babies go beyond the six month mark without showing any interest in anything that doesn't come from the boob. According to Your Kid's Table, refusing solids is very common for babies in the 6-8 month range and although they may be developmentally ready, don't feel like you have to rush to start dropping feedings and adding full meals of solids.
Although you may worry about delaying the weaning process, Dr. Kameela Philips, founder of OBaby Maternity, told Romper that the "concept of baby-led weaning is incredibly important." She suggests that parents should be on the lookout for signs that baby is ready to wean, but shouldn't stress if the process is taking longer than they expected.
3Your Baby Can't Sit Without Assistance
Dr. Philips also noted that the inability to sit without assistance is one of the biggest red flags a parent should look out for. "Refrain from pushing them until they can support their own neck and body weight," she says. "If the baby can sit up without support, expresses interest in your plate, and reaches for food, then she is ready to begin."
4Your Baby Isn't Gaining Weight
Today's Parent noted that sometimes, when a breastfed baby isn't gaining weight well, many moms' knee jerk reaction is to begin weaning them, adding formula or even solids before their baby is truly ready. However, instead of trying to wean, the article recommended getting help from a lactation consultant, trying to increase your milk supply, and, of course, seeing a doctor if you suspect a medical issue as the root of your baby's weight.
Furthermore, if your baby is old enough to wean, but isn't eating enough solids to keep up with their weight gain, make sure you continue breastfeeding until your baby is ready to fully replace their calories from breastmilk with ones from solid food.
5You Weaned Too Quickly And Your Baby Isn't Handling It Well
Along the same lines as the first point, sometimes you may feel rushed to wean your baby, due to scheduling conflicts, new jobs, feeling burnt out, pressure from others, or a host of other reasons. La Leche League International (LLLI) noted that if you're wanting to wean but your baby is showing signs that they're not quite ready, it's still possible to balance your needs with your baby's, it just may require a little bit more creativity, like rubbing ginger on your areolas.
6Your Baby Coughs Or Gags When They Eat Solids
Although a certain amount of coughing or even gagging is normal while weaning (babies have incredibly strong gag reflexes), Dr. Philips noted that if it happens often or at every feeding, you should probably postpone weaning for a few more weeks at least.
"Once you start feeding be very mindful of signs that you baby may not have the coordination for moving food to the back of the throat and swallowing. Coughing and gagging are protective mechanisms to help prevent choking. Don't ignore this sign and either slow down or suspend the feeding."
You may be excited to wean, but if your baby isn't developmentally ready to eat solids, it's worth waiting.
7Your Baby Is Actually Just On A Nursing Strike
Another LLLI piece suggested that there is a big difference between a weaning strike and readiness to wean. The two can be easily confused, however, making it hard to tell the difference. LLLI noted that a nursing strike comes on suddenly, and may be the result of sickness or teething. A Desire to wean, however, is usually a gradual process. A nursing strike isn't typically a good time to wean, so being able to distinguish the two is hugely beneficial.
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