How to wean a 6-month-old baby from breastfeeding
Ending breastfeeding abruptly can be emotionally traumatic for both the mother and baby so ideally it should be introduced gradually over a period of a couple of months. This gives both mum and baby time to adjust to the change. Gradually weaning your baby off breastfeeding will help your milk to diminish much more slowly too which will be physically more comfortable for you.
The first step to ease the process of weaning a baby from breastfeeding is to invest in the right type of bottle. Medela teats eliminate nipple confusion and flow preference so that your baby still has to work for their milk similar to breastfeeding. The teat is designed to allow babies to control how much milk comes out, which is different from how other teats and bottles have a set flow amount. It supports the similar feeding behaviour of the baby as it allows them to suck, breathe and swallow as learned on the breast. The teats are similar to a nipple, which makes it much more comfortable for babies.
You could start by expressing some breast milk, add a little formula and a little boiled water once a day as the last feed of the day for a few days to allow your baby to adjust to the change whilst continuing to breastfeed. Your baby will feel fuller for longer and you will get the added benefit of getting more sleep during the night.
Over the next two months, continue to breastfeed and gradually use the bottle more often. During this time, if you haven’t already, start to introduce your baby to food. Your baby may refuse solid foods if they are too hungry, so give a little bottle, then some food. Start with foods that are high in vitamin C, iron and energy. You can steam, bake or cook vegetables in water, allow to cool, mash them and feed it to the baby or try rice cakes, rusks and fresh fruits. There are many different foods you can introduce at this stage but bear in mind that your baby may not be ready for cows milk or butter.
At 6 months, you can also introduce your baby to a beaker or a sippy cup. Whatever you do, don’t put anything in it other than breast milk, formula milk or water and do not add anything else (including sugar, cereals, baby rice or chocolate powder).
You should not introduce a baby to cows milk until they are at least 1 year old because cows’ milk does not contain enough iron to meet babies’ needs. Once a baby starts consuming a variety of different solids including iron-rich foods (eggs, meat and fortified cereals) then you can introduce your baby to cow’s milk but only after the baby is 1 year old.